Shaping History: How Sliding Glass Doors are Changing Design

Sliding Door Design

Sliding doors have a history that spans thousands of years. Roman folding and sliding doors can be seen in Pompeii as early as the 1st Century AD, a series of partitions that hung from the ceiling. At the same time, the modern glass sliding door as we know it has roots in Japan, where the Shoji (a door, room divider or window) and Fusuma (vertical rectangular panels) are staples of traditional architecture. Today, sliding glass doors are used around the world to save space, embrace views, and open up to local climates. 

At Klein, we continue to build upon this history of invention and innovation that has shaped the way architects and interior designers create new spaces. We have made a series of sliding glass doors because they move easily, require little to no space to open widely, and offer a range of styles for different applications and rooms. Klein’s sliding glass doors continue a legacy that began in the pre-war era during the start of the 20th century, and they have been continuously reimagined and developed for today.

Wood Sliding Door, Pompeii 

What is a Sliding Door

The history of sliding doors begins with understanding how they are defined. A sliding glass door or patio door is a type of door used in architecture and construction that features a large glass panel and provides access from one room to another. These can also open to the outdoors to let in fresh air and natural light, and are usually opened horizontally by sliding the door parallel to a wall. 

There are several types of sliding doors, such as bi-parting, corner, and telescopic doors. The mechanism used in a sliding door is called a sliding door gear. Most often, sliding doors are either suspended from a track above it, called top-hung, or bottom rolling systems that are mounted on a track below the door. However, both types normally do not have a perfect seal, so brush seals are often used to mitigate sound transmission and reduce air infiltration. Sometimes, sliding glass doors can also take the form of a pocket door that slots into a wall. 

Shōji: The Influence of Japanese Architecture

Modern glass sliding doors as we know them are inspired by the Japanese Shōji, a sliding door used to divide rooms and the interior and exterior of a home or structure. Sliding elements are quite prolific in traditional Japanese design, and the Japanese timber post-and-beam system provided great freedom for organizing space.

Sliding shōji and fusuma panels were made of rice paper or cloth, allowing views out when open and soft light to filter through when closed. Then glass panes began to be introduced at the end of the 19th century. With the post-war building boom, the popularity of glass sliding doors spread around the world, and they remain one of the most popular door varieties to this day.

Warmth and Light

The primary reason that glass sliding doors became widely popular is that they allow unobstructed views between one space and the next, or one room to the outdoors. In turn, they also let direct sunlight into a home or commercial space. They are a natural choice in warm climates to allow fresh air to circulate, and in cooler climates because the sunlight allows solar heat gain into a building.

Natural light is a very important element to interior design and architecture. Providing a connection between different spaces while remaining visually open, glass doors embrace light without blocking views. Sliding glass doors are versatile and provide functionality for many kinds of buildings, and access to light has become a sought-after commodity as companies make the shift from closed-in spaces in commercial properties. In addition, natural light can be used as part of an energy-efficient design and help boost productivity. 


Glass is only one material for sliding doors, but it comes in different types. These can provide different levels of transparency when designing a space, from opaque to translucent glass. For these glass sliding door types, the two most popular varieties are the traditional sliding doors we are familiar with, and the disappearing pocket door. The latter is often known as the glass pocket door, and these can be made as either opaque or translucent elements as well, or the assembly can be combined with other materials like glass and metal.

Advantages of Sliding Glass Doors

The advantage of sliding doors is that they require almost no room to open the door, and they are relatively easy to automate. This is possible due to the basic components of a glass sliding door, from the glass panels and frame to the runners. There are also smaller components that are important to consider, including bumpers, the handle, the lock, the tracks and the wheels. With the right system, these are very simple elements that fit together and are easy to assemble and install.

As part of larger energy-efficient plans, glass sliding doors are also strong, durable, and can include double, single or quadruple panes of glass. At the same time, the doors can be coated to ensure UV resistance, gas-filled, or fit to a specific room or space. As a more practical choice with ease of operation and locking mechanisms, glass sliding doors continue to open up new possibilities for architects and interior designers. Today, the advancements in technology have allowed the sliding door to become a customizable element that’s seamlessly integrated into a design.

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