Usually, a home’s boiler and HVAC are tucked away in a dark basement corner, “where nobody except the homeowner knows where they are,” says designer Naïka Andre. But it was a different story during her latest renovation for a couple who bought a mid-century home in Athens, Georgia, with the goal of occasionally renting out the lower-level space. On either side of the secondary living room’s nonfunctioning fireplace were two accordion doors, each one hiding different parts of the ugly metal heating and cooling systems. Andre considered flipping the nooks and turning them into extra storage for the adjacent bedroom (it’s on the other side of the wall), but moving the machines elsewhere proved to be too complicated and expensive. “It just made more sense to not really fight with that,” she says.
So instead, via email and FaceTime (the whole project was done remotely), she requested that the plasticky white doors be replaced with chic cane ones. The inspiration came partly from cane chairs the homeowner has had since childhood and partly from a dead-easy IKEA hack the designer recently tackled that involved wrapping spice racks in cane webbing, effectively turning them into bookshelves. Andre called on local fabricator Gus Darnell of Oneta Woodworks to bring them to life. Read on for their tips for creating your own boiler-disguising doors.
The only catch to picking the right cane webbing for the upper and lower panels was that it needed to be a tight pattern in order to reduce the visibility of the boiler and HVAC on the other side. But the perforations also needed to be large enough so that the equipment could get the ventilation it needs to function. Darnell ended up buying the material from Frank’s Cane & Rush Supply and constructed three doors total (there’s another one that leads out to the laundry–slash–garage area) in two days flat. “Because we constructed these like typical screen doors, we had to add some additional trim to the back to help conceal the edge of the cane,” he says.
Going with a true, deep black for the fireplace surround, hearth, and doorframes would have made the ground-level hangout seem smaller and darker than it already is. So Andre went with Benjamin Moore’s Kendall Charcoal to lighten the mood while still introducing a modern, dramatic touch.
Other budget-friendly fixes that totally changed the look and feel of the once-dated space: replacing the ceiling fan with a pendant light and cleaning the grout between the white floor tiles so they looked fresh (laying down a graphic rug completed everything). “The goal was to keep as much of the initial integrity of the house intact as possible,” says Andre. The home’s bones included.
Photography by Kristin Karch
For hands-on advice from designers and pro DIYers, plus more scrappy before-and-after transformations, subscribe to Reno. Let your in-box do all the hard work—for now.