Burlington house in fall

Our 1899 eclectic house was not built for the preference for open floor plans, but some former occupants decided that the next best thing was to remove as many doors as they could. The large pocket doors between the two living rooms disappeared, as did the door between the front hall and the dining room, and the swinging door between the dining room and the kitchen, and the upstairs doors between the central sitting room and the front and rear hallways. Air flowed freely between all of the rooms, especially the cold winds of winter, and with the large loosely-double-hung windows on every side of the house, winter wind did not stay outside.

Between the front hall and the middle bedroom, not only did the door disappear, but the doorway did, too, giving access to that bedroom only through the sitting room, which could no longer double as a private bedroom for guests or anyone else.

Finding the alternative of removing walls and creating a modern openness too costly—the apparent solution for every remodeling show now on House TV, which had not yet appeared in 1988—the solution seemed to be replacing doors (and doorway). Restoration stores and preservation stations with old building parts had not appeared yet either, so I went begging.

Church members came to the rescue.  Dean Moberg mentioned that he had a set of big pocket doors stored in the rafters of his garage. A former owner of his 1900-era house had removed not only the doors, but the entire wall between his dining room and living room, giving them a nice open space.  That was another option, but the structure of my house still needed those walls. They were dirty and ugly, but the right size. Thank you, Dean! They cleaned up well, and I do enjoy refinishing. The doors required a new set of rollers to work on the track that still existed, but a renovation specialist helped assemble those.

Jim Ritters had four doors and a quantity of old woodwork in the attic of his house, which also matched our house for age and woodwork. He just about had to tear out a window to get them out of his attic, but they cleaned up so well that they didn’t need refinishing. The small wall that filled the old doorway came out easily, and the woodwork helped to shape an opening that matched the rest of the house. Thank you, Jim!

Work on insulation and tightening windows came later, but our comfort and enjoyment of “This Old House” increased enormously. It’s good to be able to count on the help and generosity of church people when you need them.