One of my favorite movies, a close second to “Mars Attacks!“, is the slightly surreal Goff in the Desert by German documentarian Heinz Emigholz. The video has no narration; it is simply a series of video shots taken around 2002 of various structures designed by Bruce Goff. Some of the camerawork is rough, and the soundtrack consists of background noises like traffic or birds chirping. I could watch it over and over again. I watched it again recently, looking for inspiration as I began to design a pocket door for my bathroom. There aren’t many doors in my house, and I will want them all to relate, so this first door was something of a commitment. The house itself is a modest fifty year old split level which was never completed. The original work was not consistent or significant, but it was termite-ridden. I have no qualms about starting completely over within the concrete block shell.
Those who admire Goff’s work know of his penchant for inserting heavy glass ashtrays into doors, walls, light fixtures, etc. I don’t want to copy him outright, but do want to achieve something of the feel of his houses by capturing light in unexpected ways and by incorporating some repetitive geometry and themes (in addition to using many commonplace materials in uncommon ways). A few years ago I had purchased a box of glass fruit jar lid inserts at an antique mall – not because I needed them but because they were interesting and very inexpensive. I decided to use these in my doors in lieu of ashtrays as they would produce a similar effect and I already had many to choose from. The following photos show the process.
Sadly, this is not my house. This is the Lawrence Hyde house in Prairie Village, Kansas (a private residence). Shown here is a door (or perhaps a faux door for the sake of symmetry) which incorporates Goff’s signature ashtrays. I’m striving for a similar, but not identical, effect.
Here is one of the glass lid inserts which I’m using. They are significantly smaller than ashtrays, and, obviously, round as opposed to square or diamond-shaped.
Here is my concept sketch for the door. Like most such drawings, the finished product usually turns out a little bit differently. In this case, I ended up using fewer glass inserts in order to make sure I would have enough for future doors. The small pieces of glass looked lost at the center of the door, so I moved them to the outside edge of the door.
The door is comprised of two sheets of 1/2″ plywood with a 1/4″ piece of masonite sandwiched in the center. The masonite creates enough room for the glass inserts to fit without getting smashed. Here I begin to drill holes at the center of each insert location. This will ensure that the holes in all three sections will align despite a slight difference in diameters.
Holes are drilled from the face of each side so that the inevitable rough edges will be hidden at the center. I forgot to photograph it, but the next step was gluing all the pieces together with the glass inserts carefully positioned. This took place on the living room floor. I then weighted the door with numerous concrete blocks and let it sit for a few days.
Here is the finished product in a very much unfinished laundry area. The door has been varnished but the surrounding wall, also of plywood, has not. I may put a pale colored stain on it, but am still weighing my options. The piece at the top conceals the track which was recycled from a bedroom closet. No need for a knob or pull… the recessed inserts work just fine for the purpose!
When the door is mostly hidden in the wall pocket, the glass inserts can still be enjoyed, sort of like a narrow sidelight. The sheet is to spare you from having to look at my chaotic and largely deconstructed (but still functional) bathroom. I did install a retractable pull in the edge of the door just so that you can pull the door back out if it is pushed into the pocket all the way.
A slightly closer view…
… and a very close view!