Did you think dutch doors were just a relic of the past — something relegated to another time and old Mr. Ed episodes? (whenever you bemoan the current landscape of television, check out clips of the Mr Ed show. You’ll feel better immediately.) Well, if so, prepare to be pleasantly surprised by the subtle comeback of the dutch door, the door that splits into two parts, an upper and a lower half, just like the magician’s assistant. And like the girl in the magic show, you can make the door whole again whenever you like by latching it together.
Of course dutch doors will never become requisite for every home — we’re far too invested in central air and the fear of West Nile virus-carrying mosquitoes — but they do speak to a certain nostalgia. An imagined time when you might share a conversation with a neighbor as you hang over your dutch door, the lower half carefully shut to signal, I like you, but not that much. You have come far enough across my threshold. A dutch door evokes a vision of an apple pie, freshly baked and cooling on that narrow attached shelf — that is until a passing mutt tries to nab it, which necessitates a dash out the half-door with a broom. Comedy ensues.
We consider these images — the neighborly chat, the cooling apple pie, the basic stuff gleaned from Tom Sawyer and Bugs Bunny episodes — to be our own memories, even though most of us have never personally experienced living with a dutch door and have no idea what on earth it’s for. If pressed to make a guess, I’d say the dutch door came into existence to keep the chickens and pigs out of the house while letting the air in. A sort of screen door concept before screen doors existed.
So I’m not sure why dutch doors are back, unless it is just part of the current moment of sentimentalizing anything dating to the 19th century, the earnest do-it-yourself knitting and pickling and all things analog, the determined exercises in nostalgia. Now, of course, we don’t need to keep the livestock out of the kitchen and if we want to speak to our neighbors, there is no need to holler at them out of a half-open door as they pass. We can just text them to let them know the pickles are ready.