Sliding Doors For Open-Plan Living (Only When You Want It!)

These days it's all about "open-plan" living: A home without borders. A seamless blending of rooms. And in many ways, this is a wonderful alternative to the poky little cordoned off rooms that once dominated home design. But there are times that walls are wonderful things.

For families, open spaces are essential: young kids want to be near parents for obvious reasons, and parents want to keep an eye on kids for safety purposes. But it sure would be nice to just put up a wall to block out the toys, right? And as the kids get older they start to seek out their own territory (think "No boys/grownups/girls allowed" signs).

For families, having a dynamic home that can change and grow with your kids on a daily — and yearly — basis is ideal. How great would it be if you could just move your walls and doors around as you needed? What if a bedroom could also function as a playroom? What if a child's zone was both private but not too segregated from the rest of the home? New York City-based Mabbott Seidel Architecture has come up with a great solution for two of its clients by installing oversized sliding doors between rooms.

Harlem Renaissance (Images 1-4)
To create a generous play space for this family of four, an oversized sliding door was inserted between two rooms so that play can spill from one from side to the other. While the kids are young, they prefer having one large room to share. When necessary, and as they get older, the wall can close and convert this single room into two bedrooms.

Meanwhile, sliding doors were also added between the bedrooms and hallway. Combined with the glass clerestory windows above, this ensures that natural light always flows deep into the apartment.

1 View through sliding door: shows the two bedrooms being used as a playroom. Carpet tiles on the floor of one room help define the space and create a nice surface to play.
2 Playroom with sliding door. The entries to the two bedrooms are also large sliding doors so that when open, light will spill into the hallway.
3 Playroom sliding door detail. The sliding door was created by veneering two off-the-shelf doors with Douglas Fir and adding a solid wood end piece that doubles as a handle.
4 Playroom sliding door detail 2: Although a recess for fingers is routed into the face of the door, everyone enjoys holding the solid Douglas Fir end.

Hudson River Duplex (Images 5-7)
The owners of this apartment have one child now and are planning to have more. Although they have beautiful views of the Hudson River, local zoning code requires bedrooms be located away from these views. To overcome this limitation, sliding doors were installed between the bedrooms and family room to ensure as much access to these views as possible.

5 View outside bedrooms: Shows the living room in the foreground and bedrooms beyond.
6 Bedroom entry. On the inside of the sliding doors is painted a stripe of chalkboard paint (partially hidden beyond the column).
7 Between bedrooms: the current use of the two rooms is as a combination bedroom and playroom. But when cousins come to visit, the two rooms become bedrooms.

(Images: Ofer Wolberger for Mabbott Seidel Architecture)

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