Bi-fold doors could beautify and divide rooms

Design Line

July 06, 2008|By Rita St. Clair

There's an 8-foot framed opening between my living room and dining room. It strikes me as an unattractive architectural feature, partly because the furniture styles of the two rooms are not compatible. The opening also gives guests a distracting view into the dining room both before and after dinner.I've considered installing doors, but they would have to be large and there's no wall space for them to open outward. A pair of bi-fold doors might be a good option, though I've never seen any I liked. What do you suggest?

You're probably thinking of those closet doors that have been painted to match the adjoining dry wall and that are typically found in suburban housing developments. Attractive alternatives are available, however.

Probably because of their size and functional role, doors are seldom thought of as decorative elements. However, properly designed and constructed, bi-fold doors can serve as complementary decorative elements for a variety of styles. I've seen some that have been covered with wallpaper or fabric, as well as others that are glass-paned.

But to devise the best solution, we must first precisely identify the scope of the problem. You actually seem to have two goals: to create an impressive entranceway and to screen the view of your dining room from the living room.

My suggestion, then, is to consider the sliding-door approach seen in the photo. The client in this case had purchased Asian-style open fretwork panels in an antique shop some time ago. Suellen Gregory, an interior designer in Richmond, Va., had the inspired idea of using them as sliding pocket doors for the entrance to a dining room.

Gregory arranged for a carpenter to install the doors with L.E. Johnson Products' 200-series pocket-door hardware kit. The panels thus became a gorgeous focal point for both rooms while serving the functional purposes the client had envisioned.

As their name implies, one thing can't be fudged in regard to pocket doors: there has to be a pocket in the wall where they can be stacked. A similar decorative and functional effect can be achieved, however, by hanging panels from a ceiling track. The downside here is that the track will remain visible when the panels are pulled to the sides.

My main piece of advice is not to reject the bi-fold door option outright. As long as the panels are beautiful, the door itself will be, too.

Rita St. Clair is a Baltimore-based interior designer. Readers with interior design questions can e-mail her at

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