I’ve been thinking a lot about doors for an upcoming “Design Matters” column for Popular Woodworking Magazine. A good door design satisfies our demands for function as well as our desire for beauty. By beauty I mean we want to go beyond function, we want doors to say things. We want them to speak a message that we feel more than see. What we want a door to convey could be as varied as the many things we build doors for. A door could say “welcome” as well as “keep out”. It can announce that something special lies within, or it can quietly harmonize with the overall form by complimenting other elements in a design. All that is to say that doors always say something in a design even if they play a quiet supporting role. Which brings me to some thoughts about whether we should lean more towards function than beauty. It’s a question today often posed as “either or”, while our ancestors would have thought in terms of “both and”. No doubt a door must function, a sticking door is a nagging fault not easily forgiven. But at the far end of the function spectrum are those utilitarian examples of doors that are models of efficiency and function – plywood or steel skins glued to a thin strip of wood around the perimeter. I grew up in one of those post war houses with hollow core birch veneer plywood doors. When I see them today I’m always reminded of the proverb that the opposite of love is not hate but indifference. Those drab modern marvels of industrial mass production are cheap, functional, and mute.
There’s a key lesson hidden there about design. What do we want our perfectly functioning door design to say?
George R. Walker