Sliding Glass Doors and Other Openings

Long Division

A quiet revolution has been taking place in the world of the sliding glass door. The first examples were usually custom-designed and became key features of modern houses, capturing the new machine age spirit of the early 20th century. One of the most famous examples is the large moveable window wall connecting

the living room to the terrace at the Villa Savoye near Paris by le Corbusier, of 1931  — you can see how one panel has slid partly to the left past the round  column (photo courtesy Contemporary Practice). Here’s an exterior view, below,

showing the slider closed (photo courtesy Galinsky). Another approach was to design a series of folding panels that can slide together like the bellows of an accordion (hence the name accordion door), as at At Villa E1027, built by

furniture designer Eileen Gray for herself and the architectural critic Jean Badovici on the French Riviera, completed in 1929 (photo courtesy Domusweb).

Frank Lloyd Wright used a version of the accordion door for the living room of Fallingwater, completed in 1937 (photo courtesy flohaus.com). The post World War II saw an explosion of interest in easy indoor-outdoor access and the sliding glass door moved from rarified avant-garde applications to the main stream, especially in the suburban ranch houses of designers like Cliff May. For

example, in May’s own house of 1939 (his third) at Riviera Ranch in Brentwood, the original living room had a large picture window at one end as shown above.

a In 1948 he replaced it with sliding glass doors, which shortly became a classic before-and-after sequence in shelter magazines — helping to popularize the idea of opening up a house to the outdoors (photos by Maynard Parker, courtesy the Maynard Parker Archives at The Huntington Library).

More recently, window and door manufacturers have jumped on the sliding door track, led by companies like Nanawall, offering a myriad of options for folding, single track, and frameless wall systems, top-hung or floor-mounted systems, along with a wide variety of material, glazing, and finish choices. This new house

in Wyoming designed by Studio.BNA Architects uses a folding Nanawall in the living room (photo courtesy the architects). The openings can get very large

indeed and even curve, as this Nanawall example in Sunset‘s Monterey Idea House by architect Robert Bateman Hood illustrates. The sliding glass door is definitely an expanding category at the Home Builder Show. Here’s a clean

lined wood-clad example from Andersen. And here’s a bi-fold example from

Weiland — the panel at the far left can act as a single door when the other folding panels are fixed. And Sierra Pacific Windows showcased its Multi-Slide

Pocketing Doors at the 2013 New American Home in Las Vegas — they slide into pockets at the side of this dramatic — not to say, over the top! — corner of the great room. What would Eileen Gray say?! (Photo by Trent Bell, courtesy Builder.)

 Marianne Cusato in Las Vegas

At the Home Builder Show I saw influential designer Marianne Cusato, who has just teamed up with Royal Moulding & Trim to design a series of window and door surrounds for traditional homes. It’s called the Envelop®

system, with four basic trim styles: Simplicity, Royale, Classic, and Contemporary as shown here — the trims can be installed without the

the header (top piece). These carefully worked out classical profiles complement

Marianne’s other design work, as in the Colonial-inspired Katrina Cottages, such as Plan 514-18, shown here.

For More on Katrina Cottages click here.

2 Responses to Sliding Glass Doors and Other Openings

  1. Dan,
    Great post & brief history of the world of sliding doors. I loved seeing the sliding door system at Villa Savoye. I have never traced Corbu’s design reference back to Japanese shoji doors (he would deny any historic reference of course) but even Wright was coy about his inspiration for the sliding doors at Falling Water. Nice to see your images of doors, old and new. Keep it up!

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