Thursday, 9 May 2019

The Door Fits

Gregor and I had just picked up a Victorian chest of drawers from Taylor's Auction Rooms in Montrose, when Gregor piped up "Would you like to visit Steptoe's Yard?".

Steptoe's Yard for those of you not in the know, is an extraordinary emporium of second-hand items so overflowing and chaotic that it has outgrown the original building, filled several others, filled many shipping containers and spilled out into the surrounding gardens. Items may be found gently rusting or decomposing in piles, fully open to the elements, with barely discernible paths between these piles. The sheds are so full, that what were once corridors have long since been blocked, and one feels that items at the back must have been quite lost to humanity for a few decades.

For everyone, the first visit to Steptoe's is an assault on the senses and one's sense of order. It is almost impossible for the human brain to take in even a small proportion of what is for sale. For those who like order, the resulting distress might forbear a second visit. For those who delight in the ephemera of yesteryear, and for those who like exploring to find that obscure useful item or rummaging to come across an unexpected object of delight, Steptoe's is paradise.

As the restoration of Balintore Castle is an exercise in bringing life back to an old building, and gathering appropriate period fittings and fixtures, I naturally fall into the second camp, and my reply to Gregor was "Yes of course, but how far away is it?". In fact, the drive there is only 5 minutes. I never knew so I had missed many previous opportunities to do the Steptoe's and Taylor's double bill.

Anyhow at Steptoe's, Gregor and I quickly spotted 4 matching 4-paneled doors which were obviously "Balintore pieces". Normally, I reject doors below 3' wide as this is the smallest standard door at Balintore. However, there are a number of smaller doors required for odd spots (e.g. WC's and cupboards) so these doors at 2'9" wide and, most importantly, at just £20 each :-) were not to be sneezed at. Sure, they had areas of damage, but after minimal repair, they would be in quite serviceable condition. The doors were grained to look like oak like many of those at Balintore and have the correct dark brown hue, so the look was perfect.

Today Gregor and I picked up the doors using his trailer. As we were entering the rear of the big shed, I spotted another matching door but this one was narrower: just 25". Gregor mentioned it was the right width for a servant's corridor door opening we had been trying to find a door for. We reckon the original castle door was around 24" wide, but unfortunately we had not taken a measurement of the height of the opening and to both of us, the narrow Steptoe door seemed rather too high. I thought for £20 we could take the gamble: we could cut down the height of the door a little but any more than a couple of inches would destroy the structure of the door.

Anyhow, when we got back to the castle , Gregor placed the narrow door in the narrow door frame. Et voila, almost a perfect fit! The original scouting trip to Steptoe's had been serendipitous, and the resulting  pick-up trip had also been serendipitous. The outcome is that we managed to solve a long-standing restoration problem, without even trying to solve it!

I am intrigued by the machinations of fate that steer objects into our path. I would not call it "cosmic ordering", and you may cynically call it just "commerce", but I think it is more about being open to the universe and the people around us with common interests.

the door fits !


  1. I would have believed if you had told me this is the original door. It fits so well. Congrats! :)

  2. Years ago on doing up our house in the country I came across a skip in Paris on my way home and in it was 16 Matching doors all with just one coat of paint. The doors were all with moldings and had come from a Haussmanien apartement nearby. I called my boyfriend who came with the pick up truck and although I was dressed to kil as they way I got into the skip jsut as it began to rain and shoved the doors out one by one as my bf Grabbed them as it's illegal to take stuff from skips, this has never stopped me ! I once got stuck in a skip and had to wait for ages until someone walked past.

    1. Gosh a lady after my own heart. :-) What a fantastic find. Where are those doors now? I can imagine the quality of Haussmann doors being nothing less than superb.

      I got stuck in a skip too. My friend was there but was disinclined to rescue me, and it took me around 30 minutes to climb out.

    2. Well as for the doors when we sold the house after a separation ( 19 years ) we left the doors and al lthe fittings we had bought to finish the house. I do regret two huge pine doors found in an abandonend house in the highlands that was later totally remodernised, yuk ! I saw an antique french pot in the bottom of an empty skip and got up on the Bench nearby and jumped in and retrieved the pot, felt so pleased with myself and then realised that there was Nothing to climb up on to get out so I waited and eventually a man in a suit came by and I said 'coucou' as you do in such situations and he looked around and even up in the air ! Eventually and against his better judgement he pulled me up and over ! So now I look before I leap ( most of the time ) xx