Barn Raising Idea

Barn doors are everywhere. No longer considered utilitarian portals for stables and out buildings, they are now making bold statements inside homes. Traditional swinging doors are being swapped for sliding varieties in dining rooms, living rooms, pantries, bedrooms and bathrooms. Wooden doors painted vibrant hues grace the pages of our favorite decorating magazines. And industrial-chic exposed hardware continue to be celebrated by our favorite home improvement TV stars. I recently visited a window and door emporium near my hometown in Rhode Island and the manager revealed that he had trouble keeping up with the demand for sliding barn-style hardware and accompanying doors.

Ancient Origins

Interestingly enough, sliding doors originated in Japan around the 4th century B.C. These early doors featured wood or bamboo frames with translucent rice paper inserts called Shoji. The paper created a semblance of privacy and allowed light to filter through the doors. Following the principles of form and function, the paper inserts were often painted with traditional Japanese landscape scenes allowing the doors to double as artwork. For centuries Shoji doors have remained a sophisticated solution for interior doors, closet doors, and room dividers.

During the 19th century, barns, carriage houses and sheds were designed with large openings that allowed animals, farm equipment and carriages access to the outbuildings. Oversized exterior sliding doors provided security and protection from the elements. Interior sliding doors were commonly used in mills and factories throughout Europe and the United States. Unlike the delicate Shoji doors that gently slid on a track along the ceiling or floor, the industrial versions were crafted from thick noise reducing timbers or fire proof metal and moved from side to side with the help of massive wrought iron hardware, wheels and pulley systems.

Barn Doors Now

Today’s version of interior sliding barn doors seems to combine the best of both worlds. Sliding barn doors offer panache and privacy. Whether you define your personal style as country or urban, a wide selection of wooden and glass doors and hardware styles make it easy to enhance your décor with sliding barn doors. Before you invest in barn doors, remember to do your homework and enlist the help of professional installers. First you must determine if the space can accommodate a sliding door. Next, you must decide whether you want to install a hollow or solid wooden door or a wooden door with glass inserts. Then you must select the appropriate sliding hardware for the door. For example, Home Depot sells a  rustic style for under $200 . Walmart sells stainless steel hardware for under $200 . And Van Dykes Restores sells a traditional style for under $400 .


High End Hardware

I recently spoke to Michael Baer, who manages architectural business development for Richelieu Hardware Ltd., a leading North American manufacturer of door hardware.  Richelieu works closely with architects and designers on residential projects. When explaining why sliding barn doors are a popular alternative to pocket doors, he says, “The barn doors’ appeal is two-fold. First, they are space saving because they take up less space and do not need to swing into a room. And secondly, they are an uptick element with no design limitations. The sliding hardware comes in a variety of options including invisible hardware that is installed in a wooden valence in the ceiling or exposed hardware available in rustic, traditional and contemporary styles.”

Barn Door Transforms a Bathroom

Connecticut Interior Designer

Connecticut Interior Designer, Sharon McCormick

Interior Designer Sharon McCormick  is based in Durham, Connecticut and creates elegant interiors for discerning clients who appreciate beauty, quality and comfort. Whether a project is a new home, renovation or redecoration, attention-to-detail is a key element of her firm’s luxury design service. Sharon recently designed a space for a client that featured interior barn doors. She says, “Barn doors provided the ideal solution to a design challenge in the renovation of a Connecticut shoreline home. My client wanted to keep the footprint of the master bath the same, while creating a large shower and dual vanities. Replacing a swing door that used up valuable square footage with a sliding barn door allowed us to create the spa-like space they had been dreaming of. We selected a true-divided lite door with frosted glass to allow more natural light into both the bathroom and adjoining bedroom. The contemporary brushed nickel hardware and sheet-rocked door opening updated the tired colonial interior. In addition, the client requested a full length mirror and more storage space. We used a mirrored barn door concealing shelving recessed between the wall studs. We call barn doors our problem solvers, especially when pocket doors are not an option.”

She adds, “There are a few things to consider to make your barn door installation successful. Barn doors look more traditional when used with a cased opening, but be sure to account for the depth of the molding when measuring the projection of the hardware. Bypass doors are also available in barn door styles. If you’re using these for a closet, be sure to specify which door with be in front of the other. We specify the most visible door as the rear door to minimize the appearance of the gap from the wall. Door pulls are a consideration as well, so that the depth of a handle will not impede the doors from opening completely. To maximize door height, tracks can be ceiling- mounted. There are so many door and hardware variations available in the market that no two installations need to be alike. If this is a do-it-yourself job, buy the doors and hardware from the same vendor as a kit, and have the doors pre-drillled.”


sharon mccormack

The contemporary brushed nickel hardware and sheet-rocked door opening updated the tired colonial interior

Barn Door Redefines A Bedroom

Carla Aston, ASID, RID of Aston Design Studio  in The Woodlands, Texas used a sliding barn door as a space saving solution in a bedroom with an adjoining bathroom. Carla explains, “This homeowner liked the idea of a barn door because they didn’t have much space to open their existing doors and lay them against the wall in the bedroom. We couldn’t just reverse the door swing because we didn’t have enough space inside the bathroom. The barn door was a perfect solution because it remained close to the wall without swinging out into the room and we had a wide wall space for it to open on to. It made for an interesting feature in the room.”


Texas designer, Carla Aston, designed this barn door as a space saving solution

Barn Doors Add Character to a Hallway

From a personal perspective, I love interior barn doors. While restoring an 1811 Federal home in Newport, Rhode Island, I had hoped to use a sliding barn door as a pantry door. Our contractor was keen on the idea but explained that the pantry door opening lacked the space needed to slide the door either to the right or left of the opening. Instead, we chose to install a pair of sliding doors in a hallway that services a laundry room and utility closet. To see the sliding barn doors in our 1811 Federal home in Newport, RI visit


barn doors in hallway in old house

Cheryl Hackett and her partner, John Grovesnor utilized barn doors in a narrow hallway in their newly restored historic house in Newport, RI

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