Functional Art: The Flat Track Door

Flat track doors, also known as barn doors, are a great way to add an industrial design element into a space. They’re space savers and a form of functional wall art. Jay, door guru, and Rob, general manager, of our fine woodworking division NEWwoodworks, gave us some insight into custom track doors:

Reclaimed hand hewn timber skins bring texture and character to a lower level rec room entry.

Reclaimed hand hewn timber skins bring texture and character to a lower level rec room entry.

Start with wood: “You can do a lot more with wood than you can with metal or fiberglass,” explained Jay. “There is so much more character and story in wood than any other material. Wooden doors fulfill our biophilic desire; they’re tactile, interactive, and functional.”

Flat tracks are top hung systems employing a top rail or mounted track above the door opening. A pair of hangers are assembled to the specific door (thickness, width, and weight of the door are all considered). A second bottom track/rail, subtle bottom guide fins, or cradle fins are employed to help maintain the door’s vertical alignment with the wall.

Get creative: “Yet,” added Rob, “There’s such a broad range of material and stylistic options: glass and metal accents…think Steampunk. Or think contemporary, colorful, slick, fancy, or classic. There’s clean oak, ash, and cypress…then there’s crazy wood like reclaimed ‘confetti’ gym flooring, Teak Colors of Indonesia, Shou Sugi Ban Color Char. The depth of possibilities is nearly limitless.”

Reclaimed mixed hardwoods were re-worked into a flat track 8’x8′ door for a conference room in Rochester NY.

Reclaimed mixed hardwoods were re-worked into a flat track 8’x8′ door for an architecture firm’s conference room in Rochester NY. Large flat track doors like this operate more as an easily-moved feature wall. Photo by Scott Hemenway.

Shoji inspired paper screen flat track doors provide privacy and ambiance in a master bedroom.

A plethora of styles and aesthetics can be met with flat track doors. Here shoji-inspired paper screen flat track doors provide privacy and ambiance in a master bedroom.

A unique pantry door makes use of reclaimed painted barn siding with a modified stall door guard.

A unique pantry door makes use of reclaimed painted barn siding with a modified stall door guard. (Thanks to Enrique for showcasing this door!)

Wall art: Will your flat track door fill an otherwise blank wall space, acting as a centerpiece to the room? Or will it better serve your needs as a subtle piece, blending with the décor? “Each door we create is customized to fit the design aesthetic–the colors and textures are almost limitless,” continued Jay. “With flat track doors even the hardware offers a huge variety of options from glossy and bright to rugged and dark. The variety, the one-of-a-kind aspect, makes them especially enjoyable to design and craft.”

A 'tall' flat track door double faced with a herringbone pattern of Walnut, Larch, and Douglas fir is bedroom and hallway wall art for an Oregon couple's Jewel of a home.

A ‘tall’ flat track door double faced with a herringbone pattern of Walnut, Larch, and Douglas fir is bedroom and hallway wall art for an Oregon couple’s Jewel of a home. Photo by Loren Nelson.

“We’re challenging designers and homeowners to think outside the ‘barn door’ box. We’re always looking to keep our skills and creations fresh,” explained Rob. “Try to stump us. Let us convince you of our excellence.”

Combining Ash and Reclaimed Teak with blackened metal hardware on the front, this showroom door also features a white board on the interior office side with minimal exposed hardware.

Combining Ash and Reclaimed Indonesian Teak with blackened metal hardware on the front, this showroom door also features a whiteboard on the interior office side with minimal exposed hardware.

Space savers: flat track doors do not require the same clearance to open as their swinging counterparts. Particularly useful where room capacity is limited, they function as room partitions, providing privacy from bedroom to bathroom, from kitchen to pantry, from living room to closet, from game room to utility room, from open office space to meeting rooms, and more. When they’re a large size, flat track doors operate more like an easily-moved feature wall than a doorway, allowing spaces to be flexible and adding to the design aesthetic.

Gracefully sliding behind the couch in a living room, this door was also finished in a subtle wash to allow it to better blend with the surrounding walls.

Clean lines and the warm tones of a custom Douglas fir sliding door contrast with the surrounding cool-toned materials.

Clean lines and the warm tones of a custom Douglas fir sliding door contrast with the surrounding cool-toned materials.

Handles anIndustrial salvaged mixed woods and silvered hardware give an industrial vibe to these doors while their track allows more space for seating and lessens the likelihood of servers or patrons unexpectedly meeting a door swinging open. d track hardware can drive the door’s aesthetic, blending in or being showcased against the wood. High quality appropriately fitted hardware is key to maintain the function and usability of the door.

Industrial salvaged mixed woods and silvered hardware give an industrial vibe to these doors. Sliding along a track allows more space for seating and lessens the likelihood of servers or patrons unexpectedly meeting a door swinging open/closed.

Hardware and construction: Doors, flat track or swinging, are open and closed with high frequency. Custom crafted doors offer longevity and usability that is directly related to their quality of materials (both wood and hardware) and their specific construction.

Handles and track hardware can drive the door’s aesthetic, blending in or being showcased against the wood. High quality appropriately fitted hardware is key to maintain the function and usability of the door.

Handles and track hardware can drive the door’s aesthetic, blending in or being showcased against the wood. High quality appropriately fitted hardware is key to maintain the function and usability of the door.

“We give the same attention to detail and hand-crafted skills to our flat track doors as we do any of our other fine woodworking projects. I don’t think we know how to do it any other way,” shared Rob.

“We’re a bit wood and craft obsessed around here,” said Jay, “but personally I find doors especially exciting as they’re a visual focal point, a finishing touch to a space, and for me having a hand in that is pretty fulfilling.”

Jay Bernard, door guru at NEWwoodworks.

Jay Bernard, door guru at NEWwoodworks, pictured with a completed walnut entry door and sidelight.

If you’d like a bit of inspiration, the NEWwoodworks Flat Track Door gallery can be a good place to start. Wide or narrow, single or double, rugged or bright, fancy or plain, stylized or subtle, with glass or metal, with modern flare or casual grace, we’ll craft the door you desire. Let us know what your door needs are. 

(A little history: Flat track door systems date back to the turn of the century when they were used in warehouses and industrial settings often as garage doors. Barns became another common place for these doors. For an individual to move an oversized door to loft storage or stall aisleways, the dual rail system proved to lighten the load and provide faster egress than their swinging counterparts.)

More flat track doors:

An opaque glass insert provides privacy to each side of this powder room/kitchen door.

An opaque glass insert provides privacy to each side of this powder room/kitchen door.

Custom tree "hangers" will support this flat track reclaimed barn wood door.

Custom tree “hangers” will support this flat track reclaimed barn wood door.

Tom and Ann's home uses reclaimed wood flat track doors as great room wall art and a privacy barrier to their upper level office.

Tom and Ann’s home uses reclaimed wood flat track doors as great room wall art and a privacy barrier to their upper level office.

A wide double X flat track door crafted of Pioneer Millworks reclaimed American Prairie mixed softwoods.

A wide double X flat track door crafted of Pioneer Millworks reclaimed American Prairie mixed softwoods.

A dental exam room offers easy egress through wood and glass flat track doors.

A dental exam room offers easy egress through wood and glass flat track doors.