Doors and Outdoors

Doors and Outdoors

Here’s some of the latest and most enduring in outdoor residential design from the terrace to the threshold.

By Bettijane Levine 09/01/2014

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Doors have been around since the ancient Egyptians depicted them in hieroglyphics, and they haven’t really changed that much in form or function. 

It’s the materials, technology and aesthetics that have changed drastically, while doors throughout the ages have always represented transition, protection, privacy and separation from the elements and society’s external chaos. Doors symbolize all sorts of emotional passages that we rarely stop to think about — but we can’t seem to stop talking about. Their importance is reflected in our language, which is peppered with door idioms: at death’s door, open-door policy, shut the door in his face, don’t darken my door, that job is a revolving door, etc.


The link between doors and outdoors is obvious; one leads to the other. And in this issue we’ve paired the two categories to show recent design trends in each.


Custom-designed doors are de rigueur for homes of quality, and they are usually more massive and certainly more impressive than the standard variety at big-box stores. Doors of steel can glide open electronically, like a bank vault. They can be fireproof, bulletproof, soundproof, even explosion-proof. They can have that familiar satiny steel finish or a vibrant color coat. They can be designed with glass inserts to allow in light. One local architect designed a horizontal glass insert near the bottom of his own immense electronically operated steel door because his beloved dog likes to lie on the foyer floor and look out at passing traffic.


Pivot doors, which swivel open with a gentle touch, are a growing trend. They move via top and bottom pivots rather than side hinges, and designs can be contemporary or traditional. They’re not exactly a new idea, however. The ancient Egyptians and Greeks crafted huge stone temple doors that moved via pivots at top and bottom. (If you’re ever in Turkey, you can see a pivot stone from the third millenium B.C. at the Istanbul Archaeology Museums.)


Many Arroyoland homes are blessed with exceptional views, or rolling private lawns that could accommodate a flock of sheep, or doors and windows that open onto courtyards, loggias or pool areas. In these homes, the entry door may be less used than doors that open onto viewing decks or private terraces. And the latest trend for these folks is to eliminate traditional walls entirely and replace them with glass walls that can open up the room, eliminating boundaries between indoors and out.


Nanawall, a trendsetter in the field, makes it possible to enclose a room (including corners) in glass, with the option to open part or all of the wall to the great outdoors. The firm’s newest invention is a “wellness system,” which continuously monitors indoor air quality and tells the resident when it’s time to open the glass wall and flush the interior with fresh air.


Outdoor furniture is a much newer concept than doors, and one born right here in the San Gabriel Valley. In 1945, Robert Brown and Hubert Jordan established the Brown Jordan Company and went on to create the first furniture ever constructed for full-time outdoor use. Their firm (and the entire industry they created) has continued to flourish, and there’s no end in sight to innovations in the field.


Wicker furniture, for example, is a classic choice among traditionalists. But old-fashioned wicker, made of plant materials, used to start deteriorating with prolonged outdoor exposure. Today’s wicker is made of synthetic resins woven around rustproof metal; it has longevity in its very atoms.


All-weather treatments for fabrics and wood have redefined the endurance of outdoor furniture. And styling seems to have no creative limits. No matter how futuristic, funky, whimsical, modern or traditional your outdoor-furniture taste, there’s bound to be an all-weather cocoon bed, a luxurious curtained chaise, an Eames chair or a granite-topped table to suit your sense of style.



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