Monday, December 17, 2007

The Mysterious Jib Door




In last week's post "Fun with Books", I showed a few examples of book-themed treatments of jib doors. A reader suggested that I devote a post to the subject of these doors, which seem to be more prevalent in Europe than they are here in the States (although there are jib doors in the Oval Office).

For those of you who may not be familiar with them, jib doors are basically disguised or concealed doors. The doors tend to be flush with the walls around them and lack any surrounding architecture, thereby creating a continuous plane. Many times the doors even have concealed hinges to further add to the disguise. Jib doors are usually given the same treatment as the rest of the walls in a room- paper, fabric, mirror, etc.

John Fowler was a designer who incorporated jib doors into many of his projects. In one of the images below, you will see that Fowler papered both the walls and the jib door with a Chinoiserie paper. But Fowler could also be quite inventive with his treatment of concealed doors. In David and Evangeline Bruce's Albany set, Fowler gave the jib door the same molding as the rest of the wall but added a trompe l'oeil painting to both the door and the wall. When one opened the jib door, the painting was revealed to be faux.

Even if you have never heard of the term "jib door", I'm sure you've seen them before. In fact, I think one of the most famous photos of a jib door has to be that above of Pauline de Rothschild opening the door in her Paris bedroom. And with beautiful wallpaper like that, who would want to mess it up with a clunky door!


This jib door at Colefax & Fowler in Mayair was cut into a large painted panel- the door became part of the artwork, so to speak.


The Bruce's dining room with the trompe l'oeil painting on the jib door.


A classic treatment of jib doors- papering both the walls and the door (located to the right of the bed). Design by John Fowler (Sudeley Castle.)


David Hicks was also a fan of jib doors. Here, he papered both the walls and the door with a marblelized paper. However, he also added a little lit vitrine that, according to Hicks' son, moved with the door. Now that's clever!


I once saw an interview with Albert Hadley in which, if I remember correctly, he discussed the concealed door in his gorgeous red hallway that led to his powder room (I believe he said that his guests usually had trouble finding the powder room!). I couldn't find any images of this, but did find a jib closet door in Hadley's guest room. Look closely- it's on the left-hand side of the room.


Jib doors in the Oval Office- a rather blah treatment of the concealed doors during Eisenhower's administration.

34 comments:

  1. Fantastic post! I love these "secret" passageways and you have provided a wonderful array. It makes me want to play Clue.

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  2. What an interesting thing to have a post about! Here at work ( i'm an architect ) we typically use these for private entrances from public spaces - powder rooms, 2nd entrances to bedroom suites, etc. They really are one of the great pieces missing from contemporary architecture that come from our classical heritage.

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  3. Yes, such an inspired post Jennifer! I just love your examples.

    Did you see the tour on PBS with Hadley and Alexa Hampton? Wasn't that fun?

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  4. Be the Change- That is really true! I do wish more new homes had these doors- they're not just a novelty!

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  5. Courtney- Yes, it was on Find!. Was that correct- that he has a jib door in his hallway? That's the way I remember it.

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  6. djellabah11:05 AM

    FYI the White House ... there is also a jib door in the Blue Room (to the right of the fireplace), which appears to have been added during the McKim, Mead & White renovation of the White House in the early 1900s (see www.whitehousemuseum.org/floor1/blue-room.htm) ... The Oval Office's jib doors seem to have been installed in 1934 by architect Eric Gugler, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt had a new Oval Office built in a sunnier area of the West Wing.

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  7. djellabah11:07 AM

    Interesting too ... the parquet in Pauline de Rothschild's bedroom in Paris ... it's so similar to the ugly awful pine parquet one finds in so many modern apartment buildings ... could it actually be the same material?

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  8. Another great post Jennifer. That photo of Pauline de Rothschild opening the door into her Paris bedroom is one of my favorite photos.

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  9. djellabah- That's an interesting point about P de R's floor. That's something that has always bugged me about this picture- the glaring floor!

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  10. Ronda- I like it too (with the exception of the floor!).

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  11. djellabah -i'm so shocked -i never noticed the floor in that photo because i'm always blinded with lust by the wallcovering!! Now it's the only thing I can see! That's just hideous! Could it just be zeitgeist and that type of floor was popular for the time?

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  12. djellabah12:49 PM

    On the other hand, the floor DOES appear to have been thought out, re pattern, to resemble woven bamboo strips or something similar. So it is in keeping with the chinoiserie theme ...

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  13. djellabah12:52 PM

    Re jib doors ... I have a friend in Paris whose apartment on Rue du Bac has shallow hidden cabinets in the bedroom and sitting room ... though the walls seem to be solid, if you press on various parts of the green or red felt wallcoverings, hidden doors open to reveal shallow storage with shelves, et cetera. Very smart! The cabinets are only as deep as the walls allow, so about five inches or so, but just deep enough to hold wine glasses, et cetera.

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  14. What a mystery surrounding the floor!

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  15. djellabah- Now that's a splendid idea! For some reason, that makes me think of something Dorothy Rodgers might have suggested in "My Favorite Things". The green and red felt wallcoverings sound very chic.

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  16. God that floor is fugly, but the vanity mirror on the the floor is gorgeous. great great great post, as usual, the best = the Queen!!

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  17. Anonymous3:26 PM

    Perfect timing!! I have been working out an idea in my head for a series of doors just like this on a project - your post is just the inspiration I need. Thanks for inspiring me once again. (now I just need to work out the details ......)

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  18. Anon- Glad I could help!

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  19. Bayou Contessa3:53 PM

    I especially love it when the jib door ( which in itself is humorous enough) contains something tricky such as David Hicks' moving vitrine or Evangeline Bruce's tromp l'oeil painting.
    Great post!

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  20. Oh, the story of the vitrine is my favorite part. A truly inspired post - I adored every image.

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  21. Yes, what a great post! I hadn't seen most of these images before, but the ones I had (Albert Hadley's guest room) - I hadn't even noticed the jib door, that's how well hidden it was!

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  22. Wonderful post--jib doors have fascinated me since I was a child.
    Thanks so much!

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  23. Totally unique and inventive post!

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  24. what a fascinating post - I always think of the famous five when I think of concealed doors - but now I know what they're called !! :-)

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  25. What an interesting post! I always thought jib doors were created so the servants could come and go discreetly. But that's just my theory. We use them for bathrooms and closets but my favorite use was similar to the Paris apartment cabinets that Djellabah describes. We used them behind beautiful vintage mirrors all along one wall of a New York apartment dining room to store china and serving pieces. It was the most gorgeous room ever.

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  26. What a great post. I never knew they were called "jib" doors...I learned something new today. Thanks.

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  27. Firsty thank you for letting me know what a Jib door is, never heard the term before also never seen these doors in South African architecture/ interiors perhaps it's time for a come back beside everyone loves a secret door!

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  28. djellabah6:38 AM

    According to an 1894 dictionary: a jib door (a.k.a. blind door, a.k.a. flush door) is a "door flush with the outside wall, and intended to be concealed; forming thus part of the jib or face of the house." Also, according to the present Dowager Duchess of Devonshire's book "Chatsworth: The House," there is a jib door at Chatsworth, in the dining room, concealed by a Lely portrait of General Monk, the founder of the Coldstream Guards; the portion of the Lely canvas that depicts the general's lower body opens to reveal a dumbwaiter that transports food from the kitchen below. I believe Habitually Chic is correct, that jib doors were historically utilized for service requirements, ie to conceal the entrance to a secondary staircase, et cetera, though architectural history seems to indicate that some jib doors were used for more "first class" reasons, ie leading to a powder room, such as in a house designed by Robert Adam in the 18th century.

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  29. djellabah- That's very helpful information. Very interesting, too, about Chatsworth.

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  30. I love the door with marblelized paper ...so interesting . Well, every door is very well thought

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  31. Great idea for a post! I've been working on a 360 mural in my foyer which (if I ever finish it!!) will include a semi-jib door to the powder room. By semi- I mean that I'm not removing the door moldings or hiding the door knob, but I painted the faux hedge and wrought iron fence that encircles the room right over it.

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  32. Linda- Your mural sounds amazing!!! When you do finish it, you must post pics on your blog!

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  33. i am ashamed to admit i didn't know these doors had a name.

    thanks for the education! fabulous post.

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  34. Awesome! I love doors, and love making features of them, and in an odd way, the jib door is doing just that. Once you know it is there, your attention will forever be on that strange, unfathomable place that is neither wall nor non-wall ;-)

    I agree, thanks for the education!

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