Seamlessly Connect Indoor and Outdoor Living Spaces with Scenic Doors
February 20, 2023
Text by Maria LaPiana
Blurring the lines between indoors and out is not only popular, it’s good for you, too. Studies have shown that stress and tension are lessened by natural light, fresh air, and direct access to the great outdoors. It’s no wonder so many homeowners want out.
“We’ve been seeing this ‘trend’ for twenty years or so,” says Mike Cunning, an exterior door expert with JB Sash & Door in Chelsea, Massachusetts. With the introduction of scenic doors to the residential market, the demand for an indoor-outdoor connection is greater than ever. Scenic doors are doors that offer larger panes of glass, extended openings, and more ways to open than conventional exterior doors. They bring nature in and make your interior living space feel more expansive.
“I’d say that in the last two or three years, we’re seeing more architects draw larger, wider doors into house plans because everyone wants the look,” says Cunning. “I like to call it the scenic door phenomenon.”
Let the Outdoors In
Walls of glass that open wide are popular in hospitality—restaurants, resorts, hotels, and spas—especially in warmer regions. Cunning says they’ve caught on in New England in part because they’re now engineered to perform better (when closed) in colder climates.
For years a mainstay of the pool house, the scenic door is fast becoming a fixture in the main house. These doors usually open up common areas such as living rooms, great rooms, and kitchens to outdoor decks, patios, and porches. They’re showing up in more first-floor primary suites, too.
“All of these doors are designed to allow lots of natural light and fresh air into a space,” says Cunning. “They come in a variety of sizes, and they’re all available with screens.” While most scenic doors skew contemporary, they’re being used in the renovation of older, traditional homes as well. Homeowners have lots of custom options, thanks to the large number of frame materials and colorways available. Cunning says black frames are enjoying a moment; they’re often the door of choice for homes designed in the modern farmhouse style. Neutrals tend to blend in well in transitional homes. Cunning reports that the ever-popular bronze has all but been replaced by gunmetal gray.
There are three types of scenic doors; the primary difference between them is the way they open—and stay open. Cunning breaks it down for us.
Sliding Patio Door
The sliding patio door is the most common option; it’s composed of two or more panels that open sideways rather than inward or outward, gliding alongside a fixed panel. This door offers quick and easy access to commonly used areas, such as patios and backyards. The slider has been around for a long time, and it’s the most affordable way to connect to the outside world.
The bi-fold door is also known as a folding or accordion door; it has two or more panels hinged to each other so they fold open and closed (to one side or both) like an accordion. This is the mid-level scenic door often found in pool houses and in warmer climates. Cunning says it’s important to consider the space on either side of this door. Because the door’s panels fold and stack together, you’ll need room enough to accommodate them on both sides of the wall. If you think they’ll obstruct a pathway or bump into furniture, the bi-fold may not be the door for you.
The multi-slide door offers the largest unobstructed visual and physical connection to the outdoors; it also makes the most stylish statement. This door’s panels can be stacked or recessed into a wall pocket, giving the illusion there’s no door there at all. In fact, you may have looked right at one and not known it. The multi-slide is almost always photographed open, often in grand homes featured in luxury magazines. A multi-slide door that opens to one side is available in up to six panels, while a door that opens to both sides is available in up to ten panels. Keep in mind this door requires careful structural planning and may require increasing the thickness of your wall or serious retrofitting in a renovation.
How to decide which doors are best for you? It often comes down to the operational function that best suits your everyday use and lifestyle, says Cunning. You’ll want to consider how you move through the interior and exterior spaces you want to connect, the style of your home, and your budget. The price tag on many scenic doors is not for the faint of heart. The cost is commensurate with the style of door and the number of panels.
JB Sash sells a lot of scenic doors, which is why Cunning says his team is well-equipped to help customers make an informed choice. You can see, touch, and feel all their products in their large showroom and design center in Chelsea, twenty minutes from downtown Boston. The company provides technical support for architects and builders to simplify the task of designing and specifying the right door for the right space. And Cunning says his team loves developing solutions for tricky or complex installations.
JB Sash & Door