Getting a Handle on Things – part 2

So the bathroom door is installed, varnished, and looks beautiful. But it was missing a door handle. No worries, my cat doesn’t seem phased that I don’t shut the bathroom door when showering or brushing my teeth. But having friends over occasionally and having them panic when they hastily shut the door closed was getting old. (Knowing how to open a handle-less door with a flat-head screwdriver should still be taught as part of 2nd grade curriculum.) But what does the perfect bathroom door handle look like for my house?

Well, the only existing original door has a handle that looks like this:

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There is a great little architectural salvage business in downtown Fort Wayne (Indiana) just to the west of us, and it is room after room, after patio, after whole ‘nother building full of salvaged antique house parts. In fact, an entire small room is devoted to hardware – door handles, hinges, mechanism, and escutcheon plates. But nothing that matched this one. Not even close. And although they had glass doorknobs, they didn’t have any exact matches of these either – mine is slightly smaller and with more facets around the edges than any I found there.

So after a little while (2 hours) staring & sorting through the hundreds of escutcheon plates (also known as ‘door knob plates’), I decided upon a certain style because they had 5 matching sets exactly the same, and in pretty decent shape. Dirty and scratched, but not bent out of shape like some of the others. By buying them all at once, I now have enough for all the future doors in my house, including modifying them to make them fit the inside of the front & rear entrance doors.

While traveling for a work event earlier this spring, I found a lonely little glass doorknob in a small antique shop in Downtown Medina, Ohio (an incredible downtown, by the way – seriously, go there sometime!). I was pretty certain it was just like mine while in the store, and the price was safe enough to take it home. Sure enough, exact match!


So put the two together and now I have got to be the proudest bathroom doorknob owner on my block.

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I like that the plates are dark to look like hammered metal, but still rather rectilinear which fall right within the design mindset of the American Craftsman time period. Round or curvy shapes are found sparingly in Craftsman homes. Instead you find lots of square motifs – from the built ins, divided light windows, and even small trim details and original wallpaper styles of the time. It was hip to be square.

Earlier (aka, before I realized my actual home-improvement budget) I was drooling over these handmade reproduction door handles – I liked the 4 square detail in the corners.

craftsman door handle

But I really like mine a lot better. Mine don’t look as “rugged.” I sought them out and got to enjoy the thrill of discovery when finding them. And as I strive to be, these again are authentic to the time period (and most importantly, a hell of a lot cheaper).

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I still don’t necessarily shut the bathroom door during every visit (I don’t want my cat to get lonely & feel the need to claw at the door – that will get him kicked out of the humblebungalow faster than you can spell ‘eviction’) – but when friends visit they sure enjoy the luxury of a door handle. It’s the little things.

The only drawback is this plate doesn’t allow for a turn-knob lock. And it is a bathroom, after all. I imaging a future homeowner might want a locking bathroom door. So I’m thinking of making a skeleton key to fit the mortise lock. In fact, there is a great online tutorial from This Old House showing just how to do that. Then the key could hang on a fancy hook beside the door. A future project, perhaps. You know, just in case someone really wants to lock themselves in.

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  1. #1 by Jane on June 1, 2015 - 8:25 AM

    Yay…there is a door handle. Although I will say I did learn the screw driver trick. 🙂

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