John Kelsey: When is a Door Not a Door?

The answer to that childhood riddle is, “When it’s ajar.”

Or just maybe, when it turns into a little jewel…

Philosophically, Sally (my wife and partner in Wilson Kelsey Design) and I feel there’s an intrinsic relationship between a room’s proportion, architecture, details and the furniture, artwork and accessories within the room. The dialogue between architecture and decor visually tells a family’s story and is what creates a sense of home. We consider this to be true regardless of the scale or scope of a project.

Several years ago, we designed a small library in which the cherry paneling hid all the plumbing shut off valves and electrical panels for a home. The panel with the artwork on it swings out, providing access to the utilities behind. Those were interesting details to work though… Pretty cool pocket doors, too!

Tradtional Library Wilson Kelsey Design

Photograph by Michael J. Lee

This fall we had the opportunity to design several concealed doors. The following shows the before, design and after of one of those commissions. I needed to design a door between the entrance to a wine cellar on the left and a custom built in bar on the right. There was just over 36″ of available space—tight. The door would swing into the hall behind the bar with no visible.

Concealed Door Before

It was a perfect opportunity to enhance the architecture of the room, and the client agreed. They didn’t want anyone to know the door was a door. I drew four options, starting with a simple wood panel solution and worked up to the base cabinet/shelving option.

5 concealed door option 3_ Wilson Kelsey Design

4 concealed door option 2_ Wilson Kelsey Design

6 concealed door option 4_ Wilson Kelsey Design

We agreed on the last option, creating a “bookcase” using details borrowed from the adjacent bar and I prepared a set of detailed drawings for the door fabricator and contractor.

7 construction drawing_ Wilson Kelsey Design

Six weeks later the door was installed. I was SO thrilled, as was the client!

8 completed concealed door_ Wilson Kelsey Design

11 completed concealed door detail 2_ Wilson Kelsey Design

I can design something fabulous, and create a set of drawings and specifications to communicate my design intent, but it’s the guys who know the means and methods of construction that I depend on. They’re the ones who make the vision real. It’s their commitment, pride of craft, and attention to detail that creates something beautiful. These guys nailed it! Thank you to Rich Laperchia of Alpine Woodworks who prepared a fabulous set of shop drawings and helped me work thru a number of little niggly detail questions, Dave Taubenack of Fantastic Finishes, whose eye for color/tint/hue is beyond belief and can match any sample you give him and David West of Meadowview Construction and his team of “the best behaved boys in construction”. And, I would be remise if I didn’t include Ladd Cook, the local rep for The Original Book Works, Ltd., who so patiently answered all my questions about faux books and shepherded the book order thru production in England. The books are truly the icing on the cake and make the door.

John Kelsey, CAPS, and Sally Wilson are principals of Wilson Kelsey Design, a residential interiors firm serving upscale clients in Greater Boston and beyond.

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