Paneled architrave

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Established Member
12 Feb 2012
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N Yorks

I'm currently about to rework the dining room/living room in our new house. Between the rooms there is a large (2.4Lx2.2H m) rectangular gap that used to be a double sliding door affair. I've been given the go ahead to do whatever i think is best by the wife, which is a very big privilege, and if I want the same again I'm going to have to do a good job. Been looking at bare brick for a couple of weeks and the flooring is coming in another couple of weeks so got up to a month before I cop some grief.

Problem is I have too many ideas, not enough experience to know what is going to look good. Spent ages sketching/routing potential layouts/profiles, made some nice things that "will come in useful for something" but nothing I'm happy with so thought I'd see if anyone had any ideas, photos or links they might like to share. My original idea was anything but, a simple plinth and few cove grooves on the fascia, which quickly expanded to some elaborate panelling (plenty of room on the wall around the gap) and eventually changing to an arch with some sort of spandrel. While I don't mind a challenge I'm defiantly overreaching there and thought I needed some sort of reality grounding, my current thought is back to some sort of panelled design (wall thickness is 14cm), if anyone has any links to some pictures of a similar setup that would be fantastic. On the flip side, maybe simple is better and I'm just getting carried away and I should leave the experiments to converting my garage into a workshop.

Cheers, Vic


Established Member
24 Jul 2007
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If I were you I would start by looking at the rest of the house. If it's Victorian, with elaborate skirtings and architraves, take your lead from them and make something using similar elements. If it's recent, with just a bit of bullnose here and there, keep it simple. (A plain square edge board to line the hole, with some architrave matching what is used elsewhere in the room nailed around it.) Stray too far from this principle and it will (I suggest) risk looking out of place and even downright naff.

I'm assuming that when you say 'new house' you mean new to you, not newly built. If you mean new built, then if it doesn't already have panelling, putting in panelling could look silly, like hanging a chandelier in the loo, if you see what I mean.

Eric The Viking

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19 Jan 2010
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Bristle, CUBA (the County that Used to Be Avon)
+1 for Andy's thoughts.

We've had a couple of old houses, 1880s and 1905. If it's in that range you won't go wrong with mid- or late-period Victoriana. The point being that what was in fashion when the house was built was most probably what was avant garde ten or fifteen years earlier. Things changed in C20th, as fashions spread fast and the designs of people like Lutyens were quickly copied* in the estates being built at the time. Even so, echoes of older styles don't look as odd as newer stuff, usually!

Our current place was early Arts+Crafts movement, but had three truly horrible "Minster" fireplaces from the 1920s or 1930s. They're not nasty in themselves, but twenty five years later than the house - and it showed. The biggest was almost identical to this:


That pic is from a house in Plymouth (Minster were/are a Dorset company). Even there, it looks out of place. to me (perhaps in some small castle...).

Ours didn't match the egg+dart ceilings, etc., and dominated the rooms they were in, not in a nice way! I replaced two of them with marble + cast iron Victorian grates and redecorated the rooms to late Victorian. It looks much, much better. I also added a dado rail to each of the public rooms (removed by an unknown previous owner), and restored the French windows in the dining room, replacing an aluminium-framed patio door. The rooms now have 'balance' and are welcoming, rather than bland and timeless (although horribly untidy at the moment, so I'm not posting any pics!).

The devil's in the detail, as ever, though. If it was me, I'd make the casing of the opening nice and strong at the sides, so that if you decide to add doors at a later stage they're easy to hang. I'd be tempted to put in double- or even triple-hinged, folding, paneled doors in hardwood. It's an 8ft by 7ft opening (approx.), so you'd be supporting a four-foot door.

Paneling would keep the weight manageable - four foot with triple or quadruple hinges is fine, as long as the casing is rock solid and strong enough to take the hinges. Having doors keeps the option of two spaces but doesn't look as unattractive as sliding doors (unless they're pocket, which is pretty much impossible in any sort of load-bearing wall). Also, the wall space either side becomes usable (unlike sliding doors).

On architraves: they usually pick up the upper part of the skirting pattern. If you have elaborate skirtings, a template to go shopping with is a good idea. Unless the house is unique, chances are the same moulding was used a lot in the locality, and you can usually source them in softwood fairly easily (someone will have a set of spindle cutters ground for it). Again generalizing, the bigger the opening, the larger (grander) the architrave tended to be (within reason!). To get a nice proportion you might need to build it up from components - it's what the Victorians did too!

Hope that sparks a few ideas!


*later: I didn't mean the entire houses, but Lutyens' design features. For example, one big property in a road near to us here has Lutyens-inspired "Egyptian" chimneys and roof line, although little else on that property is very inspiring! One reason for the acceleration in styles propagating was the introduction of picture magazines such as Country Life - photographed interiors replaced line drawings.