Enfilade: More Than A Nice Word To Say

Enfilade: More Than A Nice Word To Say


An enfilade is a formal set of aligned doorways or passages leading from room to room. In this remarkable example, the enfilade of doors pairs with a set of windows allowing light to flow into the space and branch sideways into adjacent rooms.

In most houses, rooms have natural light from at least two walls; however apartments, generally in larger buildings, frequently only have natural light along one side of a room as a room won’t necessarily reach the corner of the building. The great private mansions of the world have this same issue. As a result, rooms with light along one wall often feel dark and “dead”.

Architects have solved this problem by using an enfilade of doorways. These doorways bring in light from adjacent rooms from either side of the first room, creating a feeling of depth. When an enfilade is created along a window-line, the effect is strengthened by bringing in even more light from the two sides of the room.

In this beautiful example on the Upper East Side of Manhattan architect/designers Torsten Schlauersbach and Annie Lo used an enfilade of passages along the window line to bring light through the doorways into adjacent rooms, and making a relatively modestly sized apartment feel palatial when viewed down the line.

A string of doors in a half open state would have been awkward, so the minimalist doors were recessed crisply into panelling with special Harmen hinges so that the openings would be deep paneled openings rather than “doorways.” To make the doors fully functional when closed, deep handles were placed on the doors to make them simple to grasp; but this then required a couture recess in the back of the panelling to accept the handle.

In the final step, one might notice two small dark circles on the floor. This inventive detail by the Swiss millworker Röthlisberger is a recessed “stop” that pops up magnetically as the door passes over it to stop the door; rather than the door stopping against an always present wooden stop at the head of the door.  In this way, the top jamb of the doorway can be smooth.

A paneled set of openings, opening on to a line of windows. An enfilade.

Photography: Susan Fisher Photography

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