Monday, August 16, 2021

Old World Painted Overdoors.....And How To Get A Similar Look.


In each style period, from the Renaissance through the end of the 18th century - The Golden Age of French Interior Design, you can find the use of the overdoor. Usually they are found in castles, chateaus, villas, and other aristocratic residences. While there are many different styles of overdoor, this blog post spotlights my personal favorite, the oil painted overdoor. 

Doors are one of the elements of your home’s design that will be noticed by everyone. Wealthy 18th century chateau owners certainly understood this and made sure their doors were noticed via the beautiful oil painting overdoors set into an ornamental molding or supraporte, which was part of the boiserie paneling that enveloped the rooms.

While duplicating Versailles may be out of the question, I hope you enjoy the images of these beautiful 18th century overdoors I have gathered. Plus at the end we will look at ways you can create the overdoor look in your own interiors.

The oil painting overdoor trend was born in France and was a popular interior decoration element that was widespread in the Baroque era and into the Rococo period as well. 
Eventually the overdoor was seen throughout Europe.

Petit appartement du roi (small apartment of the king) in the Palace of Versaille,

The use of shaped oil on canvas paintings as overdoor elements of design dates back to the School of Fontainebleau in France. There are many examples of this decoration inside the Palace of Versailles.

Versailles via Pinterest

Paintings on canvases that were shaped to fit an architectural space like an overdoor became a new style of artwork. These were also seen over mantles and mirrors. 

Chateau de Versailles, France. © Brian Jannsen Photography

French Baroque is commonly referred to as the Louis XIV style. Under his reign incorporated non-movable frames, such as overdoors, became part of the architecture of the whole interior.

Versailles via Pinterest

White painted carved wood panels with gilded moldings called boiserie were installed in Versailles during the reigns of LouisXV and Louis XVI. Boiserie went on to define elegant French interiors. The overdoor was a way to magnificently enhance the space above the door in these paneled rooms.

Petit Trianon, Versailles, France.

The oil paintings were set over the doors in the boiseries which acted as the frame of the paintings.

This style was very ornate and the overdoors were set with
portraits, figural scenes, and allegories which were the desired oil paintings of the time. Some of the greatest artists of the 18th century were commissioned to create beautiful paintings for overdoors.

Paintings played an important role in the eighteenth-century interior. The painted walls, ceilings, mantelpieces, and overdoors became part of the room's plasterwork and wood carvings thus creating a collected ensemble look.

via Pinterest

The landscape in Rococo paintings are almost tapestry like, pastoral in nature with an emphasis on what is carefree, and idyllic. Here overdoors feature people in pursuit of happiness.

Artists such as Watteau, Boucher, Natoire, and Van Loo, who typified the fantasy and graceful style of Rococo, were in demand to paint overdoors as well an much of the art of the day.

Cherubs were ever present and even mythological scenes were created to decorate the overdoors that were installed within the intricately carved boiserie paneling.

Extremely popular paintings for overdoors, overmantles, trumeau mirrors etc. were the bucolic settings with scenes of shepherds and shepherdesses tending animals. These overdoors are some of my personal favorites.

As you can see from these overdoors and walls, things could definitely get erotic at times since hedonism was a dominate theme of eighteenth-century culture.

Landscapes were also popular to use as overdoors. Landscapes many times were painted with ruins

Sometimes the painted wood overdoor panels would feature images of vases overflowing with flowers.

A fabulous overdoor in The Don Quixote Salon at the Stockholm Royal Palace.

Olivier de Clarembaut (@clarembaldus) on instagram

Sometimes plaster gypsum stuccoes were used in seventeen and eighteenth century French overdoor design. This was popular because the plaster made it possible to create a sense of movement. This style overdoor became extremely popular in Germany, Austria and Scandinavia.

Ornamental plaster added beauty and splendor to the overdoors prior to the advancement of millwork technology.

No matter what the overdoor was constructed of it was designed to give the painting the primary role within the interior.

Kotomi_'s photos on Flickr.

Ecole Militaire library in Paris, France

In 18th century decorating the oval was considered too plain and was usually only reserved for overdoors.

Clemens Schreiberhuber

I love it when overdoors are used in more simpler wooden paneled spaces alongside other uses like the over mantles in a room.

Not all interiors were dripping with elaborate moldings for surrounding overdoor oil paintings. Many were just framed in picture style. These are the kind that are easier to create today and they will add a touch of elegance to your rooms.

Inveraray Castle, via

You can create the look and feel of an old world overdoor by having an oil painting framed with millwork.

You don't have to get this elaborate, there are much simpler moldings to choose from. You are simply building a frame around a painting to make it look like it is part of the wall.

Or even easier, you can simply hang a large commercially framed painting above the door.

The Home of Hubert de Givenchy

Homeowners tend to ignore the space above doorways that lead between rooms. However, adorning that space with an overdoor of some kind will make your room feel more elegant and finished. 

See what a painting can do for a room when used as an overdoor. Even without the intricate moldings it would still be stunning.

Lisa Farmer-Eye For Design

The next four images are from my home. I love using oil paintings as overdoors in the wall spaces above my doors. Heightens the ceilings and gives a bit of elegance to the room.

Lisa Farmer-Eye For Design

It doesn't HAVE to be an oil painting. Here I have used an antique lithograph which will also work wonderfully for you.

Lisa Farmer-Eye For Design

Landscapes always make nice overdoors. This one in my dining room has people "frolicking" under the trees. It is hard to tell from this picture but this storage door has a floral oil on leather panel on it.

Lisa Farmer-Eye For Design

In my hall a portrait looks good as an overdoor.

In this images a series of like smaller portraits makes an interesting overdoor treatment. This is something everyone can do.

Hang large portraits! The English version of the overdoor was usually a portrait hung in the space above the door.

Paolo Moschino via

The painting you choose for your overdoor doesn't have to be elaborate and covered in gilt. It doesn't even have to be an oil. It can be a watercolor, or even a framed needlework picture.

via google

There are other things you can do with 1800's French overdoor paintings which are actually versatile in their uses for today’s interior design. Their unusual shapes make them desirable to collectors. Some will still be in frames while others will have been stripped from their elaborate boiseries.

Today, they can be used as overdoors once again, or creatively as  headboards for beds, 

displayed in old world vignettes,

or displayed on walls and easels as a piece of artwork.

I realize it can be difficult to find oil paintings to work as overdoors. It takes alot of patience and many trips to auctions and estate sales. Here are some other things you can do to give the space above your doors some interest., Paul Barker, photographer

Sometimes tapestries were used as overdoors to complement a larger wall tapestry. If you are creative you might come up with your own fabric adaptation of this look.

Coco Chanel Suite, Ritz Paris

Another great look is the use of a horizontally hung bas-relief or decorative panels that is set, typically within ornamental moldings over a door

Via Pinterest

You can find these today at several on-line companies. Just google "where to buy classical relief reproductions".

A detailed reproduction relief of a Parisian architectural find. It's hand finishing gives lightweight urethane an aged look. This one is from Ballard Designs.

Or maybe an overdoor can be little more than a molded shelf for the placement of ceramic vases, busts, plates, or curiosities.

Just think of a way to make the space more interesting!

Writer, garden-maker, and collector, Umberto Pasti, has used antique tiles to create a type of overdoor. Just another idea!

Designer Jacques Garcia has used an assortment of framed and mounted fabrics to create an interesting style of overdoor.

Be on the lookout for architectural salvage to use as overdoor embellishments. There are also many reproductions available on-line.

Stenciling is also an option. If you stencil with joint compound instead of paint you will achieve a raised plaster like design which looks more authentic.

Or even an interesting panel like this, hung on the horizontal, would work as an overdoor by adding interest to that space.

Make your home your own Versailles! Be daring and creative, treasure hunt a bit, and bring attention to your own overdoor!

Click here to see the previous post

This blog post was published by Lisa Farmer

In the event that I have not credited the correct source of an image, please contact me at and I would be glad to correct it.


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