An open-and-shut case | March 1, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Real Estate - March 1, 2013

An open-and-shut case

Barn doors, pocket doors, bi-folds all can save space

by Rebecca Duran

Not every room is enhanced by a standard door, hung on hinges from a frame.

"Barn and pocket doors often add to the ability to use spaces in multiple ways and save space in the process," Palo Alto architect Jon Stoumen said.

Hidden doors can be stored in the wall and taken out to divide rooms. They are often found in older Craftsman and Mediterranean-style homes in Palo Alto, he said, adding that they can separate dining and living rooms, and the craftsmanship of their paneling and glazing is a focal point.

Dining-room tables can be set for a dinner party with the pocket doors closed, then the spaces merged into one large room when they're opened, according to Stoumen. Other examples include a home office adjacent to living space, hidden by a pocket door, or even an exterior door (when stowed) that can merge indoor space with an adjacent porch, he added.

Barn doors, which are hung from a rail above the door opening, can "conceal work alcoves, sleeping alcoves, storage, even bathrooms," and take up no room other than wall space.

The flexibility and value they add to living situations is well worth it, although they cost a bit more and require adjustments over time, he added.

"Since they allow an unimpeded access, they are great opening onto porches, gardens and areas with a great view," he said. "During parties, they integrate indoors and outdoors in a way that is seamless and much less cramped."

Stoumen has been designing homes with pocket doors since the '90s, when he added a 10-foot-wide extension to the dining-room opening by the garden and pool.

However, pocket doors can cause problems more often than regular doors, according to John Hammerschmidt of Hammerschmidt Construction, Los Altos.

"I'm against them," he said.

Pocket doors slide into the wall, and rollers can wear out. He's also concerned that pocket doors in bathrooms could warp, due to the humidity in the room.

"Barn doors are good if the person is OK with a more modern look," he said, adding some people would rather have a more traditional-looking door. Barn doors are hung on a rail and slide open and closed.

Not many people have asked his company to install these types of doors, he said.

Barn doors are becoming very popular now and are a type of fashion statement, according to Bobby Stenrose, owner of Bay Area Molding and Door, Fremont.

People who want their doors to be visible use barn doors instead of the pocket doors because the barn doors are exposed at all times.

"Barn doors are fancy, stylish and exposed on the wall," he said. "Doors are furniture hanging from the wall."

While barn doors are getting more popular, he said pocket doors are "on their way out."

And more aesthetically pleasing doors are definitely on the rise, he said, especially in nicer homes.

Bi-folding doors, which stack to one side, are another option.

In the Southgate neighborhood, Stoumen designed a home with two sets of Italian folding doors that provide an 18-foot-wide opening between the kitchen and dining room and the garden and entertainment area.

Sophia Stevenson, vice president of America Italiana, San Jose, sees an interest in bi-fold and pocket doors as a new trend.

The company designs and manufactures windows and doors, including custom-made work for clients.

She finds clients can maximize indoor/outdoor access by using space-saving doors, such as bi-folds.

"It's a way to get more from a home," she said.

When the door is made of glass, the standard procedure is double-glazing. Stevenson said people now ask for them to be triple-glazed, with sunshades incorporated in the frames or with mosquito screens enclosed.

The investment in glass and ventilation saves energy and creates more of a visual space, she said.

Part of what drives up installation costs is creating the box for the pocket door, or adding in the right hardware for a barn door.

"It's a way for people to have more freedom," she said. "There's more flow between the inside and outside, people can enjoy nature and close off the elements when necessary."


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Editorial Intern Rebecca Duran can be emailed at