doors, windows, hardware

Period Door Hardware: Specifying Tips

The door gives visitors their first impression of the space beyond. And hardware gives the first impression of the door. Here are some tips on specifying hardware that will make a good first impression.

Click here for a list of suppliers of authentic period-style door hardware

Correct hardware selection is a critical -- but often under-appreciated -- part of creating period-inspired interiors. Two major factors are involved: (1) the look of the hardware -- whether or not it has an authentic historic look; and (2) the feel and function of the hardware -- whether it is well made from substantial materials and works smoothly. Nothing spoils an entrance into a period space more than the feel of a thinly made, poorly functioning doorknob in your hand.

The hardware should match the style and period of the rest of the residence as much as possible. Among the many styles of door hardware you'll find in the list noted above are hand-forged Colonial, Victorian, rustic, classical, European, Arts & Crafts and whimsical novelty designs. These different styles are expressed through a variety of materials, such as bronze, brass, pewter, nickel, glass, wood and even silver and gold. The last element of the hardware look is the finish or patina that's applied -- everything from brushed metal to an aged green verdigris. In this age of chemical patinas, hundreds of different looks are possible. But beware: Some of these chemical patinas look quite artificial.

The novice buyer has to be particularly wary of the word "antique" in supplier descriptions. One supplier may use "antique" in its most restrictive definition to describe original vintage hardware that's many years old. But another supplier may use "antique" to mean merely "old looking." For period hardware, there are several different levels of historic authenticity:

Antique Reproduction. This is hardware that's a precise copy of old original pieces. In some cases, the molds for the reproduction hardware are made by making molds directly from the original antique piece.

Antique Adaptation or Interpretation. The design of adaptive hardware is based on historic originals, but changes are introduced to accommodate modern functioning, contemporary taste or economy of production. Obviously, this type of hardware is considered less "authentic."

Antique Original. This is hardware that was made in the original period and can be anything from a few decades to a few centuries old, depending on the period and style. Antique original hardware is the most "authentic" but may have some functional disadvantages for larger projects.

Antique original hardware suffers from the problem of supply. You may find an antique lockset that's just right for your project, but if you need four matching sets you may be out of luck. There can also be functional problems. For example, new doors usually come with a 2 1/8 in.-dia. prebored hole, so you must make sure that the antique piece is big enough to cover that hole. A rosette should be at least 2 3/4 ins.; a backplate should be at least 2 3/8 ins. wide. (Of course, if the door is to be painted, a hole that's too big can be plugged with a dutchman or wood filler.)

Finally, the design, heft of the metal and look of the finish are critical components of that important first impression. That's why if it's an order involving multiple pieces, it's always best to look at a sample first. If the project schedule is too tight for back-and-forth samples, it's especially important to make sure you're dealing with an experienced, reputable hardware supplier.

Click here for a list of suppliers of authentic period-style door hardware