In which I go overboard about a door



At the time we bought the door, it was wedged between three score others at a salvage yard in Hunter's Point. It was the biggest door by far. More like a square than a rectangle. Stained, beaten, soaked by the rain, it seemed to sag against the other doors, desperate for escape.

Dana saw it immediately and said, "That one. That one right there."

We had been looking for all of two minutes.

We got the idea of turning an old door into a dining room table from a contributor to Design Sponge. I saw the idea during one of Emmeline's naps and emailed the story to Dana, who immediately approved. The next weekend, we went to the salvage yard.

At first we thought the door was once used for a barn -- it was that big. It also had sad, rusted hangers at the top, suggesting it once slid rather than swung open. There was a large hole in one panel, and I envisioned a horse hoof stomping through it one day. It seemed more romantic for some reason. In the end, though, we decided it had a less glamorous former life, and probably was a pocket door used to separate a parlor room from a "bedroom" like so many miniature San Francisco Victorians.

On the day we moved into our new house, we rented a U-Haul pickup and brought the door to the new place, resting it on a back balcony. $50. Dana talked the guy down from $60. She has made negotiating skilz.

For reasons I have yet to comprehend, I fell a bit in love with this old door. I would go out to the balcony, rub my hands across the rough grain and scratch under the panels. I would think about what it would look like someday, anchoring the dining room where we would spend so many family nights together. I bought a power sander and ripped off the first coat of gnarled, flaked wood. Then I used my hands for a second go round, rubbing it until the door was smooth and naked and clean.

Each time I sanded it or stained it or rubbed it lightly with steel wool, I examined the grains -- tight in some places, huge, swirling whorls in others -- and I wondered what went on behind this door, what it saw or heard: whispered musings, sudden illnesses, impossible joys and gripping sorrows, hot sex and slothful Sundays. It held secrets. I wondered who opened it, who closed it, who entered through the portal and into what type of room and how it might have changed people; held them back or let them in. I thought about how the door had changed itself now, becoming a gathering place, a focal point. Clearly, I inhaled a lot of wood stain.

The door is done now, almost. We're still waiting for the glass top to arrive. It is due on Monday. In the meantime, I have to install a few more legs to brace it a little more. It seems wobbly. Dana and I are also debating whether to lay colored papers in the five panels. I tried it out and had to admit Dana was right -- the door itself seems perfect enough.

If you're curious at all, here are the stats on getting one done yourself. The glass was obscenely expensive because it was so big and odd-shaped -- 6.5 feet by 5 feet. Plus I think we got robbed.

Door: $50
U-Haul: $50
Power sander: $39
Sandpaper: $15
Stain: $12
Steel wool, misc.: $10
8 Ikea legs: $120
Glass: $740 (Holy shit!)

Tomorrow you get another glimpse into our crazy, craft obsessed household to vote on our mantel art, which I did today while Dana was at work.




  1. In which I respond to your excellently titled post:

    Excellently titled post. Hooray for DIY tables. The closest I've come is taking some particle board out of a box and hammering pegs and screwing odd-shaped screws, resulting in a plain, but funkily modular and Swedish looking place to put my Vitamin Water while I'm writing. That is, I bought one at IKEA.

  2. You are entirely allowed to go overboard about that door...I was thinking what a bargain it is to get a dining room table for about $100 bucks until I saw how much the glass cost! But still, what an amazingly unique table...

  3. We thought the exact same thing. Note to self: Check glass prices before spending weeks sanding and staining. I was told that for a regular door, it would have been cheaper.

  4. Say, ya ever see the film About A Door? It's actually quite a touching story about a man who bonds with a door.. Okay, sorry, too much listening to Jimmy pardo. good luck with the house, friend

  5. Gorgeous, gorgeous door! LOVE it. Isn't it great when you find an object that has such a good feel, rich in its own history, resonant in its personal door-mojo? Perhaps it's worth the $740.

  6. We're hoping we have it for a long, long time, so hopefully the $740 won't hurt after so many years. Mojo is a good word for it.

  7. It'll be worth every penny.

    Well, except that you left out the Bay Bridge toll to get to Ikea. *That's* put it over the edge.

  8. Oh look at YOU crafty!

  9. It's truly beautiful, pricey glass or no. And personally, I think it looks great naked.

  10. 6.5' x 5'!?! How big is your dining room? My experience with SF homes is on the small side.

  11. It's a weird room -- really long but very narrow. The door fits pretty well, even with a lot of chairs around it. Woo hoo! Sadly, this means no more "bowling for Emme" -- a favorite around here.

  12. Love it as papers in the windows.

  13. debinsf says:

    lovely. nice work.

    We used a cheap-ass door with ikea legs for like 8 years. I think the glass will probably help with the wobble. Ours had no glass and wobbled for ever. Ben did all kinds of mechanical figuring and shoring up.

    We only got rid of it because we now have his great-grandmother's table, etc. It's fun to see Max doing his homework at the same table where his grandfather did homework, 65 years ago in Brooklyn.

    It's great to have that cool, mysterious history in your house. Old stuff, plus your work to make it yours.... Really lovely.

  14. It is totally awesome that saw this through. Every crafty project we start like this ends up in the garage, waiting to be finished. (Or started)

  15. Holy shit is right! But the glass is neccessary, and if you had gotten some other door you would have been disappointed forever that you settled. It's lovely without any stains or paper on it, very cool either way.

  16. No paper! The wood looks great. :)

  17. Yeah, I think paperless will win out.

  18. Oh wow! Now I did NOT picture those legs in my head. I had those shaped wood ones - ya know, turned on a lathe type deal - in my head. I like the mod steel look married with the old. Nice fusion. Very funky. Looking at the recessed panels I am reminded of another DIY type show I saw where they took photos and stuff, done up scrap-book style and inserted them into the panel area and filled the whole thing with clear resin. Once it dried, it LOOKED like the table had a glass top, but it didn't. Maybe that would have been more economical. LOL

  19. I'm thinking you maybe should have left the door as-is and spent the $740 on more wood stain, cause just think of how happy and at peace with the world you'd be!

  20. Lucky it looks so good given the glass bill! Love your post title btw.

  21. EEPS! $740 smakers! But, on the other hand, you have a beautiful table that A. has a lot of history (probably) and B. you can say that you "rescued" and "restored" to it's current splendor. It really is beautiful.