Today’s homeowners place a premium on gaining greater functionality and flexibility from their rooms. Seldom have those twin attributes harmonized more beautifully than in the living room turned music room of a Victorian home in Edwardsville, Ill. Room-dividing shoji screens paired with bifold and sliding door hardware made the dream a reality.
Owners Jennifer and Jay Harkey bought the 112-year-old three-bedroom home in 2010. Both are music teachers; Jay teaches in a St. Louis private high school and Jennifer gives piano and voice lessons in their home. Within a few months of starting lessons in the new home’s living room, Jennifer knew a change would have to be made to allow the room to be more flexible and functional.
She wanted the ability to temporarily close off the side of the living room that featured her full 6-foot, 4-inch Boston grand piano from the remainder of the room because children taking lessons enjoy privacy to minimize distractions during their lessons. Yet, the room can easily open when it’s time to share the music in an informal piano recital among the students.
Jennifer felt achieving this kind of increased flexibility and functionality called for shoji screens that could be opened and closed as needed. The screens would offer the necessary privacy when closed but allow the passage of light to the rest of the room from large windows near the piano.
For help, Jennifer enlisted the aid of her father, Jim Boczek, a woodworker. He created a design calling for two pairs of 3-foot-wide, 9-foot-high screens. Each screen would feature laminated rice paper sandwiched between 2-inch-wide strips of hard maple running horizontally and vertically and held together with pocket screws.
One pair of screens would consist of a bypass sliding door hardware system sliding into an offset in a wall, Jim explains. The other would be a bifold door hardware system against the opposite wall. These solutions were chosen, Boczek says, because Jennifer wanted to open up the room as much as possible when the screens weren’t in use. The screens could be closed during lessons, and opened the remainder of the time.
The next step was to find the right hardware for the project. Boczek wanted a heavier grade because the panels would weigh 25 pounds apiece. Boczek used heavy wood screws to attach heavy-duty angle brackets to a ceiling beam along which the screens slide. He then bolted the tracks to the angle brackets. On the bifold side, he used a single 6-foot-long track. On the bypass side he used two 8-foot-long tracks. In addition, Boczek cut a slot in the hardwood floor to allow for the installation of a guide track to keep the screen bottoms in place.
The installation of the tracks and the screens together took three hours. It achieved the goal to make the living room space more usable for multiple tasks and more inviting for her students and their parents. When students, their parents and other visitors see the shoji screen system, “They just think it’s amazing,” Jennifer says.
Jim Boczek, the homeowner’s father and door installer, chose Johnson Hardware to install the bifolding doors. “It had a lot of different choices and grades of hardware. I chose a light commercial grade to provide the proper durability,” Boczek says.
Boczek went with 111FD Series Bi-Folding Door Hardware with shock-absorbing hinges that self-locate and automatically align the screens and 111SD Series Sliding Door Hardware that can carry heavy screens along a compact track. He used a Johnson Hardware guide track for the bottoms of the doors.
According to Boczek, the bifold and sliding door hardware sets came with all the needed components (box track, hangers, hinges, door guides) except for heavy-duty angle brackets, which he bought separately.
“We brought the screens in one by one and attached the bifold and sliding door sets to the screens in the living room, and then hung them,” Boczek recalls. “With the way the hardware is designed and its adjustability, the process was very simple.”