The Doors of Royal Circus

The Doors of Royal Circus

The History and Mystery Behind Our Main Entrance

As I write this post, it has been just eight weeks since we first opened our doors to the public. Of the ten thousand steps leading to that moment, without a doubt one of the biggest was actually getting these doors into place.

Our goal all along was to create the kind of home furnishings shop that might have resulted if Tim Burton and Wes Anderson had teamed up to sell furniture. An essential ingredient? A doorway that served as a beacon, a portal, a cosmic homing signal. We knew we needed to go big.

 The doors as we found them

I spent a couple of days looking at pretty much every set of antique doors I could find online. My favorite pair, by far, was this one. They fit our budget (barely). They fit the opening in the 18-inch thick stone wall at the front of our shop. And miraculously, they were only two hours away in Cullman, Alabama at the incomparable Southern Accents.

The building owner, himself a contractor specializing in historic renovations, met me in Cullman to inspect the doors in person. Technically speaking, there were so many potential dealbreakers. But everything was exactly as it needed to be, so we decided to go for it.

The only major wrinkle: Nashville building codes and fire regulations dictated that one of the doors would have to be widened to allow for a quick exit in case of emergency. Southern Accents took care of the work before delivering everything to our shop.

Making one door wider meant both doors would be stripped. We loved them in their original antique condition, and would have never considered refinishing. But now we had a lot of latitude. We ended up deciding to paint the doors in multiple coats of real copper. Before the final coat could dry, we’d spritz it with acid to oxidize them. The resulting greenish-blue patina is called verdigris, in case you’re wondering.

Aside from the sheer weight of these grand 19th-century doors, the most difficult part of the project was knowing that we had very little control over the oxidation process. Basically, you spray the magic potion onto the final coat of copper, then come back the next morning to see what you’ve created.

When it comes to evoking a vintage patina, it’d be fair to describe my business partner Geoffrey and me as serious control freaks. But we really had no choice but to let go and allow the process to go wherever it wanted. Fortunately, we were very pleased with the results.

The final big step before adding hardware was to protect this new old finish from the elements. Our storefront faces due south, so we get lots of direct sunlight, not to mention wind and rain. We added multiple layers of two different clear coats, essentially encasing the doors in a very strong protective bubble. Applying this stuff was no fun whatsoever. Unless you count me laughing at Geoffrey suiting up for the nasty job of spraying highly toxic sticky goo.

In the end, all the effort more than paid off. We love our doors. Apparently, so do all the people who stop to take photos in front of them. Lots of those people end up coming inside to investigate further. And lots of those people become customers. Some have even become friends.

Want to see all of this in person? Visit us at 438 Houston Street, Nashville.

Michael Dukes
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