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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