Sliding versus bifold


Edward Stobart of ID Systems looks at how recent trends in residential glazing are affecting the sliding versus bifold doors debate

For the past two decades, the trends in home design and customer demand have seen significant shifts when it comes to glazing requirements. While the same can be said for commercial buildings and even public sector projects, the trends have been even more obvious and more varied in the residential sector.

Driven equally by the aspirations of end-clients, the innovation of architects and the development of glass technology, the specification of glazed doors have shifted backwards and forwards over the past two decades.

At the heart of the trends has been the growth of the open-plan kitchen and living space. Whether it’s achieved by extension, renovation, remodel or complete new-build, the desire for larger, more spacious kitchens have had a significant impact well beyond the choice of cabinets and layout of appliances.

For an increasing number of people, a modern lifestyle means staggered working hours and less time together as a family, meaning that catching up all together around the dinner table happens less and less. Add into the mix modern technology and wifi connections and watching TV, listening to music or being online can be done from anywhere in the home.

This has contributed to the rise of open-plan house layouts, as occupants make an effort to stay connected to one another. Having settled upon an open-plan living space for the whole family, the next steps are to fill these spaces full of natural light and to break down the boundaries between inside and out.

For the first 10 years of the 21st century, the trend in achieving this was focused on large glazed folding doors. The concertina design allowed for larger openings filled with glass that slid and stacked to one end to create a seamless transition between the home and garden.

Originally an import from continental Europe where the long, consistently warm and sunny days are perfectly suited for having the doors open, the limitations of folding doors comes with the changeable British climate and particularly when the doors are closed, because with narrower panels and larger frames there is more obstruction to the view out and the light let in.

For this reason the past decade has very much seen the trend switch to sliding doors, where the huge panels (up to 3 m across and minimal sightlines down to an incredibly slim 20 mm) make them far more suited to being closed. The slender frames provide an almost completely unobstructed view helping to breakdown the boundaries between inside and out and to create contemporary, light-filled spaces in the house.

What we have seen over the past decade has been a more educated and informed end-client. They are much more comfortable with the products that are available to them and we know from talking to architects on a regular basis that has allowed the style of door to play a greater role in the briefing process and the design of the project. We are now in a position where it is very rare for an architect-specified project to contain bifold doors, which would never have been the case 10 years ago.

In recent years the choice between door systems has been expanded to include slide and turn doors with systems. With narrow frames like sliding doors but with the ability to slide and stack the panels at one end just like bifold doors, this style of door provides an innovative third option. Without the requirement for a fixed frame like a sliding door, slide and turn systems can maximise the opening when the doors are stacked to one end and yet with slender 45 mm sightlines they allow for larger panes of glass with less visible frame.

Edward Stobart is head of projects at ID Systems