Mid-Century Modern Doors: Jon Jarrett's Vintage Hardware

Eichler Escutcheon

The front door is the first part of our home most people see up close, so for those who want to project vintage style, it's one of the most important aspects to get right. In the past few months, a couple of postings have appeared on our forums with people offering vintage door hardware. But  redoing a door isn’t something one necessarily does on a whim, so I got to wondering how one could get reliable access to vintage-looking doors and hardware.

The first stop was the archives of CA-Modern, where Tanja Kern introduced a number of resources several years ago. A few established companies sell both new doors and kits to give your entryway a vintage look. Crestview, for example, sells both: Its Doorlite kits (currently on back order) allow you to install mid-century style windows in an existing solid door, while its line of original doors offers vintage styles priced between about $2,500 and $3,500. Therma-Tru, similarly, offers vintage-style windowed doors, though its website doesn't give prices.

 

Crestview
A sample of Crestview's offerings.

 

Vintage door hardware is much harder to acquire, but fortunately one resource Kern tracked down is still going strong. That's Jon Jarrett, an Eichler owner in Orange, who makes vintage mid-century modern escutcheons (the metal panel in which a doorknob sits) as a hobby on the side of his profession as a machinist. A standard doorknob kit with an Eichler escutcheon starts at $200. Then there are options to add a deadbolt. He offers two different styles: An original Eichler, which looks like a shallow cone, and a rosette-style plate, which he sells by itself to work with Shlage residential-style knobs.

"The only thing I can't really emulate is the shape of the doorknob itself. Sargent did a masterpiece on that doorknob if you ask me," Jarrett said on the phone. "To this day I get requests for a tulip-shape knob. I don't really have control over that, and if I did the cost of the kit would be ten-fold." Jarrett sells the escutcheons via email. He doesn't even have a website because he said he might not be able to keep up with the demand what with his day job.

Jarrett told me he got interested in making the escutcheons when he and his wife moved into their Eichler in 2004. "It was one of those that's kind of a fixer. We got it at a relatively low price, but a lot of its originality was missing. The '70s and '80s weren't kind to this tract." One big problem was the stained glass door, which did not match the home at all.

Doorknobs
Top: Eichler escutcheon plates. Bottom: Rosette plates.

Fortunately Jarrett, a machinist in the aerospace business, builds stuff like this for a living. So when he couldn't find an original Eichler escutcheon in good condition, he decided to build one. Creating the plate itself was simple, but affixing it to the door and knob took some reverse engineering.

"I took a kwikset keyed entry front door set, got it taken apart completely, right down to the lock cylinder. There's all these little components. And I found this circular clip holds the doorknob to the inner lock mechanism. I rebuilt it around the escutcheon plate that I had machined. It wasn't long before I figured out how to get the inner mechanism built into the escutcheon plate," Jarrett explained.

But since selling these escutcheon kits is a side-job for Jarrett, for which he uses his boss's machines, he doesn't have the capacity to offer a wider variety of options. And he said his round plates probably wouldn't look great with the square, rectangle, and diamond patterns in the Crestview doors.

Fortunately for those who want or have a Crestview door, starburst-pattern escutcheons seem to be much more common on eBay than the round, vintage Eichler ones. Overall, though, it's hard to get any new, vintage-looking hardware other than the round escutcheons Jarrett makes. "That's where a guy could do a little better with a C&C milling machine and start banging out square shapes and rectangles," he said. Entrepreneurs, take note!