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Restoring my front door

November 8, 2010

In my opinion one of the most important elements of your property is the front door. Doors from period properties are seldom unattractive most are true works of art.

The modernised front door and frame

My front door and frame have had the full modernist’s treatment! A previous owner in the early 1970s must be congratulated on removing all traces of Edwardian finesse.

The front door was replaced with a plywood hollow core door, the two side panels containing stained glass and the transom window (containing original cylinder glass) removed and replaced with horrible “milk bottle bottom” glass.

Now this was a project I was eager to start not least because I had managed to find the original name of the house by searching through the 1911 census records (www.1911census.co.uk). This would be hand painted onto the transom window once the door frame had been restored.

Step 1 – Strip out!

There is something really cathartic about removing inappropriate materials and poor quality workmanship from something important like the front of your house. The act of removing the modern glass and timber trim around the door, was a way of demonstrating my intolerance to cheap modern materials and poor quality workmanship. The “strip out” didn’t half make me feel good!

Once all trace of the 1970s alterations had been removed, it was time to reassemble the door frame to Edwardian standards.

View of lower section of right side panel

Meanwhile a joinery shop in Tottenham (Ryan Joinery, White Hart Lane) were making the two panels that would fit either side of the door. The position of the horizontal rails on the side panels was critically important, as their position would be copied across onto the door itself.

Another local joinery shop made identical mouldings which would be screwed to the door jambs. These mouldings have an amazing effect on the door frame. They give a boring straight piece of timber an elegant decorative shape that gives the effect of importance and finesse.

Step 2 – Transom window

The two vertical sections of fluted timber, continuing up into the transom frame (frame above the door), had been cut off in the 1970s to create a continuous glazed panel.

Two vertical sections dividing up the transom window

The new pieces of timber were machine fluted by a company also in Tottenham (www.dwgeneralwood.co.uk), but were made from Tulip wood! This is a very hard timber that produces a fine finish when machined, but took me forever to form a glazing rebate and scratch moulding by hand!

With the transom window now split into 3 sections, it was now ready for glazing.

Step 3 – Glass and house name

In order to create a truly authentic look to an Edwardian property you have to use cylinder glass. This glass has all the distortions and imperfections that today’s world just can’t tolerate. A piece of float glass, (a dead flat glass with a perfect uniformity) is a triumph of modern manufacturing. The problem is it looks awful and out of place on an older property.

My cylinder glass came from The London Crown Glass Company (www.londoncrownglass.co.uk) and has been laminated for safety. This glass is not cheap, but without it the visual effect is very disappointing!

The house name once more above the door

The pièce de résistance was having the name of the house painted onto the transom window. The house name, as mentioned earlier, was found by asking a neighbour about the history of the house and remarkably, she new the original owners. This is very important because it enables the name on the census to be linked to the name of the house. Originally, there were no house numbers in our road in 1906.

The sign-writing was carried out by Stephen at Major Signs (www.majorsigns.net) in Barnet EN4. After much discussion we chose a Times font with gold paint and a shadow.

Current position

Work outstanding includes the complex moulding between the door and the transom and installing stained glass to the side panels. However, replacing the front door will have to wait!!

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2 Comments
  1. William permalink

    A very intersting and amusing restortion. It must give you great satisfaction every time you go through the door. Just one point you said “After much discussion we chose a Times font with gold paint and a shadow”. Was it not possible to choose the font that copied the style used on another house in your street. I’m assuming some of the name existed.

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