MPF Conservation is a full-service company specializing in conservation, restoration and preservation of furnishings of upholstered and non-upholstered objects, textiles and interior architectural elements; this page features Doe Memorial Library Leather Doors (Doe) from the University of California, Berkeley.
Go here to read more about the Doe Memorial Library Hardware, including Decorative Nails.
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Above, three stages: left, the doors as they may have looked when installed (however they were overpainted in the original color here);
center, the doors which were painted at some time past by maintenance, more likely;
right, an attempt to re-leather the doors by another firm before we were hired to assess the doors, using a cow hide leather and overcoating the hardware.
The details of the Doe doors reflect the design of the Arts and Crafts Movement particular to California ca. 1910. John Galen Howard + staff’s visual blending of classical Italian with the Arts and Crafts could have resulted in an architectural cacophony, yet it resulted in the opposite.
The over painting of doors and moldings which we believe was not original, but done early in the Library’s history, has most certainly resulted in the experience of drawing the eye away from dramatic comparisons. However, there was a time, early in the Doe’s history, when these design elements sprang forth with distinction. We surmise the colors of the doors were a rich cordovan, example shown above left. Brasses were warm and bright. Metal flashings and decorative elements were polished and stood out, drawing the eye toward the door surrounds. The leather application above Door #4AB (see bottom this page) was rich with an appliqué of cordovan leather lacings and geometric design.
The rooms must have been a sight and probably provoked praise and criticism by purists. We have not had the time to dig into reviews of the Doe after its completion in 1917 but it would be interesting to hear the reviews.
The leather doors of the Doe are solid redwood core door, which were tin clad and then leathered. There are problematic areas on the restored doors, especially as regards longevity of workmanship and historical accuracy of materials, all of which can be resolved:
- Conservation techniques could repair the enlarged holes from two applications of decorative nails, which are loosening (longevity of workmanship).
- The brass could have its top coat removed (longevity of materials), the damage from probable porosites around the glass lights sealed with conservation quality materials (reparation) and be polished in a manner befitting the Doe Library (historical accuracy.)
- Leather could be changed to a sturdier leather (longevity of materials) without the current synthetic glossy topcoat (longevity of materials due to proper care) in a historically accurate finish.
MPFC is the voice for historical accuracy whenever possible, and for the best possible conservation methods even within a restorative endeavor such as this one for the Doe doors, remembering that conservation practices are not always too expensive! Sometimes budgeting to do a project with accuracy is a bit more in the short run and lasts a lifetime.
A Sampling of Doors:
Single doors, often fire exit doors or doors to offices or meeting rooms.
Double doors of two types, as some have glass lights above.
The leather application (in this case above Door #4AB) was rich with an appliqué of once cordovan leather lacings and geometric design reaching far above the doors themselves; these doors have been painted their current color. Excuse our images, the color is closest currently to the first image above.