This Interior Design Idea Makes Any Decor Upscale
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This Interior Design Idea Makes Any Decor Upscale

Want to elevate your decorating scheme exponentially? Upholster one of your doors.

By Alice Welsh Doyle
Thu, Mar 31, 2022 11:23amGrey Clock 3 min

IN THE CALCULUS of amateur decorators, doors are seldom given much thought, but designers look at them differently. They see doors as an opportunity to add colour, detail and distinction to any home whether at the front entrance or even in the design of a lowly closet.

A particularly luxurious trick in designers’ bag of wizardry is the upholstered door—a craftsperson glues a thin layer of cotton batting or Dacron padding to the door, then stretches fabric over it, just as with upholstered furniture. Designer James Shearron of Bories & Shearron Architecture in New York City likes how such doors introduce an intimate, inviting element to any space. “Simply put, upholstered doors are pretty to look at.”

The technique lets you express your personal style and add character to your home, said Tralona Boisne of French Finish Wall Upholstery. “Whether your guests like the design or not, an upholstered door is sure to be a topic of conversation.”

The Appeal

An upholstered door oozes old-school luxury. “The treatment elevates a room in a unique way,” said Alexandra Pappas, of Manhattan’s Pappas Miron Design. The cushioning effect, said Mr. Shearron, “brings warmth and dimension to a hard surface.” He and his professional partner Dick Bories judiciously apply the technique to the inside front door of New York apartments, “so when you are in your beautifully decorated home, you aren’t staring at a fire door.” Their firm swaddled such an ugly metal door in the windowless foyer of a local apartment, studding tomato-red leather with a traditional flourish of brass nails (tacked in the shape of woodwork panels) to suit the space’s prewar DNA. For a touch more pizazz, the client swapped in an octagonal doorknob of chunky green glass.

The Tips

Choose tough textiles such as velvet or leather—faux or real. “While we can stretch any fabric for a door, some react more to inside variations in temperature,” said Ms. Boisne. Linen and silk, for example, are more susceptible to wrinkles or sagging, she said. Added Ms. Pappas, “A fabric like velvet is more forgiving as far as wear and tear because it has natural dark and light moments within the weave, so any marks incurred won’t be as noticeable.”

But don’t clad just any door. Ms. Pappas urges clients to forgo the treatment in any highly trafficked room, “especially if children and pets are in the mix.” Better candidates, she said, include dining rooms, libraries and bedrooms, which don’t welcome bustling crowds.

The right hardware can help spare your material as well. Ms. Pappas’s firm protected the velvet-cosseted closet doors in a Manhattan apartment with C-shaped hardware. “When you open the door you are not touching the fabric itself,” said Ms. Pappas. Though nailheads can highlight upholstery’s subtle billowing character, for this project she forewent the tacking for “a more-contemporary application.” Whimsy, too, can lighten the weight of tradition that padded doors typically bear. For a bathroom door in the aforementioned New York apartment, said Mr. Shearron, “we applied the nailheads in a starburst pattern in the centre.”

The Caveats

Maintaining upholstered doors goes well beyond the occasional wipe-down or a fresh coat of paint. Should a lurching guest spill Merlot on one or a clawing tabby fixate on its velvet, you have to replace the fabric. And manufacture and installation are best left to professionals. “The process is labour intensive, which makes it…pricey,” said Ms. Pappas. At Ms. Boisne’s shop, the cost of labour alone ranges from $1,800 to $2,400. She notes that upholstered doors may require new hardware to fit the extra girth, an additional expense.

Also consider your appetite for the inevitable patina. “Fabrics will fade and leather will scuff,” said Ms. Boisne. But though practicalities may limit where padding will work, aesthetics don’t. “These doors work in every type of interior décor, from traditional to modern—even in a white-box contemporary space,” said Mr. Shearron. “You can use silver nailheads in a geometric design, for example, and the upholstered door will add a layer of interest.”


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The Fremantle cottage rewriting the blueprint for conjuring space

You’ll never guess where they found a little extra room when renovating this west coast house

By Robyn Willis
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There was a time, not too long ago, when the most important must-have for would-be renovators was space. It was all about space to be together and space to be apart.

But as house prices increase across the country, the conversation has started to shift from size for the sake of it towards more flexible, well-designed spaces better suited to contemporary living.

For the owners of this 1920s weatherboard workers’ cottage in Fremantle, the emphasis was less on having an abundance of room and more about creating cohesive environments that could still maintain their own distinct moods. Key to achieving this was manipulating the floorplan in such a way that it could draw in light, giving the impression at least of a larger footprint. 

See more stories like this in the latest issue of Kanebridge Quarterly magazine. Order your copy here

Positioned on a site that fell three metres from street level, the humble four-room residence had been added to over the years. First order of business for local architect Philip Stejskal was to strip the house back to its original state.

“In this case, they were not quality additions,” Stejskal says. “Sometimes it is important to make sure later additions are not lean-tos.”

The decision to demolish was not taken lightly. 

“Sometimes they can be as historically significant as the original building and need to be considered — I wouldn’t want people to demolish our addition in 50 years’ time.”

Northern light hits the site diagonally, so the design solution was to open up the side of the house via a spacious courtyard to maximise opportunities to draw natural light in. However, this had a knock-on effect.

A central courtyard captures northern light. Image: Bo Wong

“We had to make space in the middle of the site to get light in,” Stejskal says. “That was one of the first moves, but that created another issue because we would be looking onto the back of the neighbouring building at less appealing things, like their aircon unit.”

To draw attention away from the undesirable view, Stejskal designed a modern-day ‘folly’.

“It’s a chimney and lookout and it was created to give us something nice to look at in the living space and in the kitchen,” Stejskal says. 

“With a growing family, the idea was to create a space where people could find a bit of solitude. It does have views to the wider locality but you can also see the port and you can connect to the street as well.”

A garden tap has also been installed to allow for a herb garden at the top of the steps.

“That’s the plan anyway,”  he says. 

A modern day ‘folly’ provides an unexpected breakout space with room for a rooftop herb garden. Image: Bo Wong

Conjuring up space has been at the core of this project, from the basement-style garaging to the use of the central courtyard to create a pavilion-like addition.

The original cottage now consists of two bedrooms, with a central hallway leading onto a spacious reception and living area. Here, the large kitchen and dining spaces wrap around the courtyard, offering easy access to outdoor spaces via large sliding doors.

Moments of solitude and privacy have been secreted throughout the floorplan, with clever placement of built-in window seats and the crow’s nest lookout on the roof, ideal for morning coffee and sunset drinks.

The house has three bedrooms, including a spacious master suite with walk-in robe and ensuite overlooking the back garden. Adjustable blades on the bedroom windows allow for the control of light, as well as privacy. Although the house was designed pre COVID, it offers the sensibility so many sought through that time — sanctuary, comfort and retreat.

Adjustable blades allow the owners to control light on the upper floor. Image: Bo Wong

“When the clients came to us, they wanted a house that was flexible enough to cater for the unknown and changes in the family into the future,” Stejskal says. “We gave the owners a series of spaces and a certain variety or moods, regardless of the occasion. We wanted it to be a space that would support that.”

Mood has also been manipulated through the choice of materials. Stejskal has used common materials such as timber and brick, but in unexpected ways to create spaces that are at once sumptuous but also in keeping with the origins of the existing building.

Externally, the brickwork has been finished in beaded pointing, a style of bricklaying that has a softening effect on the varied colours of bricks. For the flooring, crazy paving in the courtyard contrasts with the controlled lines of tiles laid in a stack bond pattern. Close attention has also been paid to the use of veneer on select joinery in the house, championing the beauty of Australian timbers with a lustrous finish. 

“The joinery is finished in spotted gum veneer that has been rotary cut,” says Stejskal. “It is peeled off the log like you peel an apple to give you this different grain.”

Rotary cut timber reveals the beauty of the natural grain in the kitchen joinery. Image: Bo Wong

Even the laundry has been carefully considered.

“The laundry is like a zen space with bare stone,” he says. “We wanted these different moods and the landscape of rooms. We wanted to create a rich tapestry in this house.”

The owners now each experience the house differently, highlighting separate aspects of the building as their favourite parts. It’s quite an achievement when the site is not enormous. Maybe it’s not size that matters so much after all.

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