Get ready to feast your eyes on the sexiest 1930s pocket door on the internet. But first, a little background on this pretty piece of old house history…
When I first moved into the Brigham Craftsman, eight of its original single-panel doors had been replaced with hollow, six-panel doors. This was likely because this home had a significant furnace fire sometime in the ‘70s.
Crazy, right?! Don’t worry, even with her “deep char,” she’s structurally sound and strong as all heck. They don’t build like they used-tah. Here’s just a few beauties I’ve replaced:
On a mission from god—the OG door gods, obvy—I set out to collect and replenish doors authentic to my 1934 craftsman bungalow. My very first find was this forsaken, sun-stained, found in an old, musty basement, 1930s-era swing door from Westport, Connecticut.
For nine years, this beaut’s been sitting pretty in the attic awaiting its intended transformation—a one-of-a-kind frosted glass (a.k.a. acid-etched) pocket door for the Brigham Bath.
Here’s how I revived this beat up 1930s swing door into a pretty little pocket door. Full disclosure: I got by with a little help from my friends.
#1 | PREP THE DOOR
Remove all hardware, salvage what you can. The pocket door featured its original swing mechanism and brass plate cover. Sadly, the plate was way too wide to fit into the “pocket.” Now I have two super cool, not-sure-what-I’ll-do-with brass plates, two glass panels where the door was pushed to open, and a neat piece of hardware I plan to use to improve on a past project (coming soon).
#2 | MEASURE DOORWAY + RIP (CUT) AS NEEDED
My swing door was the correct height, however two inches wider (30”) than the doorway opening (28”). Make sure to consider the symmetry of the center panel when marking out the rip cut, ensuring evenness on both sides when the pocket door is closed.
LESSON LEARNED: I ripped both sides of the door. Silly mistake. Only rip one; the side where the door locks. This resulted in an adjustment to the jamb to conceal a slight opening on the lower half. Whoopsies!
#3 | CUT OUT CENTER + SALVAGE TRIM
This is where I handed over the baton. Like a surgeon, my contractor cut out the center panel perfectly, following up by meticulously prying the remaining pieces of trim with finish nails in-tact. Barely a blemish left behind. Literally, there was just one, the singular puttied piece in the reel above.
#4 | SECURE GLASS PANEL
The final bit of the passed baton: Once the trim was cut out and preserved, it was realized the “saw’s length” cut made the trim ever so slightly too short to hold the glass as previously planned. The solution: add a slim trim to scoot the opening closer together.
Alternatively, had we foreseen the saw’s length cut issue, the custom glass would have been ordered ever so slightly larger to accommodate the ⅛” gap, give or take.
Using wood supports to keep the glass in place, the trim was nailed in on the first side along with a copious amount of adhesive. The same treatment applied to both sides.
PRO TIP: For an active door, make sure to order an acid-etched glass—a process which renders a tempered glass (critical in case it breaks) as well as the frosted look.
#5 | SANDING + FINISHING
Once the adhesive fully dried, the flat sides of the door were sanded thoroughly with a series of sandpaper grits: 40–80–120–220. I hand-sanded the delicate molding my contractor preserved.
Wherever this door lived most of its years, the sun took its toll on the finish over time. One side rendered honey orange, the other dark brown. Since all of the trim was salvaged, I embraced the two-tone look by using rich, oil-based stains to mimic the sun-stained hues. Each side was sealed with a satin polyurethane.
#6 | HARDWARE + ACCESSORIES
After two failed attempts, I settled on a sleek brass finger pull for both sides and a traditional cabin lock in lieu of a mortise. Two holes were augured out on the inside side to house metal spring coils in order to bounce the door out should it get stuck within the “pocket.” Custom gold leaf lettering was the final, fabulous touch.
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