Piet Mondrian and the Mid-Century Modern screen door?
Alistair McLean
Category: Exteriors, Renovations

Alistair at Secret Design Studio: Posted on Thursday, 9 August 2012 6:01 PM


Another query about Mid Century Modern front doors, in response to my earlier posting to answer M of Beaumaris about the colour orange and her front door.

A from Beaumont says “Hi Alistair, I have only recently discovered you, your website, blog, Pinterest pages etc….what an incredible treasure trove of information and inspiration for MCM homeowners you are providing – thank you! 

Re the question of doors – I am also about to do the orange door thing on our 1958 concrete block house. I am tossing up whether to replace the ugly aluminium security door with a more appropriately designed wrought iron door, which would be good for practical reasons, or simply remove it altogether. It would be good to have a screen/security door of some description, but I am aware that you never really see screen doors on MCM houses (e.g. all the images you have included in your blog). What would your advice be? Is there any such thing as a MCM screen door?! (The design I have in mind is based on the window frames of the Eames house – simple horizontal lines as the security grille). Many thanks, A from Beaumont.


Hi, A from Beaumont, thanks for your kind comments.  It is a common problem with most houses, not just our favourite Mid-Century Modern homes, to find a security/screen door that complements the house as there are so many really ugly ones available on the market.

There is nothing better on a hot summer night than leaving your front door open, and the security door locked, to capture any breeze and let it flow through the house, using the benefits of cross-flow ventilation to help take the heat out of the rooms.  However you have to be 100% sure that the security door is adequate against home intrusion – the 1960’s timber framed flyscreen with wrought iron infill panel and simple catch just isn’t enough.

The front door is a key element to your home, and I always believe it pays to spend a bit more on getting it right than plonking in a standard project builder’s front door. Many of the custom-made wrought iron doors, when retro-fitted to an existing house need a steel frame around the door frame to ensure adequate locking, and the detailing of these can detract from the look.  If you do decide to go this way then I would suggest colour matching the powder coated door to your existing timber trim to help make the steel frame less obvious.

I have had some experience with security doors that are designed to be invisible, by framing a fine, strong steel mesh, such as http://crimsafe.com.au/.  These are great doors for security, especially from inside, however while they are almost invisible from the inside looking out, the reverse is true.  They actually do a great job of concealing your feature front door from the outside!


One of the best looking security/screen door that I have ever seen was featured in a Secret Design Studio blog posting that I completed almost a year ago, so you may not have seen it: https://secretdesign.wpengine.com/blog/2011/09/22/Some-external-photos-of-the-mid-century-modern-architectural-masterpiece.aspx.  Take it as proof that there were some great looking security doors installed in the 1960’s.  I like this one as you focus on the Frank Lloyd-Wright influenced design, without realizing that there is a glass door behind.


This door looked like it had been custom-made, and had a strong Frank Lloyd-Wright feel, as did the rest of the house, and it was used on the back door!  I don’t know what happened to the house, if it was demolished, or if this door is now landfill or sitting in a demolition yard!


I think that there are three good ways to address this common issue, but none of them are cheap!

OPTION 1) Security door is the feature.

Think of the security door as a decorative gate – as the feature, and make your front door (behind the security door) very plain and understated. The focus is on the security door, rather than the two doors visually competing against each other.   Engage somebody to custom-design a security door that suits the look of your house.  Find somebody with a bit of flair, who understands the requirements of a security gate for strength, so that the design is easy to construct, and strong – possibly using some of  Piet Mondrian’s non-representational abstracts as a starting point for a concept and design?  Depending on your aspect and privacy a single light glazed door may work, so that your artfully crafted security door can be admired from both sides!


This picture was from another earlier Secret Design Studio blog https://secretdesign.wpengine.com/blog/2011/11/08/Brighton-demolition-of-another-Dr-Ernest-Fooks-house.aspx

Fooks has cleverly continued the steel screen over the door and adjacent window.  The door is a very simple, single light door, and the whole porch (and entry hall) work really well. I don’t know, but I suspect that this house is now landfill as well, but I hope that somebody may be able to correct me?

OPTION 2 Door within a door


Arrange for a custom made door like the one pictured above that includes an integrated “door within a door”.  This style is pretty rare, but they provide great flexibility and look good.  I am sorry I don’t have a clearer photo, but there should be enough to see the principle.  The door in the photo has a glazed panel that can open inwards, within the frame of the door.  The security screen (and flywire or mesh) is fitted to the outside of the door.  There is only one door handle and lock, and it is an ideal solution if there are space issues with swinging a traditional security door outwards.


Shugg Windows (http://www.shuggwindows.com.au/index.php?sectionID=4465&pageID=5947) do a more contemporary variation on this principle with a frameless, double hung window inset into a door frame, which can be locked from inside in a half-open position. It is then fairly straightforward to fix a decorative screen and mesh to the outside face of the door to provide more security. While this style is not authentic for the period, the clean lines will work with a Mid-Century Modern home, but the design of the externally fitted decorative screen is crucial.

OPTION 3) Separation

Separate the security door from your front door by putting a bit of distance between the two. – Possibly enclosing your porch with a well designed, and complementary security grill, or having a security gate, nearer your front boundary.  It is really hard to suggest what would work best for your particular circumstances, as different houses, with different locations, require different responses.


Best of luck with it!

Alistair from Secret Design Studio