These Old French Doors

42520875_943068522555219_1149421806340276224_nWhen I first set eyes on our house, the moment I set foot inside the large entrance gates I fell in love with the driveway lined with a flowering hedge and the sweep of lawn and garden beyond. But that day I fell in love twice, the second time was with the front doors, and both have been love affairs that have not lessened in the slightest, each and every day I still get the same feeling every time I come and go.

Over the coming months I shall bring you interesting snippets from around our home but today I want to concentrate on doors. This might seem like a somewhat boring subject but in fact our house has so many different styles all incorporated under one roof that I find it quite fascinating.

The pair of front doors are of course my starting point, they set the scene and despite the fact that they might be a little drafty in cold weather we wouldn’t dream of changing them. Summer or Winter, it doesn’t change a thing, sometimes they are framed with leaves from the wisteria and purple flowers drop delicate petals at one’s feet. Other times wood is frequently waiting outside the door ready to feed the fires that keep us warm. Any season, we love them!

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Once you step inside the hall there are different examples in each direction. This is not a home where everything is the same, it is an eclectic collection that the previous owner obviously took a great deal of pride in sourcing.

Let me explain with a little background history. Our house was originally a barn. Back in 1936 it was bought by a young Parisian as a summer residence for himself, his young English wife and their children. At the time it encompassed 15 hectares of land, a large main dwelling, several barns and a farm cottage. During the 1960’s they sold off the main house with the majority of the land. But they kept several outbuildings, a couple of acres of gardens and the cottage. They converted the biggest of the barns into a farmhouse, long before barn conversions became popular and the ‘in’ thing. This is now our home. We bought this along with the outbuildings, gardens and the farm cottage which is now our holiday cottage/gîte which we so enjoy letting to guests.

But back to the doors. The then lady of the house, certainly had style. The front part of the house now encompasses our boot room, library, laundry room and kitchen. These rooms were originally open barn bays for machinery. They led into the rear part of the house where the animals would have lived and where the old stone walls are two feet thick. Virtually every room is on a different level, you go up and down big solid stone steps into each area.

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There are in total 10 different door styles in the main house! This was someone who wasn’t content to go to the local carpenter, give him measurements and ask him to make the required amount. This was a lady who went sourcing antique and vintage items, long before it was a fashionable thing to do. The result a totally individual, one off unique look that I absolutely adore. I so wish she was alive today, because I can imagine she would be the most fascinating lady to talk to.

It seems that if she found a door she couldn’t resist, she brought it home and then afterwards worked out a space where it would go. Not only are all the styles different, but all the sizes are too. This is the door that goes from our laundry room into the boot room. I would love to move this into a more integral part of the house, where I could look at it all the time as I am passionate about it, but and I guess there are no surprises here, it is larger than every other door but one in the house and so it has remained where it is! Almost impossible to photograph and this is truly an unedited view looking right into the deepest working parts of our home. What you see is what you get, warts and all! Looking one way into our boot room/workshop

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and the other way into the pantry/laundry room. But I think you will understand why I love it so much.

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We have three narrow doorways, and for each of them she sourced old doors from antique armoires. I know this for a fact as her grand daughter told me the story when we bought the house. All three doors are in the Vendéene style, the neighbouring department to the north of the Charente Maritime, suggesting she travelled there to source them. The first leads into the kitchen and is a matching pair with one that leads into the cloakroom. I love the traditional furniture hinge which she kept.

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The third is upstairs and is rather charmingly fitted into a curved wall which houses the linen cupboard. The style of this one is slightly different but not dissimilar.

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Each has intricate iron backplates.

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The enormous door which leads from the sitting room to the kitchen is perhaps the only one which I am sure she had made to measure, most likely out of necessity as the space is large and unusual. Charmingly the handles are antique porcelain and much older than the door itself. Remember this was a barn and the huge arched opening is anything but regularly sized!

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Elsewhere there are a mixture of heavy wooden doors, each slightly different in design and size.

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Everywhere the handles are all original too and again differ from door to door. Some have layer upon layer of paint which I have purposefully kept a hint of as a nod to their past. Every time I take hold of one and turn I am reminded of the years of history in the palm of my hand.

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There was only one ugly duckling. A modern (for its time) door which led from the kitchen onto the terrace, most likely a 1970’s addition which was so out of keeping with the rest of the property. In fact this was the dining room when we became the owners, we made this into our kitchen as the existing one (which is now the library) was small and let’s not beat around the bush, it was horrid! The first thing we did was to ask a local carpenter to make us a pair of French doors to fit the space. Now remember this is France, nothing happens quickly. Local artisans naturally take great pride in their work and they take their time. Six months passed before the new doors were eventually fitted, and they are not elaborate, in fact quite the opposite they are extremely simple. In the summer they are permanently open and in the winter firmly closed. They were ridiculously expensive for what they are, because they were made to measure hardwood and the entrance is not even straight, all making it that little bit more complicated!

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There is a superstition that an old friend in Devon, in the UK, once told me. Always leave a house by the same door through which you entered. So, bearing this in mind, let’s go back to the front doors to end. They still have their original hardware.

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Outside is a traditional bronze door bell. Simple and effective, the dogs go mad when anyone rings it!

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But finally there is the small window in the top section of the right door. This has long been sealed with paint, but obviously once this opened, the original hinges are there to be seen on the inside. Perhaps this summer, I will see if we can restore this back to its original working condition.

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70 thoughts on “These Old French Doors

  • How alike you and the former lady of the house seem to be – creative and treasuring the unique and antique. Loved the second photo with dear little Bentley snoozing in the sun.

    • Strange, I did notice the different types of doors, but did not think it unusual. It all just looked as it was supposed to look.
      Here’s to mismatched…much more interesting.
      A Xx

    • I so wish I could have met her, I am sure we would have had a lot in common and I hope she knows that we are taking good care of her home and appreciating all she did. Bentley is so happy to have some warmth at last! Xx

  • Thank you! Love cool doors and loved this story. My niece lives in a 250 year old stone house and the back walls are part of the mountain. Sometimes they drip if there has been too much rain!! Living in the states I think it is so romantic. She thinks I am a bit crazy. She lives in St-Pons-de-Thomieres France.

  • We look forward to opening the door w/the bell & hearing the dogs welcome us w/a loud hoot!
    Loved the history of the doors—you make it all so interesting & personal. Thank you!

  • Oh Swooning over this post. I have a wild crazy thing for old doors with history and character your charming home is loaded. Awesome.
    Kris

  • How wonderful that the previous owner was such a visionary — and that you so appreciate her vision, too. Your combined efforts have created a truly one-of-a-kind, STUNNING home.

    • Thanks so much Heide, it was rather fun discovering so many individual things about the house and then working to enhance them and learning how she sourced them all. I only wish I could have met her. Xx

  • Am smiling: have visited your home for quite awhile now and seen many photos . . . .normally am pretty good ait noticing things but never ever did any of your many doors look even a tad different or out of place: they all belong and no surprise you feel comfortable passing thru’ time and again every day! Must admit the entry doors stop me to say ‘ah’ 🙂 !

    • I know one sort of takes them all for granted! I was lying in bed one night looking at the airing cupboard door and then I started counting how many different ones we had and then I took more notice! Xx

  • What an interesting focus – makes me yearn for the farmhouse of my youth that had lovely over-large keys, brass knobs and solid wooden doors. All gone now, I am afraid.

  • I love the creativity that the original lady of the house had and how you have gently enhanced her work to create such a beautiful character home. The doors are all so lovely in their different ways 🙂

  • The original owners sound like an interesting couple indeed. And the collection of doors you have inherited from them lovely. I’m afraid I got really fed up with houses that had every room on a different level when we were house hunting. The house we bought has as few as seems to be possible in old French houses — three on the ground floor (plus another if you want access to the barn from the house), none on the first floor and one in the attic.

    • I do know what you mean, but I still find it rather charming, We only have 3 levels on the ground floor, excluding a small step down into the bootroom, almost non existent. Upstairs there are only two levels which makes it easier! Xx

  • J > I quite understand about how you fell in love with your house. For me it was when we came to view the second time, and D was in the hall, with winter sun throwing her into silhouette : it was a moment of deja vu … Our fate was sealed!

    • Oh I love stories like this, when you just know that this is the right place. That’s when everything falls into place, I am a great believer in following one’s instincts and listening to one’s inner self. Sounds as if you do too. Xx

      • A whole post on just doors. So interesting. I thought I had many doors in our quirky farmhouse but none as interesting as yours. I love the big arch door. A real talking point😍

        • I sort of just take ours for granted and then every now and then I really look at them and think wow! All of course except the front doors which I use all the time and which take my breath away several times a day! xx

  • Hi Susan, I learned something new from your post today: “Always leave a house by the same door through which you entered”! I have a very firm rule in our house, that guests should never enter through the back door. An amazing number of people seem to want to come visit us through our back door (anybody’s back door, for that matter) and I just can’t fathom it. I say to them, “it is absolutely a no-no to enter my house through its backside!” The back door is the outside door from our scullery and really, that is the bowels of a working house that no guest should see. I went to trouble when we drew the plans for our house to make a generous, welcoming entrance hall, 2.5m wide with double front doors. I’ve always told guests, I don’t mind through which door you leave, but please come in through my house’s face – it greets you with a smile.” Now I’m not so sure I should let them leave through the back door…..! Bon Weekend ❤ Jeanne

    • Ahh, now I have set you thinking! It is a lovely old tradition that I try to follow. And yes, everyone always wants to enter through the back door. This is the first house where people don’t. I am not sure why, but no one comes into the bootroom, sadly half the time not even the children! They come in through the front door and then carry dirty shoes into the bootroom!! Xx

  • I love all the doors and their hardware. The knobs are so interesting! Also love the steps up and down. Gives your house so much personality. Thanks so much for your article.

  • I LOVED THIS!!!!!!!
    SO ME IN EVERY DETAIL and GOOD of YOU for keeping the OLD paint on the KNOBS just a BIT!
    BEAUTIFUL DOORS!They make ALL the difference don’t they!Just ADDS so MUCH BEAUTY!!!!!
    MORE OF THIS STUFF!PLEASE!!
    XX

    • There is so much to look at on the Internet, aren’t we lucky to be able to have all of this stuff at our fingertips. That is perhaps why I think the lady who owned the house had so much vision, she had no internet, or mobile phone. Xx

  • Oh, what loveliness! It makes me want to find doors ! What a delightful story and thank you!! I love to hear about your home.
    Nancy
    wildoakdesigns.blogspot.com

    • Thanks Nancy, It makes me want to move the glass door into the main part of our home even more, but I know it will never happen! At least in the summer I can leave all the doors open so we do at least get to see it! Xx

  • We did not notice the different doors, just shows you how well they suit your house. We would like new/old front doors but so far impossible to find. Old doors seem to get trashed here in Sydney. The previous owners would probably be amazed at how their style is being copied everywhere today.

    • I don’t think I took much notice of the doors to start with. The front door of course and the glass door into the bootroom and the armoire doors as I knew their history, but the others were just sort of there, it was only when I really started to take notice that I appreciated their handles and finer points. Keep searching I am sure you will find some new/old doors! Plenty here, but might be a tad difficult to get them home!! Xx

  • Absolutely Fascinating! I love this story of the varied doors. The previous lady of the house must have had great fun searching out all the different sizes of doors. I especially like the creativity of the armoire doors which are beautiful.
    No wonder why you feel in love with this enchanting property, it so suits you.
    Merci. Thanks for sharing with us. Patty

  • Hello. Just on Cote de Texas and Joni was talking about Dairy slabs pieces of ironstone with black lettering. Do you have any to sell?? Could be a big seller now that all her readers will want them.

  • This is great, i recently had my house renovated and we’ve decorated the house with a variety of antiques, while shopping for antiques we found two old fascinating doors from a nearby antique shop and those doors were all the way back from some Asian country, those doors are such beautiful and sleek.

    I hope i could show them here.

  • I love this post! My Grandmother was quite superstitious, and one of her superstitions ran to doors. She believed that visitors should never open the door when they were leaving as this would mean they would never come back to visit. I am sure that this belief saw her rush to the door to open it ahead of the guest, possibly the delivering a completely different message than “you are welcome, come again!”…. 😊

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