Wide-open floor plans are a trend that has endured for a decade. Removing walls and opening up our rooms removes visual and physical clutter. Now we are expanding this concept even more by removing doors to pantries, laundry rooms and even bathrooms.

Making multiple trips to your pantry while cooking or your laundry room — arms filled with piles of clothes — is a lot easier if there’s no door to contend with. Master bathroom suites with separate water closets function beautifully if you don’t have to open and close the main door every time you go in or out. A home office becomes more airy and less isolated if you can widen the doorway to get better access to the rest of the living spaces and more light.

Sounds great, but what happens when we need privacy or want to hide the clutter? Designers and architects are choosing custom sliding doors to solve these issues.

I’ve used sliding doors or “barn doors” in many design projects. The benefits are huge. Unlike old-fashioned pocket doors, sliding doors are installed outside the wall. This eliminates problems with in-the-wall door mechanisms. Most importantly, sliding doors don’t require the standard 15 square feet of clearance space for doors to swing open or closed. Furniture can be placed directly in front of sliding doors.

Install sliding doors on an existing opening, from a wide arched walkway to a standard door opening. You’ll need a flat wall on one or both sides of the opening. For example, if you have a standard interior door opening of 30 inches, you’ll need a 30-inch-wide wall on either side or 15 inches of wall space on each side. Depending on the type of track you selected for your door hardware, you may need a few more inches.

I prefer referring to this style of door as sliding doors instead of barn doors. The latter leads many homeowners to believe this style of door is for the more rustic, traditional, cottage-style homes. Not true. Manufacturers are creating contemporary doors with textured glass, metal, lacquered and painted finishes. Sun Mountain Doors has watched its clients’ tastes change over the years. The company now creates sliding doors for most any style of home, from Colorado to Manhattan.

Don’t forget the hardware; it’s the bling that completes the look you’re trying to achieve. Make sure it’s high-quality and built to last. AMBA Products, as well as Real Carriage Doors, offer a variety of styles and finishes, including stainless steel, chrome, iron and steel. It’s important to work together with your door manufacturer and hardware supplier to get the right mix of products.

Go ahead and take down that old-fashioned door and replace it with an updated sliding door. Making your house function for your family is what homeownership is really all about. It’s your home — make the most of it!

Designer and home improvement expert Vicki Payne is host and producer of “For Your Home,” available on PBS, Create TV and in national and international syndication. Reach her at

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