A Door That Took Seven Men to Carry

Watch your head — which you must if you are taller than 4 1/2 feet — when you step into the India pied-à-terre, our apartment in Chennai, India, for the height of the door is low. It’s tradition to bow your head as you pass through the door. The door is over 100 years old and so heavy it took seven men to carry it up four flights of stairs! It’s ornately carved, at least ornate for my taste. But choosing it wasn’t so much about what we like, it was more about preserving a piece of history. It came from an old home in Kanchipuram, a South Indian village where traditional saris are hand-spun with threads of real gold. Here are some door details:

India pied-a-terre Main Entrance

It is Krishna here, a Hindu god, playing a flute at the top of the door:

Krisha on Antique South Indian Wood Door

And, um, apologies for the dust and cobwebs there. We should clean up better for visitors! Please forgive us, we are at the apartment only once a year or so.

The massive doorknocker. You don’t have scale here, but it is bigger than my  hand!

Doorknocker on Antique South Indian Door

I leave the natural verdigris patina alone for now.

There are lotuses and Annapakshi birds — mythical and wise Indian birds that descend from the heavens and bring prosperity. The Annapakshi bird motif is often woven into saris made in Kanchipuram.

Everything is a symbol and everything has meaning:

Carved Antique South Indian Door

Someone, or a few someones, labored hard to carve a story into this door.

There’s a skeleton key lock that you can see through, for real.

Skeleton Key Lock

And what lies beyond?

Well, this is the first time I stepped into the apartment, four years ago:

It looks much the same today! Pretty much empty. That will change in September, when we’ll visit the apartment to do some work on it. I’m looking at old pictures of the apartment now, planning for some projects.

Here’s the back side of the main door, the very rustic side that’s inside the apartment:

Antique South Indian Door

Those shiny silver bolts need to be antiqued and sawed off flush — no detail left forgotten. As you can see in this next pic, this door is a prominent feature in the entry area. And because of the apartment’s open floor plan, the door is visible from everywhere. So it kind of dictates some rustic Indian countryside decor.

India pied-a-terre Foyer

I’m shooting for Rustic + Elegant. My moodboard to decorate this space is this:

And yes the door is to scale there — it looks weird but it is a short door!

We have a lot of work to do but there will always be this to fall back on … my curvy teak and rattan chair:

Teak Indian Lounge Chair

We found it in 2013 in Cochin and it was delivered minutes before we had to leave for a flight, so I had maybe 60 seconds to sit on it! Really looking forward to spending more time on this chair …

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6 Replies to “A Door That Took Seven Men to Carry”

    1. Thank you so much Lydia! :) You have a stunning collection of finds from India – the hunt is so fun, isn’t it! I originally saw a chair like that over 10 years ago and waited all those years to get one and have a spot for it …

      1. Hi Deb,

        *Love* your aesthetic and DIY flair. I remember you had mentioned an online interior decor course you took, maybe a year or so ago. Can you point me to it? I definitely need help in that area – thanks!!

        1. Hi Rita, thank you so much! Yes, I remember us talking about online courses – I wound up never taking a course. I’m now not remembering the course I was talking about. Hmmm. In lieu of a course there probably are some good books with guidance about proportion, balance, color, etc. I’ve thought about looking in to those too. Never enough time in a day!

  1. Our old house is having exactly same door. We dont know when the house was build. I heard it was more than 100 years old. Can u please let me know if you have any details when exactly this type of doors exists.

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