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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Bedknobs and Broomsticks. No, Actually . . . Bedknobs and Doorknobs!

In That Old House, I find magic in something as simple as the doorknobs, all of them worn smooth from the touches of so many, many hands.

The doors mostly have black or white porcelain in the "newer" part of the house, built in the 1880s, and the original iron rimlocks work pretty well, although we don't lock them; no keys!

This closet door is in the yellow guest room. I'm not sure what the knob is made of. Brass? Some sort of metal, but I can't tell what. Where's a magnet when you need one? The back of the knob is a simple brass lever.

In the ca. 1830s section, the doorknobs are a beautiful tortoiseshell-look design, of some sort of porcelain or glass -- deeply swirled -- and the black iron rimlocks are larger on these older doors:

This one, above, is on the door at the foot of our attic stairs. Such a beautiful doorknob -- it is like sculpture -- and it seems wasted on the seldom-used attic stairs. I guess 176 years ago, these knobs were commonplace.

Years ago, someone got tired of the common tortiseshell knobs, and replaced them with spiffier numbers on the door into the pink guest room. On the hall side, an old porcelain rose-painted knob, the design on its edges worn nearly off by decades of hands. On the other side of this d
oor, a lovely, simple glass knob.

A small brass knob at the top of the cellar stairs is worn and dented by long years of use. (We haven't painted here yet. Don't look!)

The cellar door is cleverly made; if you open it fully, it will also latch across the back of the center hall. An early means of energy conservation. No one lived "greener" lives than people long ago.

More knobs... here's a tiny white one, on an old window lock upstairs in the pink guest room. Can you see that the window glass is fun-house wavy? No, guess not, espescially with the screen in the way.

And about those bedknobs . . . this bed is in the yellow guest room. It's low post and hand turned. Each of the posts is very slightly different in size from its peers. We have had this bed for 30 years, since we lived in Pittsburgh and were lucky enough to know some fine antiques dealers.

This bedknob is harder to photograph. Too tall. It's a rice-carved 4-poster in the pink guest room. It's perhaps 30 years old, and was one of my recent Craigslist bargains. It's got enough age to look interesting, but it's not at all an antique. It would look gorgeous painted old white, but I don't have the nerve to do that.

So now you know we have guest rooms. And for our guests, a door bell, on the front porch next to the door:

Now that is a real door bell. I love how someone added washers under the screws. There must have been a whole lot of door-bell-ringing once upon a time, to loosen them!

If you visit, ring loudly and often. . . .
and here's the door we'll open for you, with its old brass doorknob. At least, I think it is brass. Where is that magnet?


  1. A very interesting post. I enjoy seeing the variety of doorknobs. When I am out antiquing, those tortoise shell knobs always grab my attention.

  2. As I have mentioned before I live in an old house also. I am glad to see you have an eclectic group of door knobs too. It keeps things interesting! I have wanted to clean up the brass knobs that are original to my 1873 exterior Eastlake door but have never found a product that works very well. I just refer to the worn look as its patina now. Think how many hands have turned those knobs!

    Fun post!
    Love, Paula

  3. Hi Cass,
    This was a great post! You are so lucky to have all those vintage door knobs. I have always been drawn to the glass ones. I wonder if I can buy some on e-bay. Cindy

  4. What a wonderful collection of vintage doorknobs!...Debbie

  5. What a wonderful post and great photos of all of those doorknobs and more. I love how each one is so very different like they could tell stories of all the hands that touched them over the years. I simply love old things that have history. Thank you so much for sharing.
    Have a wonderful evening,


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