French door ideas – 15 stylish designs to connect indoors with out

These beautiful French door ideas will help you to reinvent the look and feel of your home

French door ideas
(Image credit: Future)

Instantly opening up the look and feel of your home, French door ideas are a fabulous addition to your property. 

Whether you’re looking for a way to tackle a dark kitchen or want to gain better backyard access from your main living area, French doors flood the home with natural light while also offering unrestricted views over the garden. Differing from patio doors in that they open on hinges, rather than slide they are perfect for more traditional homes.

'French doors provide a lovely way to not only allow maximum light inside but also to create an easy transition to outdoors. Originating in France during the renaissance, these large paned 'windows' were designed to open, allowing access to a balcony. This idea evolved into what we now know as two side-by-side glass-paned doors. Having the option to swing open just one door, or both for a double wide opening, marries flow and function beautifully,' explains Kristina Phillips of Kristina Phillips Interior Design (opens in new tab).

French door ideas

As indicated by their name, French doors have their origins in France where they were called porte-fenêtre, literally door window. Created during the Renaissance era, they were symbolic of the period – embracing the precise symmetry, proportion, and geometry which was in vogue. 

Traditional French doors were constructed from several panes of glass, joined together with wood, and were used on the second story to allow access to a balcony while flooding the room with light.

Today, French doors are a popular addition to kitchen extensions or living rooms, typically providing access to a patio and are also a great way to make the exterior of my house look expensive.

1. Add space without extending

Patio area with paving, garden furniture and french doors outside a converted Victorian coachhouse

(Image credit: Future/Jody Stewart)

If you like to entertain or are hoping to expand the size of your home, then installing French doors can help you to transform the garden into an outdoor living space. This provides the benefits of extending at a fraction of the cost. When installing patio doors, you also need to consider the access point and whether you want to add a step or want a seamless link between outdoors and in. 

Pair with entertaining garden ideas or outdoor dining ideas to make the most of your newfound outdoor room. 

2. Use French doors to brighten your home

voile curtains by patio doors in dining seating area

(Image credit: Hillarys)

French door ideas are one of the best ways to increase natural light. Perfect for tackling a dark kitchen or living room, French doors increase the amount of glazing and as such will brighten the space, especially when paired with other lightening measures like white walls. 

Retain the high light levels without compromising privacy by pairing French door ideas with sheer or voile curtain ideas. Alternatively, there are also lots of great curtain ideas for French and patio doors if you want to bring in color and pattern.

3. Choose French doors to open up small spaces

Mid century upholstered armchair on rug by French door to garden, curtains with floral pattern

(Image credit: Dan Duchars)

Since French doors are only the width of two standard doors, they are the ideal option for smaller spaces or for interiors where large areas of glazing would look out of place. Opt for a traditional style for a modest look or add texture and color to your interiors with a more industrial-inspired design. 

4. Think about the interiors as well as exterior

green kitchen in an oak frame extension with patio doors

(Image credit: herringbone kitchen)

Appearance plays a highly significant role when it comes to French doors ideas After all, they change the fabric of your home and as such must look the part. 

It is likely that your focus will be on the external appearance – however, it is equally, if not more, essential to give due consideration to their internal look and placement. After all, your French doors must complement your garden ideas and decorating ideas simultaneously. 

Think about the materials that are chosen – whether they need to be painted to match your scheme or whether the natural appearance of metal or timber suits your space. Also, take into account how the French door ideas will sit within the room both in terms of flow and how they interact with the furniture in the room. 

5. Consider materials that offer longevity

large crittall style glazed wall and patio doors offering light to the garden

(Image credit: Architectural Bronze Casements)

When adding anything new to the home, you want to know that it will last. Therefore, when it comes to French door ideas, materials are an essential consideration. The main options are timber and metal. Metal, typically aluminum will provide a lightweight and durable choice however, its more modern aesthetic means they won’t suit every interior.

With the developments in modified timber, timber’s high maintenance is no longer the challenge that it once was, making it a great choice for homes that embrace more traditional decorating ideas. Accoya, the most popular of the modified timbers, is 60 per cent stronger than hardwood with a lifespan of around 80 years.

6. Add to a second story for a romantic touch

bedroom with oak beams and french doors

(Image credit: Border Oak)

French doors ideas are not limited to the ground floor, they can have a transformative effect when added to second or even third stories and paired with Juliet balconies.

‘If your second floor has lovely views then incorporating French door ideas can really transform and elevate the space – it really injects a little bit of unexpected fun. It is also a really clever way of adding more light but also providing a sense of connection to the outside through all seasons – which you can enjoy from your bed or a well-placed armchair. 

Unless you plan to have an external balcony most French doors on upper floors open inwards and to be compliant with regulations will require a form of enclosure to prevent someone from falling out. We often address this with a discreet glass panel or maybe a hand-forged metal frontage that looks beautiful from the outside and within. The protection needs to be a certain height to comply and not have gaps at the sides or bottom that may be a hazard,’ says Merry Albright, creative director at Border Oak (opens in new tab).

7. Choose classic French doors for a traditional scheme

living room with French door curtains, yellow rug, green sofa, artwork on walls armchairs

(Image credit: Kelling Designs)

In a traditional setting, such as in traditional living room ideas, there could be no better access to the exterior than French doors. Make the most of alcoves, framed with curtains to give the new addition a classic look and provide a seamless flow between outdoors and in.

8. Steel to bring an industrial edge

French-door-ideas-Mark-Bolton

(Image credit: Future/Mark Bolton)

Dating back to the 1880s, Crittall (opens in new tab) steel windows and doors were first developed by English ironmonger Francis Henry Crittall. Fast forward to this century and the brand is still going strong, helped in part by people's love of heritage designs and of all things industrial. 

While Crittall is a trademark and refers only to windows and doors made by the brand, the look is often replicated by a variety of companies using steel and even aluminum. Regardless of the source, this style of French door works beautifully in traditional as well as modern homes, flanked by a host of coordinating window panels.

9. Brighten a dark room

French-door-ideas-Nick-Pope

(Image credit: Future/Nick Pope)

Choosing simple white-painted timber framed French doors allows light to flood into a north-facing room, making the most of the little daylight the space would normally receive. The large panels of glass also ensure a clear view out into the backyard.

10. Add instant access to a terrace

pink bedroom with painted French doors and curtains looking out into garden

(Image credit: Gunter & Co )

If your bedroom ideas adjoin a terrace area – whether on the ground floor or on a higher story – pair with French door ideas to provide access to the outdoors. Not only will this create valuable extra space, but it will also help to make your bedroom relaxing

If you don't have a terrace and your bedroom overlooks a flat roof, look to develop the roof into a terrace. While bi-fold door ideas usually look best on the ground floor, French doors are the ideal choice when installing upper-floor bedroom access to a terrace. 

You can then transform your terrace into a serene balcony garden with the best balcony plants, or if you live in a colder part of the country, then you can take advantage of these cozy small balcony ideas.

11. Go for double height doors

French-door-ideas-IQ-Glass

(Image credit: IQ Glass)

Instead of installing smaller doors with glazed surrounds, consider double-height doors for a striking finish. As well as filling the space with daylight, the larger the opening when the doors are ajar, the easier it is for fresh air to circulate while enjoying wide open views outdoors. French doors – especially when installed as part of kitchen ideas – are a great way to make a home look expensive.

12. Soften the look with an arched door

French-door-ideas-Polly-Eltes-arch

(Image credit: Future/Polly Eltes)

Prefer a traditional feel? Arched doors, with their obvious feminine appeal, can lend a more delicate edge to a scheme. Painted white, these timber doors keep the look light and bright.

13. Team with plenty of adjacent glazing

French-door-ideas-Polly-Eltes-exterior

(Image credit: Future/Polly Eltes)

'French doors look great with fixed panels of glazing either side or above,' advises Matt Higgs, Director and co-owner of Kloeber (opens in new tab). 'This is often a great alternative for a large space that sometimes becomes more cost-effective than a sliding or bi-folding door.' 

14. Choose them for unusual spaces

French-door-ideas-Kloeber

(Image credit: Kloeber)

In the case of unusually shaped openings, like this project by Kloeber, these aluminum French doors fit the pitched opening perfectly, while allowing surrounding panels of glass to encourage more light into the space. 

15. Opt for wide width doors

French-door-ideas-IQ-Glass-exterior

(Image credit: IQ Glass)

This project by HollandGreen (opens in new tab) used glazing systems by IQ Glass (opens in new tab) helped achieve the homeowner's much-wanted connection to their outdoor living space. The doors are echoed by similar glazing at the front of the property. In warmer weather, these can be opened wide to enjoy the views into the garden.

What are French doors?

French doors are the first and original patio door: a classic glazed door that opens out to a backyard, balcony, or terrace. 

Thought to date back to the 16th century and Renaissance architecture, the French adopted the look widely in the following century, and from then on, the name stuck.

Unlike sliding, bi-fold, or pivot doors, French doors are the traditional choice as they don't require complicated mechanisms to work and provide simple access to your home's exterior. 

French doors can open inwards or outwards depending on what hinge you choose, it's worth bearing in mind what space you have both inside and out beforehand you decide.

Are French doors out of style?

No, French doors are a timeless addition to a home and have been in style for many years. Praised for their versatility, they work in myriad different spaces and help to flood a room with light while also providing access to the outside.

What is the best material for French doors?

Much like bi-fold doors, French doors can be made in a wide choice of materials like timber, aluminum, alu-clad (aluminum on the exterior, timber on the interior), steel or uPVC.

As Matt Higgs, Director and co-owner of Kloeber says: 'Timber is very strong, secure, thermally efficient and cost-effective, whilst aluminum is low maintenance and has slim sightlines (frames). UPVC is the option for people with a lower budget whilst alu-clad offers all the benefits of both timber and aluminum but tends to be expensive. We’re seeing that lots of people are looking to go with a more heritage, steel window looks with slim black frames and glazing bars to give that industrial or art deco feel.'

While the decision between which style of door you choose – from bi-folds to French – is purely down to esthetics, the material you choose for the frame can have a large impact on the performance of the doors. 'Whilst aluminum is always very good for airtightness and many systems are good insulators, not all are and aluminum can often be the chunkiest framing material, or at least appear so in real life,' says Rodrigo Moreno Masey, Director at Moreno Masey (opens in new tab). Timber sometimes is chunkier, though its traditional connotations make the size feel more acceptable.'

What is the difference between a French door and a double door?

The difference between a  French door and a double door is that: French doors are two doors that are almost or totally glazed – combining the purpose of windows and doors – while a double door will be predominately solid, perhaps with a small glazed light. 

Ginevra Benedetti
Contributing Editor

Ginevra Benedetti is Associate Editor on the Homes Content Team at Future. She has been writing about interiors for the past 16 years on the majority of Britain’s monthly interiors titles, such as Ideal Home, Country Homes & Interiors and Style at Home, as well as Livingetc and of course, Homes & Gardens. This naturally lead her into writing for websites like HomesandGardens.com.

With contributions from