Kitchen Ideas for Cafe Doors


Café doors are reminiscent of old saloons, roadside diners and high-volume restaurants. The style was briefly in vogue in the suburbs in the mid-20th century but never became an interior design classic. The two-way swinging doors can work for a contemporary household, but the design treatment should probably err on the side of the theatrical to avoid appearing tacky.

Completely Fake Vintage Kitchen Doors

  • Buy some inexpensive unfinished café doors at a home improvement store; get the two-way hinges that allow the doors to swing back and forth. These are usually partial doors that sit in the middle of the door frame with nothing but air on top and bottom. They are a visual shield between the kitchen and dining room but not much of a barrier. The stores typically carry shutter styles and models with inset spindles. Paint the doors on both sides with milk paints and crackle glazes to fake a set of antique doors. Decoupage a few small reproduction labels on them here and there for trim. Pick up the paint color in a distressed picture frame around an old poster advertising early 20th century grocery store products. Or use the leftover door paint to frame a large blackboard for keeping shopping lists.

Shoo-fly Swinging Doors

  • If you are lucky enough to have some old barn wood and a few oxidized iron braces, make a set of swinging café half-doors that let plenty of breeze and light through. Use the wood to make two matching frames that more-or-less meet in the middle of the kitchen door opening when suspended on the two-way hinges. Screw the boards together securely and further strengthen with the iron braces on corners.)The frames don’t have to be identical, just reasonably close. Use old reclaimed aluminum screen, cut to fit. Or splurge and buy copper screening and staple it to the frames. Use a staple gun to attach the screen—with care. Cover the stapled edges of screen with strips of barn wood molding or skinny new molding painted an old-fashioned color.

The Real Deal for a Pretend Industrial Loft

  • Buy real, full-length professional restaurant swinging doors from a restaurant supply house or a reclaimed materials depot; try your luck posting on Internet swap and sales sites as well. These work best in a residential industrial loft setting where there is a lot of stainless steel and unpainted concrete. The doors come in a rainbow palette of colors with matching bumpers and base plates. But especially suited to a contemporary industrial decor is an aluminum and stainless steel metal clad model with mirror-shiny base plates. When buying heavy, professional caliber doors, get the strongest swinging hinges you can find so you won’t have to reinstall them after a couple of years of use.

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  • Photo Credit steel doors image by Gary Blakeley from
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