I can't even begin to tell you how amazing it feels to type the words "Vestibule Project Status: Complete." This statement has been quite a long time coming! As many of you know, the reconfiguration of the smallest room in our house was a labor intensive effort that stretched on from October 2010 to February 2012. A truly ridiculous timeline for a room that is roughly 3' x 3', but we got 'er done.

For those of you new to our site, and for the readers who have blocked this long and drawn out project from their memory, to quickly recap: when our first dog Oliver was diagnosed with cancer in April 2010, we knew the time left with him was limited and precious. And since he was a first-floor only pup (his short legs made navigating our stairs a difficult venture), we wanted to stop our upstairs projects to be closer to him. (More on that here.) After six months of a total renovation freeze, we got a little of our DIY mojo back and started working on our vestibule. Here's our little buddy, checking on the early progress of the project.

The overall goal of the project was rather simple...restoration. At one point in our home's history, an owner decided to reconfigure the vestibule so that the main front door was flush with the front of the house. 

What this left us with was an awkward entry and front door configuration that was barely functional. When the front door swung in, anyone trying to enter our home was left with a tight squeeze as the door didn't fully open beyond the second door opening. It was a nightmare. 

Alex and I knew from the beginning that at some point we wanted to restore original function and move the front door back to its original location, inside the vestibule, and add French doors to the front of our home. From our basic inspection work we were able to determine this was surely the configuration when our house was built around or just after 1885. 

So despite its modest size of only 3' x 3', this project encompassed many aspects of DIY renovation and restoration including:

Whew! If you haven't already picked up on it, we at Old Town Home are guided by a mantra of "anything worth doing is worth doing right." We don't like to cut corners, and some may say that we go a bit overkill on any given project. (My husband, in particular, is guilty of this overkill mentality.) But hey, that's what makes us who we are. And for that matter, will soon make our renovation stretch into its second decade.

The one last final detail we had to tackle to officially call this project done was to apply a coat of primer and two coats of shiny black paint to the inside of the French doors. So we took advantage of the nice weather over the three day Presidents' day weekend to do just that. 

Because we were using 1Shot Lettering Enamel (a very high gloss oil paint), the doors had to be painted while laying flat, otherwise the paint would sag as it dried. So Alex took down the doors and relocated them to our super high tech and sophisticated paint area. Our paint area is so sophisticated that there are cracks in the ceiling that allow plaster sand to fall onto our work area, thus requiring Alex to apply tape and grocery bags over the cracks to keep sand out of our work. How awesome is that?

Next up, we removed the door hardware with the exception of the hinges. 

We kicked off the painting with a coat of the Chromatic Primer, which needed a minimum of 12 hours of drying time. It's a special primer that was required for the lettering enamel, and the same one we used for the front of the doors.

The next morning Alex got to work on the first coat of black paint. Another 24 hours of drying time elapsed and the next day he applied the final coat. We gave it a good 36 hours of drying time before reattaching the hardware and reinstalling the French doors in their new, final home. 

For the observent readers, yes, Alex is wearing the same painting outfit, and apparently wears those same clothes often. Perhaps we need to go on a "working on the house clothes" shopping trip.

Ok, back to our paint progress. Why black you might ask? I actually went a little against the grain and chose black for several reasons. 

  • To pick up on the black in the floor tile, the black threshold, and the black cast iron stairs at the front of our home.
  • Consistency of color. With these two small doors, that on occasion will remain open, I didn't want the choppy look of one color on one side, and one color on the other. This would be visible not only when they're open, but also through the panes of glass. 
  • Black is a grounding color. With all of the white wainscoting and trim in the space, not to mention the intense amount of natural light and the turquoise door, I thought the room could handle a little black.

Am I worried it will make the space feel too small? No, not at all actually. With sight lines passing through the panes of glass to the street, not to mention the space is merely a "pass through" and not a room you spend time in, so I don't worry that the room will feel weighted down by the black.

And here's a look at the final end result as seen from the inside of the house. Personally, I really love it.

Here's a quick look back at some of the highlights of the project:

We began with a beat up, ugly, and only partially functional entry vestibule.

And I mean some really broken doors.

We sunk months into lots of paint stripping and plaster patching.

We felt like we stripped paint for months out of the most intricate of details.

And we were able to add function my making the inner transom operable with some salvaged hardware found on eBay.

We put in a lot of time and effort to widen the door ever so slightly. Note to self, if we ever do this again, buy a door that's larger than the opening, not smaller.

We bid a fond farewell to our old door while selecting the new colors.

And after much debate and a few problems, we settled on our an antique letter slot hardware.

The paint process was a long one with a lot of cure time.

And we fancified a bit with classic weather stripping through the use of spring bronze.

After months of work, we were finally able to enjoy our new door and door color!

We removed some items that had been installed over the years to bring the opening back to it's original size.

And test fit our new French doors, once...twice...well more like hundreds of times.

Alex spent many hours on the window glazing process.

And after extensive research, he found a super high gloss enamel to make our shiny doors a reality.

Since she waited so patiently, Lulu got her first taste of the new view.

And we found the perfect antique slide bolt for the doors. We also figured out one had been in nearly the same spot at some point many years ago. It made us feel like we were really doing it right.

We chose a classic style for our new transom numbers.

And we used these same decorative cast iron steeple tipped hinges on the new doors that we used throughout the rest of the first floor. It's been a hunt to find all matching items, but well worth it.

We will be able to open the outer doors and the inner transom for a nice breeze.

And now we have an end result to be proud of. It's amazing how far our house and our neighbor's house have come.

Here's a little reminder of the ugly before. We could see the potential, but it was a distant sight.

Not only did we start this project to spend more time closer to our dog Oliver, but we dreamed of how he could enjoy the space, including gazing out through the French doors at squirrels high in the trees or at hot lady dogs walking down the street. Despite our best efforts, Ollie lost his battle to cancer a mere two weeks after we began work on the vestibule. 

For this reason, we dedicate the vestibule project to our snaggle toothed companion and take comfort knowing that our current crew members, Lulu and Mel, will love and appreciate the space as much as he would have. 

What are your thoughts on our end result? Is it all it should be after nearly a year and a half of effort? Perhaps we're just crazy and should have left it as it was? I don't know if I would agree to wait another year and a half to do it again, but I sure love the finished product.

As seen on...

Thrifty Decor Chick
Comments 40


2/23/2012 at 4:01 PM
The vestibule looks absolutely beautiful! I'd sure say it was worth it :)
Thanks so much Lauren!
2/23/2012 at 4:53 PM
I def. think it was worth it! Great job, love the color!
:-) Thanks Dean!
2/23/2012 at 6:37 PM
Love the black on the interior of the French doors and the whole project! (I think you were worrying needlessly about using black.) Also, it was nice to get a complete overview of the entire project, though I'm one who's been reading along for the duration . . . .

Now lighten up on Alex and the oft-worn paint clothes! I wear the same old bum clothes multiple days to garden and do house projects (though I do change underwear, bathe, and definitely don't bore my coworkers by repeating outfits very frequently!).

I never commented on your very touching post several months ago where you paid tribute to the too-short life of Ollie. It breaks my heart a little every time he's part of the story (extreme dog/cat/Pug lover here).
We are totally cracking up about the "lighten up on Alex" portion of your comment. It was actually Alex himself that added that aside to my post while he was adding in some photos. :-) Too funny. I'm sure if you look carefully, you'll see my old painting overalls too in many, many photos.

We're so glad to hear you like the black paint and that you can relate to how much Ollie meant to us. It breaks my heart too every time we include photos or stories about him. But heartbreak aside, he'll always be a member of our "crew" here at Old Town Home. (Off to get a tissue.)
2/23/2012 at 6:39 PM
Fantastic work as usual!!! And well worth the effort.
I was just thinking, though, if you guys ever do go to an open house that turns into YOUR new house... I sincerely hope the next owners of your home notice and appreciate your incredible attention to detail. Those steeple hinges are magnificent!

Also, I assure you I am not stalking you, but that could be my little red honda fit outside your front door in the picture after you wrote, "And here's a look at the final end result as seen from the inside of the house. Personally, I really love it."
Love this entry! Love your blog, as usual :)
Thanks so much Whitney! Alex and I joke that if we ever decide to sell our home, we'll have a rigorous interview process to ensure the new owners would be sufficiently appreciative of the home, its history, and our efforts. Yeah, we're totally nuts. :-)

If that is your car, thanks for adding the nice backdrop this morning to the photo!
2/23/2012 at 6:40 PM
I love it - like drooling over it love it!! You guys are unbelievably talented.
Awww, thanks so much Ashley!
It's pure perfection. Seriously.. you better be so incredibly proud of yourselves for what you did. :)

I adore every single detail. Wow!
Thanks Sarah! It feels so good to see how it all came together. :-)
Sarah, I also wanted to let you know something funny/odd. Our spam filter keeps seeing your comments as spam (I think it's the curly braces in your name), so don't worry if your comment doesn't show up right away. We see it and we'll approve it. Sorry for the delay on your comments.
2/23/2012 at 7:46 PM
Just gorgeous. So impressive.
Thanks so much Becky!

(Loved your vacation pics by the way!)
Kim S.
2/23/2012 at 8:00 PM
Wow, the shiny french doors look amazing. Great work on the vestibule!
Thanks so much Kim!
2/23/2012 at 9:09 PM
Such a great job! Going to start strolling the streets of Old Town to find your house :)
We'll keep our eyes open for you ;-)
2/24/2012 at 2:32 AM
Oh Shut The Front Door! (Couldn't resist). Seriously gorgeous. I love all the work you put into it and to have it turn out so perfect has to be SO gratifying. I am sure you are in that stage where you just keep walking past it to see it again and again, right? Very nicely done! ENJOY that wonder feeling of a long project being complete and so beautiful!
I think "SHUT THE FRONT DOOR" is Wendy's new favorite phrase over the last several months. Too funny.

Thank you very much for the compliments. You are correct, I keep opening the front door to look at the newly painted doors, it just makes me smile.
2/24/2012 at 8:53 AM
Love everything EVERYTHING you did on the front French doors and the entry way. You were part of my inspiration/justification to paint my own interior door a glossy black and I totally love the effect and only regretted not doing it earlier.
So glad to hear our project rubbed off on you and that you like the result!
2/24/2012 at 9:07 AM
Totally worth it! Amazing transformation. The difference from the outside is great but the mood it creates inside is fantastic!
I've been opening the front door just to let more light in the front of the house. It really does make a difference in the overall feel of the front of the house.
threadbndr (Karla)
2/24/2012 at 10:15 AM
It's BEAUTIFUL. I thought maybe the black would be too much on the inside of the doors, but it totally works!

I love the long shot down the hallway. Dramatic.

As a fellow restoration buff, I totally understand the 'need to interview any potential buyer. I've already told my son that if he ends up having to sell my house at some point that he's to use the local real estate agent that specializes in 'period' houses.

I don't want what happened next door to happen to my house. At some point some poor soul is going to have to strip an entire house worth of oak woodwork (sigh). People should just STOP painting Craftsman woodwork white! (Except in the kitchens and bathrooms, of course, that is where it's supposed to be white!)
I think finding the right buyer for a house you pour your heart and soul into is completely and totally reasonable. At the very least I will plan on upping the price so high for someone that would want to "gut the place" that if they pay it, we have no option but to accept it (and then just send letters to the city to make sure they get shut down).

You are 100% right on the painted oak. Every time I see a craftsman that's had its beautiful woodwork covered by a recent coat of thick white paint I die a little inside. Lucky for us, painted is correct, so I strip the molding to get the lumpy and bumpy paint off, bring out the details, and then paint again. It us much easier stripping than strip to stain, that's for sure!
2/24/2012 at 11:29 AM
Lovely! I agree with your mantra of a job done well is a job done right. I'm impressed with how much you researched and searched to find so many original details, especially the fully functional transom window. And, as someone else commented, I think you worried too much about painting the interior black as well. Every room needs a little black, right?!
I'm glad to hear that our approach is not totally crazy to everyone. I actually think the operable transom is my favorite part of the project...or maybe the slide bolt...or the rim locks...or maybe the black paint...or perhaps the wavy glass :-)
2/24/2012 at 9:26 PM
*Applause* Glad to see the finished product. It looks awesome.
Thank you very much!
2/29/2012 at 3:14 PM
It looks terrific, even more so in person. I'm guessing someone awfully strong was needed to get the french doors downstairs to the vestibule. :)
Absolutely. We're talkin' incredible hulk-type strength. ;-)
5/21/2012 at 11:22 AM
Absolutely STUNNING! :-D
Thanks so much Layla! (We happen to be in love with all the work you and Kevin have done on your place!!)
Teresa Giddens
6/5/2012 at 4:02 PM
You have made your house into a gem!
:-) Thanks so much, Teresa!
12/9/2012 at 1:33 PM
I think what you did here is so lovely, I can hardly find the words. Your dedication to your beautiful home is something I really admire.
1/31/2013 at 3:56 PM
Wow! This look amazing! I love what you've done with the french doors, and that green colour is amazing! Great job!
Nick Van Heest
3/16/2017 at 11:17 AM

I think you guys did an amazing job with your vestibule project. I was actually wondering if you were able to provide me with closer more detailed pictures of the hand railing you had installed as I would like a welder to replicate it for me. Is there any chance you could do that? Congrats on your project. Everything looks amazing.

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