Doors often take up a lot of precious space. Notice that on a yacht, doors are never the size of a standard, land-based entry. Nautical design strips things down to the bare minimum. Sometimes a little of that spatial economy can be extremely helpful when reworking small homes. Door style design is not often acknowledged as a practical way to gain space, so let's examine a few ideas.
Older homes often come with petite 24-inch wide openings that originated in an era where everything was designed to be smaller. I was roaming through an antique mall the other day, and was struck by how little some champagne glasses were in comparison to a modern flute shape. Notice sometime how tiny a typical wineglass or dinner plate was in the nineteenth century, along with dining chairs and settees. People are larger today, supposedly to be due to better nutrition, but I fear it might be due to gluttony.
Consider a typical 32- to 36-inch wide interior passage door. Sometimes this is not acceptable; for instance when you are entering a very small powder bathroom or closet. If you are to instead order two small doors, 16 to 18 inches each, they become much less intrusive. There are many other situations where the smaller doors are useful: Entries into a master bath, a bedroom or a dining room. Interior doors can be 28 inches, 30 inches, 32 inches or 36 inches, and custom doors might be needed for an odd opening.
Another way to conserve space is by using a pocket door. The key to success and satisfaction with the typical pocket style is spending money on the best hardware available. We've all experienced a clumsy door that constantly gets stuck and ends up in the open position most of the time. This is generally due to bent or damaged hardware. If you have the wall space to prepare the pocket, this is a terrific space-saving device. Ponder converting a bedroom closet into a home office and installing pocket doors to close off the area from sight. Know that many pocket doors are hollow core so that the hardware doesn't have to support a lot of weight and may not be the best solution for a bathroom that is adjacent to a public space, such as the dining or living area.
Bifold doors operate differently, but provide the same kind of space conserving method of closing off a closet or another room. They can be used to shield the working part of a kitchen from the dining room. Bifolds are popular for hallway linen closets, entertainment centers, home bars or even laundry rooms. Again, you won't be happy over the long term if you use inexpensive hardware, so spend the money to get the best available. I have louvered bifold doors that close off our laundry in the garage and find myself constantly battling the carriers coming out of the tracks. I have not taken my own advice!
In certain situations, consider textiles as possible "doors" if acoustical privacy is not critical. For example, curtains might separate a dressing area from the main bedroom without eating up a lot of extra space. I have seen people use fabric to shield closets from view with success. Folding screens are also popular in other cultures. Remember that while they can be easy to move and functional, they will not offer soundproof closure. Screens have long been useful in dividing a room into two functions, such as a dressing area from a sleeping area in a bedroom.
• Christine Brun is a San Diego-based interior designer and the author of "Small Space Living." Send questions and comments to her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.