A sliding door - say, a door of planks hanging from exposed hardware - transforms a room. It's so eye-catching, so unexpected, that it invites closer looks. It brings smiles.
There are also practical reasons for choosing sliding doors. They can be larger - taller, wider and heavier - than hinged doors. They don't require open floor space like swinging doors. But mostly, architects and designers love them for their looks.
A sliding door softens a formal room, said Charlotte, N.C., designer Emily Bourgeois, who used sliding pantry doors in an award-winning kitchen she created for a Charlotte townhouse. The doors were painted a vivid blue and featured exposed hardware.
Any door delivers a message about the space, she said. "So what's it saying? Let's all sit up straight? Or please feel free to put your feet on the table?"
What are the basics?
For interiors, architects and designers typically use custom sliding doors built by local craftsmen or, perhaps, vintage doors.
Familiar door makers such as Marvin and Jeld-Wen make quality exterior sliding doors. They're a good choice, because the barn door style can be hard to seal tightly.
Whatever the style, a sliding door needs to operate smoothly. It's going to invite attention - and tempt people to give it a try. "It's very important, if you're going to use one of these doors, that you use good hardware," Bourgeois said.
Stanley makes sliding door hardware that's widely available. At the upper end, the German company Hafele makes sliding door hardware that's both sculptural and sophisticated.
And there might be manufacturers in your area.
Beverly Morgan, sales manager of California-based Crown Industrial, said residential sales have been growing the past few years.
The familiar barn door look is especially popular. In that system, the door is hung by rollers from an exposed bar across the top of the door. The exposed hardware - like the hardware on Bourgeois' award-winning doors - is an important part of the look.
There might be a visible track at the bottom of a sliding door, or there might be a pin on the floor that fits into a slot on the bottom of the door. It's important to keep heavy sliding doors from swinging and banging to the wall or door frame.
Black hardware for a 3-foot-wide door would be $312; in stainless steel, the cost would be $776.
FUNCTIONS IN OPEN DESIGN
Sliding doors can be used by customers to define spaces in an open, urban setting and create separations.
"They were using our product to create a nook or bedroom without all those permits and the construction dust," said Ron Jacobs, of the The Sliding Door Company.
The company's doors don't hang; they roll in shallow tracks. There's a special "slow shut system" that slows the door before it bangs into the frame. They can be installed with a screwdriver and glue gun.
Cost depends on style and size, but a door 48 inches wide and 80 inches tall would be about $800.