Repurposing Indian Doors

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If you have an old camera or two, it looks nice on a bookshelf with a couple of hardcover books.  But what do you do with 75 old cameras?  Who has that many bookshelves?

It seemed a shame to have them packed away out of sight, but I wondered what kind of shelves would be appropriate to display so many old cameras, ranging anywhere from 40 to over 100 years old?  And I thought to myself, “What about repurposing some old doors?” (the other en vogue term is “upcycling”)

Blue Door

R.G. Swamy Electrical works

Driving through Chennai, you come across different “groupings” of shops – there will be a row of hardware shops, then a row of shops selling clothing, then a street with construction items…and eventually you will come across an entire section of road where they are selling nothing but doors. Old buildings are demolished, and the doors, often much more ornate than the ones above, are purchased, sanded down, refinished and turned into new doors. So I stopped by one of these shops and in broken English the shopkeepers kept asking about the size of door I needed, and showing me their newly refinished doors. I kept confusing them by going back to the stacked doors they hadn’t had a chance to strip yet. Then, once I had picked a few “half” doors out, they insisted they would finish them and repaint them, and this led to even more confusion.

Eventually I managed to convey that I wanted their dingy old doors with the chipped wood and multiple layers of paint peeling off, and then, once they realized I was crazy AND had some money to spend, the bidding war began. I’m sure I paid way more than I needed to. But I got my doors.


Technically, they’re all “half” doors – each of these would normally be connected with hinges to another just like it, latching to another pair (again, see photos above).  After dusting them off a little, I sawed them all in half lengthwise, and paid something like pennies for a dozen or so metal brackets and screws to hold them up.


Then, using some acrylic craft paints, I mixed colors to roughly match the natural wood and the layers of paint, and successively painted splotches of paint to make the brackets look like the doors.


Finally, lots of measuring and drilling, and the shelves were hung on the wall.


Finally, it was time to load them up.  Here’s the end result.  Now all that is needed is some lights to illuminate them properly.



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