French Doors + News About My Boston Apartment

Hi Everyone,

Well, I was starting to write one post today, and then my phone rang. It was my upstairs neighbor who’s been here for many years and is an architect. In fact, she and her architect husband originally renovated the apartment. Therefore, they know this place better than anyone.

Of course, our convo put a bee in my bonnet, so I thought it would be fun to go over what I learned.

And, also show you what I’d love to do with two of the doors in the living room.


First, a little background.


Below is the floorplan of the main floor.


stairs upstairs with new opening

Please ignore the stairs and furniture for now.


Living room and den - want French Doors

However, flanking that wall with the staircase, there are two doorways; one goes to the den.


Doors - French door instead

The other goes to the bathroom and den, where there is a third doorway is the only one of those that currently have a door on it. But, as you can see, when the door is open, it’s actually covering the entrance to the bathroom. That’s odd because not only is there plenty of room to open the door into the room, into the room is typically how doors go.

But, not here.


Benjamin Moore Marilyn's Dress - Bathroom

Here you can see better that indeed there is another door that goes with the bathroom. The den is to the left.


There is a door, however, to the other entrance to the den.


Would you like to see it?

Of course, you would.


Big, heavy door

Here it is!

Why is it like that?

I’ll tell you.

In the middle of the fastest real estate transaction in recorded history, I was asked if I wanted the door. I figured, sure. I don’t know where it was being stored. However, as soon as I saw it, I realized that it was a mistake. I don’t want it. The door is 35″ wide, NINE FEET HIGH, and two inches thick! Plus, it weighs a ton. I mean, I cannot move it.

It is in front of the closet because the Verizon guy moved it from the wall behind where the chair/lamp is now to in front of the closet and didn’t put it back.


However, I would like a door from the living room into the den, just not that door. It does block the view. It’s in the way.


On the day that I made my offer at the end of September 2020, the listing agent had a brilliant suggestion. He said, why not put up a transom and then a set of French Doors?

Immediately, I said, YES, that’s perfect! And, while I’m at it, it would be great to have the same thing on the other doorway, just to the right of the spiral staircase.

I knew exactly what I wanted, too. In fact, I showed the basic idea in this popular post about my new bedroom. Although, for the rendering, I used a different transom. For one of my favorite posts about transom windows, go here.


Urban Grace gorgeous new-traditional dining room - exquisite transom window

Above from a decade-old image from Urban Grace is the transom window I’ve always wanted.


Inson Dubois Wood French home in Greenwich with a cool transom window

The same window is in this beautiful Greenwich, CT home designed by Inson Dubois Wood.


We already know that we have nine feet to fill. That’s 108″ to fill with the transom and two French Doors.

It will all need to be completely custom.


Furlow Gatewood wall mirrors French doors Chinoiserie

The French doors would look something like these that Furlow Gatewood designed.


So, here’s what I came up with to create custom French Doors with a transom.


New French Doors - Custom transom window

It’s a little sloppy because to make it less sloppy would take hours. But, you get the idea. I love it, and it will be money, well-spent! I believe quite strongly that it’s classic details that make a space special and memorable. In fact, I love these French Doors so much that I’d like to have a third set like this going into the den on the other side.

That is unless I put a closet there. I’m still not sure about that one. I do like the entrance into the den and the gorgeous ceiling detail.


In the meantime, what else did I learn about the apartment? Anything earth-shattering?


Let’s begin with the killer spiral staircase. Remember, we discussed it at length very early on.

As I suspected, some steel beams are almost definitely running from east to west and supporting the fireplace and chimney. Does that mean that doing a straight-run staircase is out of the question?

No, it doesn’t. However, it means spending a crapload of money. And, in the end, I don’t think it’ll be worth it. In the future, I’ll be going over what I have in mind instead. It won’t be cheap either, but it’ll be safer and quite beautiful. Sorry, you’ll have to wait on that one. But, for now, changing the opening is asking for lots of problems.

And, in the end, I don’t really need a big sofa in here.


What about the fireplace?


Let’s begin with the mantel. Which side were you on? Did you think it was original or not?


If you said that it’s not original, you are correct. Nancy (not her real name) said that there wasn’t much here when they renovated this place back in 1978. This mantel was salvaged from a home in Brookline, a suburb of Boston. I’m still in two minds about it.

However, if I decide to change it, I won’t feel guilty about ripping out something original to this beautiful home constructed in 1880.


19th century Staffordshire Dogs on Etsy

Oh, speaking of fireplaces, I ordered these beautiful Staffordshire dogs the other day. Believe me when I say that I’ve looked at a LOT of them. These weren’t too expensive, but I love their sweet faces and detail in their fur, basic shape, and large size.


But, here’s the good news.


I’ve already made an appointment to have the chimney inspected (January 20th) and cleaned if they deem that’s the proper thing to do. However, today, I also learned that the fireplace had a complete overhaul about 20 years ago and is indeed lined! Hooray for that bit of good news! That means that, most likely, it only needs a good cleaning and maybe a small repair to the masonry in the opening.

One more thing. I really scored this week with finds. After searching on and off for nearly two years, I finally found a gorgeous vintage silver footed butler’s tray with a gallery.


@m.o.endres on instagram

And, it also had to be in a hexagonal shape, like Maura Endres’ tray. And, it had to be under $350.00.


@m.o.endres via instagram blue and white Christmas decor

One more photo with Maura’s incredible styling. Please follow her on Instagram!


You’ll see many more images that include her fabulous tray.

These date back to the Victorian days and were used by the butler.

Below is the tray I bought from circa 1930.



I love the gallery on this one. I love Maura’s as well.


In closing, when I was unpacking, there was a quart of paint in the linen closet that had been used in the bathroom. It said Benjamin Moore – Marilyn’s Dress 2123-60


Benjamin Moore Marilyn's Dress 2123-60


Marilyn’s dress is one of the cool grays in the Laurel Home Paint and Palette Collection! That made me smile to see that.

It feels so wonderful being here. I’m blessed with lovely neighbors. And, enjoying feathering my new nest. I’m quite excited about those French Doors!


PS: Please check out the newly updated HOT SALES!


64 Responses

  1. Hi Laurel, congratulations on your new apartment it is beautiful!
    I have a dilemma with doorways if you can help me. I am building a house in Wilmington N.C. The main living, dining and kitchen are open concept. There are four doorways in that area that are 8ft tall with pretty moldings. My problem is one one side of the kitchen there are three doors/doorways all right next to each other. The first one to the left is the pantry with a door on it which is 6ft 8 in tall. The middle door is to the bonus room which I was going to take the door off because it opens into the kitchen, this is the same height as the pantry door. The third doorway to the right is 8 ft high and connects to a back hallway. I feel like it looks off with two short doors and one tall one. What should I do? I might not be able to make them all tall because of the pantry door unless I just forgo that. Sorry I can’t send you a picture . Thanks!

  2. Now that you have your tray (it’s perfect!and every home should have one), any idea where I can find those crossed feather/palms in Furlow Gatewood’s room? J. Roselli sold them, but when I inquired, he was not restocking them. Could they be created from papier mache or wood by an artisan? I am so happy you are making your beautiful new/old into a joy-filled place!

  3. Hi Laurel I’ve watched your new apartment with interest. I bough 1977 and 1900 houses. The 77 house has a ugly spiral staircase so I’ve been glued to this blog to see what you did. My fiancé and I came up with an idea for ours. We are making a staircase like the sliding study ladder. only a staircase. It will slide with wood and cables using wood stairs. We have a drawing of your interested. It’s the smallest footprint we could come up with. We found someone to make and install it. Thanks for your blog. It’s helped me design my last two houses plus the two new ones I own. Love your place. It’s gorgeous congrats

  4. Laurel,
    Kit Kemp used the Staffordshire Dogs as lamps in an English country house in her Dec 17 blog post…
    Made me immediately think of yours! I can’t say I’m a fan of the frilly lampshades though.

    Really enjoying the blogs of your move and settling in. I hope it’s going well!

  5. Ooooh, I suppose on looking again that the space labeled as your “main entrance” is perhaps not within your apartment proper, but more of a public area. I took it to be a foyer/entryway in your apartment.

  6. What a beautiful find, that tray! And I do love the idea of French doors for the den. Do I spy a pocket door there now? One thing on the staircase, and perhaps this has been discussed: Could you cover over the existing doorway to the bath hallway, and create an opening to that hallway from the main entrance area? That would give some wiggle room for a staircase re-work.

  7. You could slice-an-dice this door up to create the French doors you want. Replacing the panels with glass. It would maintain a connection with the current original woodwork. The top could be modified to match, with the panels replaced with glass. Or opened up without the middle. Adding the rounded molding in that case is also a possibility.

    Of course, if you want the more light look and feel of dainty French doors, then fully custom would be the way to go!

  8. Love seeing and hearing your plans for your already beautiful space, which sounds like it will be even more so when you are done! (well, we’re never all done are we?) A word to the wise about the S. Dogs. I saved and bought a large pair years ago from a Chicago dealer who specialized in all things Staffordshire. Any way, one day my husband thought he’d help dust, and seeing a mark hear the nose, he rubbed and some of the applied vintage color began to come off! Your’s don’t look like they have that. The dealer told me that some Staffordshire pieces had color and decor applied after firing! So he no longer “helps” dust unless it’s an area away from the dogs:) I am sure you will grow to love yours as much as I do mine…they add a certain personality and whimsy, whether they’re on the mantle, next to the hearth or on a sideboard.

  9. I’m pretty sure this is the most gorgeous apartment I have ever seen. I would LOVE to have a space like this. ❤️

  10. All so gorgeous! Regarding transoms and their upkeep… I had transoms over wide openings in my house in North Carolina. Between the foyer and living room, and dining room and both foyer and kitchen. My fantastic cleaning ladies in North Carolina would clean the glass, but I noticed over time that what they were using was thinning the trim paint. Kind of unavoidable, but you may want to inspect after a year or so in order to not damage the wood. Love the tray. Keeping the silver service out in NC is a very old fashioned tradition, often in a tray such as this. Love the fretwork-like design on yours! Such a fun post!

  11. Sorry, Laurel, but the strangest thing has been happening. I’m getting each of your posts twice! Last week’s email subjects were “I may have found the one” and “this one thing has transformed my life”. Both were the posts on the s6 pure robot vacuum. While I adore your posts and have learned so much from them, one reading is enough, don’t you think? I mean, if it’s really pertinent I save it anyway. Is anyone else having this issue? I don’t know how to fix it. I’m afraid to unsubscribe and lose all your witty sololiquies. Help!

  12. Sorry to pester, but I am still wondering how to access the free Etsy guide that accompanies the purchase of “Decorating Rules You Need To Know” .. ?

  13. The french doors and transom are superb!!! Love the dimensions, the lines, the simplicity. I would be so excited about those no matter what the cost. Can I borrow this idea for my someday home?

  14. I’m so excited to see the name of the paint! Marilyn’s Dress! That name has become so obscure that when I’m asked for my name, young people look at me like I’m speaking a foreign language! i might just have to paint a room Marilyn’s Dress. Your apartment is beautiful. This is going to be a fun adventure to watch you bring it to its glory!

  15. i Laurel – Such a wonderful trip of beautiful.

    Might I suggest when you have a door which swings the wrong way, it is easy to change, with, of course, the right craftsman doing it.
    Love the French door idea.
    Thank you for keeping us all informed as we all love you.

  16. Could the 9ft doors be reused for the entrance hall closet? Perhaps using sliding “barn door” mechanics with the hardware hidden by an appropriate painted wood valance. Or doors in lower level? Just a way to keep and rework original parts of the home.

  17. Happy New Year, Laurel! Thank you for sharing your plans with your new apartment with your readers – it’s so fun. You have a gorgeous foundation to work with and I can’t wait to see what you do. The transom with the French doors is inspired and will be magnificent. As you stated, money well spent. I do hope you get rid of the spiral staircase and can do something more traditional with that situation. Looking forward to seeing the results. So nice to have this to see and think about given what else is happening right now. May you and your readers have a safe and happy 2021.

  18. Since the XXL door is of little use to you, why don’t you sell it (or offer it for $0.00) to an architectural salvage place ? Or let your neighbours know it’s up for grabs in case it might be a historical detail their homes could use ? I too lived with a pair of XXL doors that came from my neighbour’s 1870’s house. I had some good intentions but then the giant things were in the way for years until I finally let them go to a salvage place. It was such a relief.

    Since you will be living alone and having overnight guests in the den occasionally, what about using textured privacy glass in the french doors ? It will let the light through, and the right glass will look period appropriate. I used glue chip glass for the powder room and the back porch doors off my kitchen. This obscures some detail, which was helpful for the back porch which was very ugly and didn’t get renovated until last year.

    Personally I would NOT use mirrored panes in the french doors except for the closet. I always think they look dated when I see them.

  19. Hello Laurel,
    Congratulations on your move and finding your beautiful new home. I’m so happy and excited for you. You are off to a wonderful new year. Warmest wishes and continued good health and happiness in your new home town!

  20. Laurel,
    I love your transom & french door design. It will love the problem of privacy when you have overnight guests in a much more lovely way than that 9′ door. Everything is turning out so serendipitously well for you, and you deserve it!
    I would love to see that old door turned into a desk with glass on top. It would look fabulous in someone’s office-assuming their office was big enough for a 9′ desk! Lol!
    Congratulations again! Perhaps you can sell it if you cannot use it.

  21. Loving your posts and updates about your beautiful home!! Thoughts on the marble hexagon tile in the bathroom? It’s so pretty!! And it looks right here. But what are the origins of hexagon tile? I always thought it was Spanish? (to be clear I know nothing about it). Asking as I’m going back-and-forth between chevron and hexagon in my master ensuite.

    1. Hi Amy,

      That tile is very pretty. It wouldn’t have been my first choice, but it is fine. That bathroom was actually done about 17 years ago I found out yesterday.

  22. How wide would each door be if you are planning on 2 doors per opening with transom over The mirrored panels would be great adding light reflection and privacy to the den when it is needed as a guest room, Would pocket doors be a considertion in some of your tight spots?

  23. Thank you! What plans do you have to repaint and what colors are you considering? I’m getting ready to do whole house painting after 15 years. I’ve been sold on keeping an all white scheme except for the bath and maybe the bedrooms. It’s a very small house. I’ve followed your thoughts on using the same white, such as white dove for all surfaces.

  24. Ooh, I like that idea! It would definitely take some carpentry skill since the top portion would need some re-working, but it may be cost effective. However if Laurel definitely wants 2 or 3 matching doors, then it’s a no-go.

  25. Hi Laurel, I truly enjoy reading and seeing your solutions to decorating issues, especially for your new home. Did you consider cutting down the existing den door to allow for the transom and replacing the recessed panels with glass or mirror? Cost and having the 35″ door opening into your living room are factors along with losing your double french door style.

  26. Love the idea of the french doors and transom. You lost me with the comment of a third set. Would that be on the same wall closer to the stairs? If it is possible, I would put French doors on the closet in the den and that is where I would mirror the glass as was suggested in another comment. Here we go, busting your budget with our suggestions. Love the silver tray too. Nice find!

  27. Love the french doors and transom. It’s going to look gorgeous! Thrilled to learn that the fireplace is lined – huge savings $$$$.

  28. Love the transom and french door idea. Are both of the openings the same size? If not, will it look symmetrical enough to make it worth it? Looking forward to seeing your progress. Such fun!

  29. Laurel, I love your style so much and I’m truly happy to watch you work on your new home. But sad for myself since my house is a California Contemporary style, so ornate architctual detailing is out. Someday do a column on how to marry the two styles appropriately?

  30. Hi Laurel
    What a rare and wonderful gift to have the architect/renovators living next door. You saved a bundle on consultation fees. I love all of your ideas, of course. I read another comment about mirroring the den doors for privacy. I like that idea and the glass could also be frosted. However, I actually love drapes beside French doors And they can be made double sided so they still look great from the living room while closed. I’m know whatever you choose will be gorgeous. LOVE that tray!! Happy New Year!

  31. Laurel I’ve been reading your blog for at least 5 years now and I can’t tell you how happy I am for you! Your new home is STUNNING and has all of the details I’ve learned to appreciate and see BECAUSE OF YOU!!!
    You’ve been my go-to source in the (slow) transformation of my home from a 1960s colonial to a home that could easily be a classic pulled from much earlier decades. from floor stains to paint color for trim, to transoms, hardware, kitchen, who to follow on IG.. everything. Your style is so classic and so beautifully rich— I wish you all the best with this amazing new chapter!

  32. I’m in the same boat, we are buying a 1977 house with various ceiling heights. Every one hates boob lights but I don’t think they’re all so bad.
    I am really liking can lights we saw in our house search. But maybe they are only for kitchens?

  33. Hi Laurel,
    In the beginning I thought it was odd to have 2 entrances into your den. I’d prefer to close up the entrance in the living room. Allowing you additional wall space.
    But now that you’re thinking of putting in French doors & a transom I’ve changed my mind. Having the light coming through to each of the spaces will be delightful.

  34. Love love love the french doors and transom you have picked out! And what lovely neighbors!!! My house is from the early 60s and luckily one neighbor is an original owner and one moved in during the 1970s. People move around so much nowadays that getting neighbors who have been there forever is a huge blessing! And yours are architects who renovated!!! Fantastic! What good luck you have!

  35. What a brilliant idea to install French doors with a transom ! They will be beautiful and will give you the light you want. I’m so enjoying your Boston journey from afar and it’s kind of you to share it all with us, your readers.

  36. I have been interested in your interior paint color suggestions for several years. It would be very helpful if you would describe your choices in your new home? What are the whites used in your living area? Did you use Marilyn’s Dress in the bathroom?

    Thank you

    1. Hi Victoria,

      Okay, I haven’t touched the walls in this place, however, I believe the living room walls are classic gray. The trim, I’m not sure. One can says Super White which is the white I just used in my old apartment and also in my paint collection. That is a very clean, warm, but definitely no trace of yellow or pink, white.

      The LR trim, however, I’m not sure. I did not see a can for it. It is actually mahogany and was stained quite dark. In fact, the stain is subtly bleeding through, still.

      If I had to guess, I’d say it’s linen white. The den is Cedar Key. It photographed looking blue-gray, don’t know why. It is a warm gray. No hint of blue whatsoever at any time of day or night. The kitchen and entry are Classic Gray at 50%. That is something I don’t understand. It just looks like dirty off-white. But, it’s not offensive.

      Yes, the bathroom is Marilyn’s Dress and it’s very lovely in that bathroom with no windows. It is a very soft gray-blue and quite easy on the eyes.

  37. Every post is more charming than the one before. You are blessed to have so much to work with.

    What are your thoughts about your track lighting? My new-to-me vintage 1978 home has at least a dozen yellowing original tracks sagging from the ceilings. Functional, yes, but in that quantity, an affront to the senses in 8′ construction.

  38. Happy New Year Laurel,
    I love the idea of French doors and transom window. What a stroke of luck about your architect neighbors. It sounds like you will become fast friends.
    Do you have a artisan carpenter already picked out? If not, please tell us your progress in finding one.

  39. Congratulations Laurel. Your new home is gorgeous already! Great bones!
    May I ask the source of your lamps with black shade and green acanthus design? Lighting is an issue for me right now.
    Thank you

    1. Hi Rosella,

      I got those at One King’s Lane eight years ago. They were discontinued less than a year later. It’s too bad. They’re beautiful lamps and I’ve never seen any others like them.

  40. Hi Laurel,
    I have been following your blog for over a year, I love your style, love your taste!
    I wanted to comment today because we completed a major remodel of our bathroom last year and I chose Marilyn’s Dress for my paint color. it is beyond gorgeous! I used Chantilly Lace for the crowns and all the trim. I wish I was tech savvy enough to include a picture LOL

  41. I am green with envy over the tray – the gallery is divine! The French doors and transom are beautiful and will definitely be worth the money. Thank you for sharing your fabulous new home and all your plans for it with us – such a pleasure!

  42. Hello Laurel 💫🧚🏼‍♀️
    Love the French door with Transom top 😁
    Remember the option of placing mirror instead of see through glass in the French doors. This is often done in French Paris apartments to add privacy even some doors transparent & the other mirrored. French classic apartments often have (4 sets ) of doors in each room !
    This might be a good choice for the bedroom doors. Antiqued mirror partially see through in spots is anouther option. My freind did that herself with spray on mirror finish paint & then sprayed vinegar. The vinegar took the paint away in spots & voila antique mirror. This was in a recycled vintage door with multiple glass panes in the bedroom to bathroom . Like you I love mirror it’s the next best thing to a window ! Bounces light & add space .
    Sylvia 🌹
    I enjoy your articles they are amusing & informative. I am in north western Canada, most good shopping & deals are not available here & or shipping won’t come to my neck of the woods 🌲

  43. WOW I vote for spending the $$$$ on the french doors bc any architectrual upgrades are worth the money and will make your home look even more elegant! Go for it!

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Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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