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Architecture and Design

Designer doors set the stage for luxury residences

Architects and designers taking a closer look at the portals through which homeowners and their guests enter

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 April, 2016, 11:29am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 April, 2016, 11:29am

The recently revamped Bel Air estate had everything expected of a grand, multi-million-dollar residence: private theatre, elegant curved staircase, ballroom, marble floors, lush grounds, sparkling fountains.

But even before setting foot inside the 24,000 sq ft home, which sold last year for just over US$46 million, guests can anticipate the air of understated luxury that awaits them by virtue of the main entrance: arched, substantial and inlaid with a hefty walnut doorway stained in espresso.

Doors – both exterior as well as those separating rooms inside upmarket flats and homes – are being given a second look, resulting in designs taller, wider or more seamlessly integrated into their surroundings. Architects and designers are taking a closer look at the portals through which homeowners and their guests enter, looking for increasingly inventive ways to separate outside from in, and one room from another. These might include handle-free doors that seem etched into the wall, or designs that stretch further than the typical eight to 10 feet in height – extending in some cases to as high as 12 feet.

As the threshold to such an exquisite space, this doorway had to be impressive in its own right
Kirk Nix, KNA Design

“This doorway is literally the threshold to an extravagant estate,” said Los Angeles-based designer Kirk Nix, founder of KNA Design, which worked on the Bel Air estate. Nix has designed a number of Asian projects including The Park Residence in Taichung, the Conrad Hotel in Macau and the Leela Palace in Delhi. “And as the threshold to such an exquisite space, this doorway had to be impressive in its own right.”

For the project, Nix kept in mind that the entry is the visitor’s first impression: he took the original archway, designed by architect Paul William in 1938, and worked with a special finisher to stain the material dove grey. Within the arch he set the walnut door with customised brass hardware, flanked it with grey/white bricks, and added iron and gilt lighting and limestone steps leading to it. The result is an imposing and memorable entry.

Doors in this league, according to designers, can cost US$15,000. The late Zaha Hadid, in her prestigious One Thousand Museum building in Miami, collaborated with Italian door producer Lualdi to make doors – about US$3,000 each – for the interiors of the flats. In keeping with the modern feel of the space, the doors were in white matte lacquer with hidden pivot hinges, said Kevin Venger, one of the developers of the building. There is no clunky hardware, and the doors seal against the wall magnetically, so a completely smooth effect is created when the door is shut.

At Palazzo Del Sol on the ultra-exclusive Fisher Island in Florida, the interior doors, also by Lualdi, will have a brushed antique bronze frame and a vertical handle wrapped in leather. At the OMA/Rem Koolhaas-designed Park Grove, in Miami, buyers asked for taller doors leading to the terrace – and the developers responded by putting in 12-foot-high floor-to-ceiling sliding doors in glass.

Architect David Rockwell is taking a more rustic approach. For properties such as the Hyde Midtown in Miami and Virgin Hotels in Chicago, he’s gone for American white-oak sliding doors, attached via a roller wheel mounted on the top of the door that runs along the track – an unusual feature in a contemporary space. “We like the fresh, industrial look of sliding doors and their ability to quickly transform a room,” he said.

Sargam Griffin, an artist and painter in Healdsburg, near Sonoma, has taken the doors-as-art concept very much to heart: the doors that she spends three to five months a piece designing look like artworks.

“I like painting large, abstract works, and I always had an issue of where to hang my work,” she said. “I found sliders to attach to the top, and turned one of my paintings into a door.”

Her pieces are typically hung somewhere visible and often in living rooms. So far, she has designed them for interior use only, although she is currently testing one of her ArtDoors to see if it can withstand heat and exposure to the elements.

“They look especially good in contemporary spaces,” she said. “Clients send me a photo of their space and I can get a sense of what sort of painting I should do.”

So elaborate was the workmanship that such doors should be taken and moved to a new location, not left behind for another occupant, Griffin said. Prices start at US$10,000.

“They are definitely investment pieces,” she said.