Period Door Furniture – Making The Right Selection
April 1, 2014
PERIOD DOOR FURNITURE – MAKING THE RIGHT SELECTION
If you are renovating a period property it is really important to give time and consideration to the smaller decorative details as they make all the difference. Selecting your period door furniture can be tricky, but hopefully using some of the tips below you will make the right choices for your property.
One of the first problems is that these are often overlooked at the planning and budgeting stage. This leads to the budget being used up on the larger more structural things such as doors, windows and floors. Having good quality door and window furniture can be expensive, so it is essential to consider it right at the beginning of your project.
Preserve What you Have
Try as far as you can to keep the original door furniture. There can be issues with this, as old door knobs will have imperial spindles and so you will need to keep or renovate old locks and latches, modern locks and latches will be metric. Imperial spindles are a fraction too small for modern locks and will rattle around in the latch. There are a few specialist lock restorers about who can help with this. We do have a way around fitting metric spindles into imperial locks. Click here for further reading. Use original items to guide your selection if you do have to buy new. Iron door furniture may well have rusted, but brass will survive the years extremely well.
Selecting the right items
If you have lovely period doors or newly made ones, perhaps in reclaimed wood, these doors can be enhanced with suitable door furniture and equally ruined with the wrong items. You need to select pieces which are similar in style and sympathetic to the period of the property. Your first clue, as we have said, is to look at what you have. Look at other houses close by, especially in terraces or where you have close neighbours. We often have photos of doors sent to us and we provide suitable items to copy the look. Do your own research into the style of the door, when does it date from, what is the style and what wood is it made from? This can then lead to the correct selection of door knobs, latches, letter plates etc. Pinterest can be a useful source of pictures of period doors and their fittings. Not only do you have to decide what finish go for, but also what items to use.
Black iron fittings would have been the most common prior to and through the Georgian Era. Black iron, probably made by the local blacksmith, would have been used on rustic doors and cottages and on early six panel doors. Not until later in the Regency period would brass have started to come in. Brass was the most common in Victorian times with shiny brass on the front door to make a real statement. Nickel and Chrome plate would have been used, but the plating process was significantly improved at the end of the 19th century, leading to more volumes and cheaper plating prices . Here is an article covering A Brief History of Nickel and Chrome Plating. Once we get into Edwardian and Art Nouveau, any finishes would be acceptable brass, nickel chrome or iron on rustic properties and into Art Deco where again all finishes would have been used, but especially polished nickel and chrome and plastics such as Bakelite. Bakelite is no longer made but old door knobs can be found reclaimed, just beware the problems with imperial size spindles. One small note of caution is to be careful with applied finishes which can look a bit false in their attempt to replicate the look of old finishes e.g. Antique Brass and bronze. For period properties it is much better steer clear and go for the unlacquered (uncoated) item which will discolour and tarnish soon enough. Never make the mistake of going for lacquered brass. More reading Unlacquered v Lacquered Brass.
Which Items of Door Furniture
Give consideration to which pieces you want on your doors. If you have planked internal doors, then just a pair of hinges and a suffolk latch. On an old rustic external door you would again have a latch and hinges and a knocker – no letter plate. Make another arrangement for letters rather than spoiling an old door by cutting in a letter plate. On six panel internal doors, a pair of door knobs and butt hinges and on external doors centre pulls were common. Have a look at pictures of famous Georgian streets and you will see this look – designs are classic and simple. Victorians liked statement pieces, fancy letter plates with the word letters on the flap, beehive and more fancy designs in door knobs and door knockers. They would normally have used finger plates to protect their doors from dirty fingers. See related articles below.
With all older buildings, especially if listed you will need to get consent prior to commencing restoration. The period features and historic character must not be affected by modifications to the interior or exterior. Before you make any changes, do check if you need listed building consent which should be done via your local planning authority. The Listed Property Owners Club can also be a useful point of reference.