A buyer’s guide to patio doors
Patio doors are a fantastic way to open up your living space. They blur the boundary between inside and out and help to make your home feel bigger – even when the doors are closed. Plus, they allow more natural light and fresh air to flow through. Once you start looking at glazing, you’ll see you have plenty of choice: French windows, pocket, pivot, sliding or bi-folding doors. To help you choose the style that’s right for you, here’s my guide to the main options.
Bi-fold doors slide open, folding as they do, and stack neatly to one side, opening up about 90% of the aperture. They can be designed to open inwards or outwards, so consider which would make most sense for your space. And the number of panels you need very much depends on the amount of space you have available. For bi-folds of three panels or more, think about incorporating a traffic door – a conventional door built into the bi-fold system that opens separately. This makes it easy to come and go without the hassle of having to open the whole set.
Bi-folding patio doors connect Marieke of Whispering Bold to her garden all year round (below). Even when the weather turns cool, she can continue to enjoy the view from the warmth of her kitchen-living room.
Sliding doors comprise two or more large panes of glass that slide to one side of the frame where they stack one behind the other. The downside of sliding doors is that when they’re open, the panes will block part of the opening. However, the frames of sliding doors tend to be slimmer than bi-folds, so they’re less obtrusive when closed.
Sliding patio doors are most successful with a step-free threshold, as this creates continuity between indoors and out. But you must have reliable drainage to stop water coming in and to make sure it drains away quickly. Ask your door installer, architect or builder for advice.
Open up with large sliding doors like Nikki and Luke of @tierneyterracelocation have (below), and let your garden in! Design note: to extend your indoor living space into the outdoors, use brightly coloured furniture to draw the eye out to the garden beyond.
Pocket doors slide back and slot into a space built into the wall. This takes forward planning and a healthy budget, but if you want the full indoor-outdoor living experience, this is the way to achieve it! Pocket patio doors must be planned as early as possible, as you’ll need to build an encasing wall wide enough to house them when they’re open. The space needed inside this wall depends on how many sliding panels you intend to have.
The sliding doors by IQ Glass in this rear extension (below) flood the kitchen and living space with natural light. To enhance the indoor-outdoor living experience, the sliding doors were installed with a flush-floor finish, meaning that the homeowners enjoy step-free access.
If your budget won’t run to a wall of glass, French doors are a great option. Often a preferred look for more traditional properties, French doors are best suited to smaller doorways. Design note: French doors bring in less light compared to bi-folding or sliding doors, so why not combine them with fixed side panels?
French doors are not the only way Jacqueline Mercer of @tinyandthehouse maintains a strong connection with Mother Nature (below). The fresh flowers on her table and light fitting also help bridge the gap.
You don’t need a wall of glass to create a seamless connection between your home and garden. Pivot doors – a sleek alternative to more traditional French doors – will maximise natural light and views of the garden without a frame blocking the line of sight.
The Vitra Pivot window from IQ Glass (below) is perfect for rear garden extensions, balcony doors or side entry to a building. It is available in a range of widths to create beautifully uninterrupted views of the surrounding landscape.
One of my favourite ways to connect a home to its garden is steel-framed doors. If the word ‘Crittall’ springs to mind, that’s because it’s the name of the original steel window manufacturer. Beware that this term is often incorrectly used to describe all steel-framed windows and doors, so check carefully if you want the original.
If you lust after uninterrupted views of your garden, steel-framed doors are probably not for you. This style is best suited to those who want to inject an industrial edge into their home using patio doors as a prominent design feature. The glass panels that comprise steel-framed windows and doors come in various dimensions and styles (think horizontal or vertical rectangles and squares). Whatever style you choose, look for slimline metal framing to maximise light.
Design note: classic black is not the only choice for steel frames: a wide range of colourways is available. Alternatively, ask your supplier if they can match them to a favourite paint shade.
A love of eclectic design is written all over the kitchen belonging to Hannah of @cornwallhouse101 (below). Crittall doors and concrete worktops lend an industrial edge while 19th century-style armchairs inject a more classical note. Modern touches such as the bar stools complete the look.
If you covet the Crittall look but your budget won’t stretch to steel, look for more cost-effective doors with aluminium frames. A great example is seen here in this drop-dead gorgeous kitchen-diner belonging to Matthew Shaw of @_matthew_shaw_styling. The Crittal-style doors perfectly frame the garden outside.
Want more? Now you’ve got the patio doors sorted, then why not freshen up your front door? Check out our blog here.