By Brian D. Coleman
New York “building cosmetologist” Michael Laudati was in the midst of a renovation that would combine two tiny apartments into a single unit. He wanted the result to look seamless—like this larger apartment had always been in the prewar (1912) building. After he removed a closet, he considered where he might reuse the original interior door with its intact, beveled mirror. Walking it around the place, he tried it over the knee-high wainscot in the reception hall—and realized it could be part of a hallstand.
His version uses the original mirror and smaller, flanking ones cut to size from old mirror glass and glued onto ½" boards. New mirrors might be substituted. Michael also had trim salvaged from elsewhere in the apartment, and he found an old wood corbel to anchor the bottom. But similar millwork is easy enough to find.
Getting it Done
1. STRIP THE PAINT
If you have heavy paint buildup or you want a natural finish, strip the door and salvaged wood. Laudati used a heat gun on the door laid over sawhorses. He followed with liquid chemical stripper, covered with plastic to keep it wet for several hours, which removed the residue. Next came elbow grease: putty knife, coarse and then fine steel wool, finally a wipe-down with denatured alcohol. Remember to use a respirator even with ventilation, eye protection, and gloves.
2. PREP THE WALL
Over the wainscot, a width of moulding was removed and a shallow ledge nailed to the upper edge of the wainscot as a rest for the old door. The mirrored door was affixed with wood screws and expanding anchors, as the original gypsum block walls had no studs to screw into. In this project, flanking mirrors are glued to boards that were then attached to the wall with adhesive and further secured with trim. Mouldings and flat boards re-create the look of recessed panels in the style of the existing woodwork. Trim design will vary for other projects, where the bottom corbel might be replaced by brackets—or a bench seat or shelf.
3. PRIME AND PAINT
Primer and finish paint were applied in place; semi-gloss trim is ‘Dune White’ by Benjamin Moore. Cast-iron valet hooks came from a local secondhand store.
The cost estimate left assumes two larger hooks at about $10 and two smaller hooks around $7. But oh the selection! You’ll find so many hooks, in different materials and styles, both antique and reproduction. e-Bay and Etsy turned up more than 200 antique hooks for sale, on a recent search. Check the condition; avoid those with paint buildup or heavy rust. Here are some I’ve used at home: