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Craftsman Doors Today

by Mary Ellen Polson on June 15, 2010

in Windows and Doors

Missing your original entry door? Many of the “new” Arts & Crafts designs look like they were copied literally from a 1915 builders’ catalog. Good stuff!

Whether taken straight from the pages of an early 20th-century builders’ catalog or personally designed by the likes of Greene and Greene, a solidly built, character-correct entry is usually a key piece in how a bungalow—Ultimate or otherwise—“reads” as Arts & Crafts.

Built by the hundreds of thousands in cities across the country in the ’teens and ’20s, many of these sturdy survivors in oak or other durable woods conform to recognizable patterns. The standard Arts & Crafts door of the era consists of two vertical panels that intersect with a third, horizontal panel at the top of the door, forming a T shape. Because the top panel was often filled with glass, it’s sometimes called a transom. Variations on this signature door include flat (single panel) doors, and Storybook-style doors with arched tops (perhaps with medieval-inspired strap hinges that cross half the door).

Depending on the scale of the house and the desires of the owner or builder, the basic door could be gussied up with glass in many configurations: a single beveled pane; plain or beveled lights divided with muntins (three, six, and eight were most common). To bring more light into the house (Arts & Crafts doors often open directly into the living room), the door might be flanked by sidelights with or without a true transom overhead—the perfect way to showcase leaded art glass in styles from Tiffany to Prairie. Glazing variations were all over the map: panels of leaded or beveled glass covering most of the door surface; a trio of inverted triangles; a series of three narrow, pointed panes of graduated lengths that resemble a doorbell chime.

Details were kept simple, even on entries designed by the Greene brothers, who often added a suggestion of the cloud-lift motif on cross pieces, for instance. The most common flourish on builder-type doors is probably the dentil shelf. A shallow, horizontal strip of wood over a series of small dentils, the dentil shelf is a standard add-on by companies that make reproduction and Arts & Crafts-inspired doors today. Since Arts & Crafts-style doors are a favorite in new construction, these makers are legion; it’s possible to replace a door in the style of the era in traditional quarter-sawn oak or luxury woods like cherry and mahogany, as well as fireproof fiberglass or steel patterned to resemble fine woods. For that reason, replacing a lost door often means choosing a ready-made design that’s in scale with your house, then tweaking it with style markers to taste and budget.

From plain to fancy, doors of the era (these drawings were adapted from old builders’ catalogs) begin with the basic two-panel door with the distinctive T intersection and a single pane of glass at the top. Most doors then and now can be dressed up with divided lights. Accent the transom with art glass, or fill most of the door frame with beveled glass in a typical Prairie Style configuration. Illustrations by Robert Leanna

From plain to fancy, doors of the era (these drawings were adapted from old builders’ catalogs) begin with the basic two-panel door with the distinctive T intersection and a single pane of glass at the top. Most doors then and now can be dressed up with divided lights. Accent the transom with art glass, or fill most of the door frame with beveled glass in a typical Prairie Style configuration. Illustrations by Robert Leanna

As with other missing features, look for evidence as to the width and height of the original door around the entry. There may be shadow evidence on floorboards, or even the door frame. Consider, too, whether your home is simple or grand: a higher style Bungalow may be able to support a fancier door with sidelights of leaded or art glass. Homes with high ceilings that extend to the front porch may be candidates for a crowning transom. Even if your dwelling is modest in scale, if it’s low slung with a wide porch, a broad entry with sidelights may very well suit it .

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