Wardrobe design: sliding doors

Nandita Manwani outlines how you can go for sliding doors when it comes to wardrobes, and how to do it right

Wardrobe design: sliding doors
Sliding door wardrobes for homes are the in-thing nowadays. This is not only because of their looks, but also due to the space they save, especially in the case of small rooms. We will go through some design principles for sliding wardrobe design that will ensure good looks, longevity, ease of use as well as safety. You may be wondering how safety comes into this — give it a few more minutes and you will know.

Sliding mechanism/hardware

Sliding wardrobe doors must always run on slide fittings having wheels on top of the shutter and not at the bottom of the shutter. This means that the door hangs and rolls on the runner at the top of the wardrobe. While top running hardware is more expensive, it is recommended for wardrobe shutters due to several reasons:
  • Since the door hangs from the top, it is in ‘tension’ and there is little chance of the door getting warped. In bottom running systems, the weight of the door, now on the door itself, can cause it to bend over time.
  • Bottom running systems (cheaper, but not recommended) have a tiny ‘guide’ on top of the shutter. If the shutter warps, then the whole door can fall off as the ‘guide may come out of its socket on the top’, causing both heartache and injury. This cannot happen in a top running sliding system.
  • Bottom running systems get sluggish over time as dirt gets accumulated in the bottom channel in which the wheel is running, making the door difficult to slide — remember the struggle with sliding glass shutters of yesteryear ‘showcases’ that always used to get jammed?

Material for the door

While deciding on the material for the sliding shutters, there are two key considerations to keep in mind:

  • A material or design that offers maximum resistance to warp/bend
  • Material and design that minimise the weight of the shutter, without compromising on the ergonomics or the looks

One of the simplest ways to rid both these constraints is to mount six mm sheets of plywood, medium density fibreboard (MDF) or glass on an aluminium frame to make the shutter. This ensures low door weight and offers maximum bend resistance along with the flexibility of colours and material for your desired look. On the flip side, however, framed shutters work out to be more expensive than conventional ones.

For plane doors, one can also go in for shutters that are 19 mm blockboard. Remember that blockboard is recommended over plywood or MDF for long panel shutters (seven to nine feet) as its bend resistance is the best compared to MDF, HDF or plywood. For plane doors of over seven feet, it is also recommended to install a door stiffener within the shutter. This is a piece of hardware that is unfortunately not very well-known, but is readily available in the market and helps improve the overall bend resistance of the shutter.

Keeping the dust out

Sliding door wardrobes have an inherent weakness against their hinged counterparts, in that, dust creeps into them via the open spaces between the two sliding doors and between the carcass (front frame) and the shutter, especially on the top. Hence, dustproofing has to be planned right at the design stage.

One needs to install a brush strip in the tiny space between the two doors, all the way from the top to the bottom. This prevents dust from getting into the wardrobe and messing around with contents. For covering the gaps on top of the wardrobe, you can use dust blocking pelmets that are available at hardware stores.

No locks

Sliding doors with locks stand a risk of damaging the wardrobe if the door bangs on the side with the lock engaged. Also, the keys (if not taken out) tend to get stuck when the doors overlap in the open position. Hence, it is best to do away with the lock. If you still need to keep things away from roving eyes, then, a lockable compartment or drawer within the wardrobe is recommended.

Avoid door bangs, injuries

Sliding door wardrobes are notorious for pinching fingers the wrong way as well as for closing with a loud bang. To avoid both injury and accident, one must insist on soft close mechanisms that are available as optionals with sliding door hardware. Also, ensure that the mechanism is installed by a trained carpenter. If you don’t have one, then get help from a hardware company.

That does it I guess, enough to give you bragging rights when you go checking out those sliding wardrobes in the market or at your neighbours’ place. Happy homemaking.

(The author is an interior designer & founder, The Studio, Bengaluru)

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