This Is What the Little Doors in Old Houses Are Really For

Updated: Feb. 09, 2022

The odd little doors in old houses all had a purpose at one time, even though we might not use them anymore.

For those of us that live in old houses—from before the 1950s—there are design quirks that act as conversation starters. Even though we’re scratching our heads at some old home features, they were perfectly functional 75 years ago. But those details don’t make the most sense now. There’s no need to have a coal door or an icebox door today, right?

If you have a small door next to your closet, it had a purpose in the ’50s and ’60s. Here’s what those little doors in old houses were for!

Speaking of doors—if you’ve ever see an old house with two front doors, this is why.

What People Think the Doors For

If you have a mini door next to a closet in the hallways, you can rest easy, because it isn’t for someone to hide in. The doors are usually narrow, about 12 inches in width and less than half the height of a standard closet. They’ve got some depth to them, too, usually about three feet.

Often, most people assume this door conceals a luggage closet. Keeping it next to a closet would be logical. But the space seems a little tight for a large suitcase, especially since old suitcases didn’t have wheels. Other popular guesses include linen storage, or space for an ironing board.

If you’re about to tackle reorganizing your closet, here are some storage solutions for small spaces.

The Real Purpose of Little Doors

In some old houses, the little doors are designated storage space for a card table! These small spaces were meant to keep card tables—which almost everyone had in the 1950s—tucked away neat and tidy until you had company over.

As with some of the household designs mentioned before, this might not make much sense to us now, especially when those of us in the Midwest have basements that are perfect for storage. Keep in mind that card games were a prime source of entertainment and socializing in the ’50s, and it would’ve made since to be able to stow a card table in a hall closet.

Still need more door trivia? Here’s why some houses in the South have “hospitality doors”.

Vintage Appetizers for Your Card Night
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