Doors to Adore - Page 2

Where to turn when your home’s front entry hardware cries out for a revival of mid-century modern flair
Doors to Adore
Three escutheons from Schlage's mid-century heyday: (L-R) the 'Astra,' 'Imperial,' and 'Continental.' Look for them on eBay and beyond.
Doors to Adore
This vintage doorway scene for a Schlage ad was designed in conjunction with Bay Area architects Campbell & Wong.
Doors to Adore
These mid-century escutcheons come from Dexter Lock.
Doors to Adore
Schlage vintage ad with entrance designed by architects Wright-Rich & Associates of Dallas.

One of the most unique concepts, introduced by Schlage in 1955, was the 'Manhattan' escutcheon, which featured a backing plate that could be customized with additional color and texture by inserting cork, wallpaper, grass cloth, pigskin, or patterned metal behind the plate. "Change lock backgrounds as easily as rearranging your furniture," the Schlage ad boasted. Another was an exquisite plate decorated with abstract birds designed by artist Howard Pierce.

Timeless yet lost in time

As timeless as mid-century modern may be, the style presents challenges today for homeowners looking to find the same kind of modern-style door hardware that once graced those advertising campaigns, not to mention the original entries of Eichler homes.

"What fails mostly with the original Eichler hardware is that the lock mechanisms get worn out," says Craig Smollen of Smollen the Builder, an Eichler-focused contractor based in Marin County. "But, actually, come to think of it, I've never had one that failed that I couldn't resurrect. I more often have to replace doors, and re-drill and bring the original hardware over to a new door.

"The hard part is for those doors that don't have original escutcheons, or the escutcheon is damaged [beyond repair] and needs to be replaced—because you can't find them. You can find other escutcheon designs but not like the Eichlers [originally] had."

For many years, that's where Southern California Eichler owner Jon Jarrett stepped in, providing an invaluable service for Eichler owners in need of original door-hardware replacements by producing custom escutcheon door kits that he handcrafted. Jarrett's kits were compatible with Schlage and Kwikset hardware and included front and rear door assemblies, and doorknobs in Cone, Orbit, Globe, and Bell designs.

Unfortunately, Jarrett is no longer providing this service—so what's an Eichler owner to do? These days it's easier to find a programmable electronic access control 'smart lock' than to source hardware with 'Mad Men' style. But with a bit of detective work you can still find Eichler-friendly replacements.

Before beginning a search, consider the aesthetics of your home. Remember, the front entryway is an important focal point and a guest's first impression. So plan to ensure that your project goes smoothly.

Coordinating the door set (complete door assembly), trim (thin ring that encircles the knob), and backset (distance from edge of door to center of bored knob hole) can be a bit tricky, especially if the trim is oversized and makes a statement. It's always a good idea to check with a professional to ensure a trouble-free installation.