A look at the Hand Painted Doors here in my House

Hand Painted Trompe l'oeil Doors add visual interest to my Home

Hand Painted Trompe l’oeil Doors add visual interest to my Home

I love my house, but don’t love the hollow core doors that came with it. I live in a 1950’s split level styled house that has big spacious rooms, tons of natural light that streams in through many large windows, and my house has a combination of both cozy and airy spaces. The 1950’s were also a time when builders of mid-century modern styled buildings were into minimal ornamentation when it came to things like kitchen cabinets, woodwork, crown molding, fireplace mantels, and both interior and exterior door styles.

Over the years, here at Whimsey Hill House, I’ve come to realize that my soul needs craves details, ornamentation and color to feel more at peace.

When I first moved here in 1990, I hung wallpaper in many of the rooms.  I using it either  on accent walls or run it around the rooms in one way or another as a border; and painted every other inch of the walls and woodwork a crisp white color. I lived with the white paint for a little over ten years because it looked clean and fresh, but something was always missing. The white paint which I colored my rooms with, which are void of any kind of architectural details, was just too plain and uninteresting for me. If I had large profile woodwork, eye-catching crown moldings and substantial looking six panel doors, which when light washed over them, those surfaces produced shadows and highlights, that probably would have made a difference. But as it goes, I am stuck with almost nonexistent 1950’s ranch molding and a lot of flat nondescript office building looking interior doors in every room.

Not wanting to spend a fortune changing out all the moldings and interior doors, I did my best to give my house some pizzazz. I started by rollering gallons of colorful paint across the walls and used my artistic talents to turn some (but not all) of the interior doors from unforgettable to what I feel is fabulous. I love how they turned out and am living happily with them.

The first set of doors I tackled are a pair of front hall closet doors that you first see when entering my house. They are the cover photo for this post. Those doors and all the other doors in my house were originally a natural wood color when I moved in that had darkened a lot do to the aging varnish painted on them. The first thing, after moving in, in 1990, was to change their color. I sanded them to roughen up their surfaces, painted them with a wood or drywall primer like Kilz, and painted them a pure white in a semigloss finish.

When I finally knew the white walls had to go, I also had the idea of trying to paint some kind of mural on the doors to give details to their flat surfaces. To prep the semi gloss white-painted doors for the first mural, I sanded then again to roughen up the semigloss paint, and applied two coats of a primer for acrylic artist’s paints called gesso.

Never having done a large project like that before, I taped rolled tracing paper over the gesso primed doors, and with a number 2 pencil started drawing out what I wanted the finished painting to hopefully look like. I knew I was going to have a mural that was framed by interior ranch molding, so I decided to paint French doors opening out from that molding onto a garden space. I’ve always thought that the views of water in the distance with boats, and a sky filled with fluffy cloud were relaxing, so I had to work those elements into the picture. As for it being a certain time of year, I wanted it to be season neutral, as here in upstate New York we have four distinct seasons, and I didn’t want the mural to compete with anything going on outside. I thought, by keeping the landscape mostly green, and not showing any kind of distinctive flowers that are evocative of a certain period of gardening during the year would be best. I also love the look of formal gardens, with their clipped shrubs, fountains, and other architectural elements, so I decided to fulfill my fantasies and incorporate those kinds of elements in my painting. After drawing all of the elements out on the paper, I took it down, blackened its backside with pencil, taped it up again on the doors, and traced over the initial drawing, which transferred it to the gessoed doors. Following that I painted the doors using acrylic paints. After finishing the mural I coated it with three coats of water-based matte medium varnish to protect the paint and to make it kind of washable.

A door at the end of a long narrow hallway.

A door at the end of a long narrow hallway.

My second mural was the door at the end of the hallway. I wanted to suggest space and openness with a long vistas view that a flat door, no matter what color it was painted, could not offer.

The door in my TV room

The door in my TV room

In my red TV room I painted  doors, draped in fabric, that open out onto steps that bring the viewers eyes up to a building that sits on the edge of a cliff by a lake. When I look at it I think I am looking at a Mediterranean villa, possibly in Italy.

A pocket door in the Dining Room

A pocket door in the Dining Room

A pocket door in the dining room was painted next. The coral pink colors from the wallpaper are used in the painting on the cushions of the chairs seen in the distance and in the flower beds, so everything is coordinated.    To make the striped wallpaper, that I hung up ten years previously,  go with the new paint color that I used across the top of the room,  I even taped off and painted extra stripes of green on the striped wallpaper so the two not exactly color-matched elements would work harmoniously with each other.

A mural painted on the closet doors of my guest bedroom

A mural painted on the closet doors of my guest bedroom

I’ve always loved a covered porch and the look of a shingled styled house, but have neither; so to fulfill that fantasy I painted them along with some wonderful wicker chairs and a spectacular river view, on the doors of my guest room. There is something about waking up and looking over at the mural, it is soo calm and peaceful. I also call the guest room the Ralph Lauren bedroom, because all  the bedding, drapes, wallpaper and borders came from his company.

A mural on the door to my bathroom

A mural on the door to my bathroom

I’ve always loved Newport, Rhode Island, and one of my favorite places there is the Inn at Castle Hill.  I love sitting there on one of their many Adirondack styled chairs, having a cold drink on a hot Summer day and enjoying the view.  As an ode to Newport, I painted one of my iron lawn chairs and a cast aluminum table I have, shown on a deck, with the Newport bridge in the distance. The Newport harbor is always filled with many boats, so I included some to show movement and visual interest.

A door to a half bath off of the kitchen

A door to a half bath off of the kitchen

Last, but not least is the door to a half bath off of the kitchen. The inspiration for it was a path to a Chinese temple in the garden of Naumkeag, which is a gilded age country estate in Stockbridge, Massachusetts that is located in the Berkshires. The water seen in the background is not actually there, but water is a reoccurring theme in all of my other door murals, so I also used it there.

So there you have it, a look at some of my more large-scale paintings which are a bit more finished than the illustrations I make for this blog. If you are interested in seeing some of my other artworks click here to see my post Fred Gonsowski Artwork, before the blog.

Companion Post ..About Fred,
Some pictures of me, Fred Gonsowski, writer of this blog 1-8-2013,

Arranging Living Room Furniture, so Sofas talk to Chairs, Like the Pros do 9-7-2012,
Arranging Living Room Furniture TWELVE different ways in the Same Room 9-15-2012,
Interior Decorating is ALL about Equal Balance 2-27-2011,
The Right way to Hang Curtains and Drapes 5-3-2011
When Designing a Beige Room, think Tones, Textures and Sculptural Interest 3-16-2011
Paint a room a Dark Color, then ADD light Accents 3-27-2011,
Pick (Use) Four colors when decorating a Room 3-7-2011,
Picking the Right Paint colors to go with the Wood in your Home..Color Theory 3-9-2013
The Right height of Table Lamp for your End Table 5-19-2011


About fredgonsowskigardenhome

Your eyes deserve to view beauty. I hope Fred Gonsowski Garden Home helps to turn your vision, into a reality.
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11 Responses to A look at the Hand Painted Doors here in my House

  1. Cheryl Rafuse says:

    That’s talent , thanks for sharing . The best I can accomplish is the use of stencils, but I was happy with my wisteria dnrm for a long time. The kids were disappointed when I painted over it as I had hidden a small spider on his web and birds, bees for them to find. Thanks again for sharing your home with us.

    • Hi there Cheryl, I bought a camera last Spring and only had the time to get it going about a week ago. So besides being able to add my picture to the blog articles, I thought I would do a post showing some of my artworks. Now that I kind of know how to work the camera, I will hopefully use it more often, if I want to show something that I think my readers will be interested in. But this blog will mostly be about my drawings versus photos to present the different topics I want to write about.

  2. teresa says:

    This is phenomenal. I have a lot to say, but for the moment leave it at that! thank you for sharing.

  3. pbmgarden says:

    Fred, this must be so fun to live amongst. Awesome in the original sense of the word! susie

    • Hi there Susie the pbmgarden gal. I think there is something about knowing something is wrong, and it bothers you all the time, not unlike a dull ache. But once the things are in place, your mind feels kind of relieved, as there is now a calm, so you forget about it, and maybe don’t even notice it too much on the day to day basis. I live with the pieces, and in a way am used to seeing them. It is just like moving into a big house, or winning the lottery. At first it is exciting, and after a while it is just an every day thing. Thanks for your comment ;-}

  4. What an interesting concept and not one I’ve seen before, kind of surreal in a way too, seeing out to somewhere that doesn’t exist. Really well done.

    Buckets & Spades

  5. Joy von Glueck says:

    What a wonderful way to add dimension and life to home! and what an artist! How long did it take to do all the doors? Guests must just oooo and ahhh when they are greeted which such beauty–what an amazing surprise for them! .And I can can also identify with opening your eyes each morn to see a beautiful vista and revel in the warmth of it. Thank you for sharing that. Cant wait to look at your other art work!

  6. David Williams-Judd says:

    Amazing doors….
    I am an Appraiser of Antiques and Decorative Arts in Boise, ID and we have been hired to appraise two sets of hand painted door panels in a very similar style to the work you have done in your home.

    Would it be possible for you to contact me via email? I would like to share some photos with you and get your expert opinion.

    Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

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