Eastlake Interior Doors

One of the things that ended up taking the most time was restoring the interior Eastlake pattern doors. This door pattern is named after Charles Eastlake who was a British architect and furniture designer during the era when the Painted Lady was built. With the 5 or 7 panels embedded in the door with ornate lines and beveled curved edges, these really enhance the character of the house. There were 16 of these doors in the house and we needed another 7 for our floor plan which added closets, laundry room and an additional bath.

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At first we tried to see if we could find some new reproductions, which proved impossible. We then explored custom making them new, which would have cost $1600 each!

In the end we decided to re-use the doors and found an additional bunch on Craigslist and at salvage yards nearby. The Craigslist ones were the most abused since they came from a rental Victorian. In one case, once paint was removed we could see it was used to play darts with hundreds of holes in a circle around the board. In another, the panels were seriously cracked from slamming too hard or being kicked. And a third the bottom and side were all chewed up from a dog. Here are photos of a score at the salvage yard (Ohmega Salvage in Berkley) and me picking up a batch from a single Craigslist listing.

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Since they all had 122+ years of multiple coats of paint on them, stripping by hand was going to be a costly option. So we found a shop that specializes in antique furniture stripping with dunk tanks and heat applied removal called Superior Furniture in San Francisco. We tested one door, careful to ensure that the horse glue used back then would not dissolve in the tank chemicals and the doors fall apart or warp. Then we did all 23 including a few with glass in them. The results – much faster and more cost effective than by hand ($185 each) with the whole batch taking 10 days to turn around. Since some of the handles did not line up the same, we also had some plugs added allowing us to re-position the handlesets at roughly the same height. Here is Bruce the owner inspecting the first batch to come out. Notice the plug in the taller one which was a challenge during staining. We had to bleach it, then feather the stain to match with the other grain.

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Each door was a different size so custom jambs had to be built and as best we could we shuffled doors around to make heights and widths as close as possible for doors in the same vicinity. The doors were sanded to remove any remaining old paint down to original Douglas Fir, Redwood or Mahogany, repaired with filler, edges planed to remove damage and square them up, primed with an automotive spray gun and and then final coated with Benjamin Moore Regal Select Waterborne in Swiss Coffee pearl finish.

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We found most of the door hardware was worn beyond repair and also a jumbled mismatch of years of switching broken sets out. So while all this re-work was going on, we spent countless hours trying to find new Eastlake hardware. We would order samples and see if the brass and patterns matched up…learning along the way that there are significant differences in brass finishes that when placed together do not match up: antique, vintage, lacquered, polished, satin, satin brown and satin black brass! The best combination we found was: doorsets from Van Dykes (oriental pattern Eastlake mortise door sets, actually quite good quality and inexpensive made in India), Emtek thumbturn privacy bolts in polished brass from House of Antique Hardware (which also have emergency egress with screwdriver, essential for kids rooms), Copper Mountain Hardware Victorian hinges (brass, which are actually Eastlake pattern with round ball tips). The hinges flare out about an inch to highlight their Eastlake pattern, just like some of the original hardware in the house.

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These doors ended up being the item that we were most over budget on. But we think it was worth the extra cost than going with something standard off the shelf that would lack character. The  122 year old doors (and a few we salvaged) are ready for another century.