Illustrated Architecture Dictionary
Two adjoining doors that have glass panes from top to bottom and are hinged at opposite sides of a doorway so that they open in the middle
The first French doors were actually casement windows that stretched from the floor to near ceiling. Louis XIV had 70 of them installed in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles in the 1680s, where they opened onto the garden.
Hinged so that each pair met in the middle, the framed casements were glazed from top to bottom with panes of glass in orderly rows of two, held in place by muntins. Less grand iterations have appeared ever since, but the basic form — paired doors with even rows of divided lights — has remained the same.
French doors came into their own around the turn of the 20th century, the height of the bungalow era, when builders’ supply houses began to offer both paired and single doors in stock styles. Because they were so widely available and so versatile, they appear in a variety of houses, from Prairie style and Arts & Crafts to Tudor Revival and Cape Cod.
Like colonnades, French doors are room dividers that allow a sense of privacy and separation without blocking light, a real boon in the modestly sized homes built in the first decades of the 20th century. For that reason, they were used throughout the house: to separate a formal parlor from an entry hall, for instance, or to link two public rooms together, such as adjoining living and dining rooms. Single versions were the doors of choice leading into sunrooms, enclosed porches, and sleeping porches.
Today, we tend to focus on French doors as a means to open up the back of the house to a patio or garden.
- EXCERPTS: Mary Ellen Polson, "French Doors Let In the Light," Arts & Crafts Homes, July 13, 2014
Examples from Buffalo:
- Illustration above: George A. Austin House Interior doors
- Grace Millard Knox House / Computer Task Group Building Interior doors
- Lowry House Exterior doors