These 100-Year-Old Doors Make All Other Room Dividers Pale in Comparison
How Anthony D’Argenzio created a movable wall.
Updated Oct 11, 2018 6:18 PM
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Restoring, repurposing, restyling. There’s a lot that goes into sprucing up an historic home, and no one knows that better than Zio and Sons’s Anthony D’Argenzio. In our bimonthly column, he takes us through every design detail in This Old Hudson Maison, his latest passion project in upstate New York.
When it came time to figure out the doors for the main bedroom, I needed something that would create privacy, since the Maison is designed as a long-term rental. At one point, I was thinking about adding saloon-style doors using old shutters, but that became too complicated. Enter: a movable wall. It felt like it would be architecturally interesting, space saving (no hinges!), and also just a little bit more fun.
Once I knew I wanted to try this, I went to the Historic Albany Foundation—it’s a great resource for people in upstate New York because it salvages pieces from older properties in the area, and all the money goes to a nonprofit. It also happens to have hundreds and hundreds of old doors. I stumbled across these library doors that are probably more than 100 years old and immediately knew they were perfect.
The whole movable wall system is custom—the track was tailor-made to suit the length of the wall, and I used Rustica Hardware iron hangers to tie it all together. It took us a couple of months to complete because the plan changed halfway through: I was originally only going to have three doors, but it felt like something was missing, so I had to go back to hunt down a fourth. There are quite a few steps involved (be sure to hire a reliable contractor!), but it’s such a unique-looking product that’s well worth the time and investment. Here are some things to keep in mind before embarking on your own bespoke creation.
Figure Out What’s on Your Criteria List
My main priority was finding doors that would fit the opening, height-wise. As a general rule of thumb, your door can be bigger than the opening, but you’ll have to make sure you have enough space to hang the track. Aside from proportions, the look was also important to me. I wanted to let light through to brighten the darker bedroom, so I loved that the pieces I found had transoms. We took the original panes out and replaced them with a thicker textured glass, which gave the space more privacy.
Measure (and Double Measure) Your Trim
You really have to consider the weight of the doors: You’ll need trim that can support the movable wall. This means that you’ll have to pay attention to how deep the trim is—it should be flush with the doorframe, because otherwise you’ll end up with a big gap. This project involved a lot of trial and error, so having all the measurements right from the start is super-helpful.
Assess the Location
Keep privacy in mind! If you’re adding this to a living room, it might not be as important, but in a bedroom, every detail (from the glass transom to potential gaps with the wall) matters. I even created my own locking system using a lock usually put on shutters to connect the doors for a bit of extra security.
Let the Doors Dictate the Restoration Process
Every antique piece has its own recipe. Depending on the look you’re going for, there are tons of ways to preserve and update old doors. You can refinish them, you can paint them, or you can simply sand off the finish. I personally like patina, so I just lightly distressed these and called it a day. Pro tip: Whatever route you’re taking, be sure to wear a mask, because you don’t know what’s in the fumes of the original wood.
Style It Out
After I sanded down the doors to give them an old-school touch, I brought in an 1840s Federal-style mantel to complement the wood details. The mirror and antique wood I used to make the box—which is a handy storage solution—brings in those darker vintage tones. Everything else, except for the restored wallpaper, is clean and white to keep the bedroom from feeling too rustic. It’s all about balance.
Check back in two weeks for the next story in our series, in which D’Argenzio walks us through the kitchen reveal.
As told to Elly Leavitt.