Growing up I often heard especially younger people mock each other when someone forgot or didn’t care to shut a door, asking that person whether she or he had zippers at home instead of doors… Zippers!? That might make for a good joke and would surely be possible to implement, but it’s none of my ideas of practical alternatives to doors.
But how about curtains? Wherever applicable and when carried out the right way, they will be a true ornament to the home and an awesomely practical feature, sustainable at both, a great alternative to doors.
What can I back up my claims with? Well, besides the pictures featured below, taken of the felted wool curtains in our own pantry and dining room, I would like to draw your attention to some aspects of inhabiting a space naturally: some philosophical, some physical.
Life is about the flow and we humans have become way too efficient in stopping this flow, putting an obstacle to it every chance we have. Doors in a home’s interior are such barriers. I like to think of a house’s outer walls and the openings on the walls as the membrane of a cell: it protects the interior, yet it is porous, it breaths through osmosis. The interior of the cell may have pockets that serve different functions, but they are not blocked off from one another, there is a strong energy flow, circulation within the cell, it metabolizes. This seems to be particularly true to a kitchen building like ours that consists of the kitchen itself, the dining room and the pantry that serves both. Now, when we hang one or more doors between these spaces, we literally raise hurdles for ourselves and all the life functioning that these spaces are meant to host.
Typical doors impede heat flow (actually, it’s the main reason we put them up and put up with them), but also the moisture flow suspended in the air. Due to the oil-based paint coats covering the typical doors, they act as condensation surfaces. The heat distribution over the “cell” space – especially if you have only one heat source, like we do – becomes very sequential and sudden, instead of constant and moderate as it is through felt curtains even just a few millimeters (eighths to quarter of an inch) thick.
Felt curtains don’t take doorsteps, the eternal culprits in tripping – a dangerous thing to do in and out a kitchen or dining room, for toddlers, the elderly and everybody in-between. Once we removed the doors, I happily carved one to floor level and completely replaced the other one with a strong sandy cob mix (to be stabilized soon with linseed oil).
Curtains don’t hang on hinges, which means they don’t creak, walking through them is seamless and quiet like the flight of an owl. That may bring up privacy issues too, although it’s not a real problem in a kitchen building, however one can keep old wooden door frames for knocking on or simply stop and ask for permission before entering the space behind.
As for suspending our felt curtains, we employed stainless steel rods run in part through loop-end wood screws, in part a hole each, drilled in the wall. We also used natural sumac diskettes as stoppers, one on the exterior side of each hook. Just pushed the soft pith in the center of the diskettes out with the rods.
This combination of materials made for an attractive and sustainable support for the sheets of felt that we just pre-cut tiny holes into and ran the rods right through, without any reinforcement, only some margin on top.
A great benefit to felt curtains is the aesthetic pleasure taken in the endless variations of random optical effects depending on light conditions and passing shadows, thank to the material’s translucency.
Curtains are fun to have, to move through, albeit might take getting used to and some creativity at times, but they are very child friendly as opposed to doors with handles they need to “grow up to”. With the curtains, they are instantly initiated and grateful.
The felt curtains were a joint project of mother, father and daughter from start to finish. We laid the carded wool out together, sprinkled dried lavender flowers between the layers…
or spread flax tow on top. Then the way we described it before, we wet felted four sheets throughout a few days, taking turns.
In the meanwhile she enjoyed the simple pleasures of free space with no obstacles to worry about: kicking an old rolling pin around that we use to press the felt under hot water at the end of the process,
Could it be that felt curtains have perspective in your home, too?