“The first rule of sustainability is to align with natural forces, or at least not try to defy them” Paul Hawken
There is an expression “you can’t make a good silk from a goat’s fleece” and the same principle applies when selecting the correct material for interior doors and joinery that will look beautiful and perform impeccably. Timber has been in consistent use for the construction for doors for thousands of years. From early braced and ledged boarded doors to classical panelled doors, despite continual innovation in architectural materials and design, timber continues to be used so.
As experts in the design and construction of excellent bespoke period and contemporary period style doors, Atkey and Company have a wealth of experience and knowledge in the reproduction and replacement of period features. We choose to use solid hardwood timber for our doors, and for good reasons. In this article we introduce the subject of timber selection and its use for the bespoke interior doors and mouldings we produce and why we are passionate about why timber is the ideal material for interior doors.
Embracing Nature’s Beauty
A return to nature as the inspirational source of materials for interior design is a recurrent theme. In this last year the British interior design community has embraced nature as an inspiration. We saw Greenery’as the Pantone colour of the year and botanical prints and leaf designs featuring heavily at Decorex. Timber has much to offer in surface design as well as structural form of timber doors.
In 1778 Architect Robert Adam wrote of movement of form in design.
“For the rising and falling, advancing and receding, with the convexity and concavity, and other forms of the great parts, have the same effect in architecture, that hill and dale, foreground and distance, swelling and sinking have in a landscape”.
The Works in Architecture of Robert and James Adam Esquires, London 1778 from Nathanial Lloyd’s History of the English House.
How appropriate then to incorporate the natural, to have the substance of the landscape form the convex and concave details that form our interior designs.
What Makes Wood the Perfect Material?
Wood replaced earlier stone has been used for as long as anyone can remember for making doors and architectural mouldings. It has a host of characteristics that make it ideal for construction.
Timber is flexible. The changeable British climate demands building materials which expand and contract with the seasons.
Timber has the ability to ‘breathe’ in response to changes in temperature and humidity, adjusting naturally and moving with its surroundings. This reduces stress between architectural components limiting the likelihood of cracking, fractures, water ingress and condensation.
The beauty of Timber is unparalleled. When oiled, stained or lacquered, the natural grain, texture and rich tones give doors a character and visual appeal that no man-made material can match. Under paint its grain still in evidence hints at its authentic natural origins.
Strength – timber has a high strength to weight ration
This means that hardwood timber doors are sufficiently heavy to feel substantial and to perform their function as secure barriers. At the same time they are light in weight enough to hang without structural support and to be movable by hand without undue effort.
Sustainability – renewable and biodegradable
Timber ticks all the right boxes as far as sustainability is concerned. It is a natural resource that is renewable and at the end of its hopefully very long life is biodegradable. During their cultivation, trees benefit the natural and human environment by absorbing CO2 and toxic chemicals, helping to restore balance and clarity to the atmosphere. They also help to promote biodiversity, improve soils and prevent erosion. Once harvested they can be replanted. As a supporter of responsible forestry practices no sensitive forest environments need be harmed in the production of cultivated timber.
Spending time around trees has been found to be beneficial to human health. It reduces cortisol and boosts the immune system to such an extent that ‘shinrin-yoku’, the Japanese practice of Forest Bathing, is a formalised part of the country’s preventative healthcare system and a growing trend in the UK and the Western world. Further Japanese and Australian research studies have reportedly found that timber buildings and exposure to wood panelling have a positive effect on lowering the heart rate and blood pressure of the people inhabiting them. When surrounded by nature and timber our stress responses are reduced.
Timber is durable building material. It is naturally structurally stable, durable in its finish, easily repairable, and chemically stable. So, this makes it a perfect material for construction.
The longevity of a timber door varies from one species to another, the environmental factors to which it is subject. The oldest door in the UK, in the basement of Westminster Cathedral is over 1000 years old. Examples in the archeological record from Ancient Greece and Rome still survive today.
Many period homes throughout the country retain original well-crafted period doors and joinery in fine condition, generations after their original construction.
Timber has excellent fire resistance qualities. Although wood is flammable, it burns slowly.
High-density timbers char on the outside, which creates a cooler inner core that can resist fire for a surprisingly long time.
No door is entirely fire-proof, but a high-quality solid timber door that is fire rated will provide sufficient protection to delay the spread of flames long enough for other safety measures to be implemented.
Choosing Hardwood Timber for Interior Doors
Not all timbers share the properties required for interior fittings. High-quality doors require high-quality materials.
Hardwood is timber that derives from deciduous broad leaf trees which grow more slowly than their coniferous cousins.
As the name suggest, hardwood tends to be more dense and strong than softwood. There are exceptions, Balsa, for example, is technically a hardwood, as it is harvested from a broadleaf tree.
The quality of wood also varies with the speed at which it is grown. Timber from different climatic geographies cultivated by different methods will vary greatly in its density, grain and general suitability for doors and architectural joinery. Cooler climates lend to slower growth, and slower growth leads to a harder woods suitable for the finest doors and architectural details.
Why Timber Selection is Critical
Modern timbers are rarely as fine as the slow grown old growth historic timbers that would have been available to architects and joiners in the Regency, Georgian, and Victorian eras. As craftsmen in the production of doors of classical elegance, we strive to source the finest and most beautiful timbers to create contemporary doors of equivalent quality to the authentic period door designs in our catalogue. Our passion for sourcing and selecting high quality natural timbers for our internal panelled doors is unsurpassed.
Atkey and Company pay exceptional attention to the selection of timbers with the desired attributes of strength, density and durability. As tree farmers pursue faster growing trees we seek out and use species that take their time to develop. Slower growing timbers have closer growth rings, creating a more solid, durable and aesthetically pleasing finish – these are exactly the qualities we prize.
We will explore the qualities of different species of timber and their uses in the construction of different components of doors and mouldings in and article coming soon.
Atkey and Company are experts in creating bespoke period doors and architectural joinery to original period designs. We create and supply authentic period details for homes and properties aspiring to reinstate aesthetic integrity into interior design. Explore our collection of hand-crafted period doors here.