I touched on this topic a few weeks ago when discussing that people often now enter their house exclusively via their lock up garage, or their back door and that in many homes a front door has become completely unused. A lot of modern design often gives a fairly perfunctory experience for the welcome to a house with the front door as well - many Australian townhouses give priority to a double garage and driveway with the front door being pushed to the side, often recessed, and the garage ending up being front and centre of the design.

fairly standard modern Australian townhouse via

While this may be practical, it's not the best way to welcome people to your home. If anything this says that you're not interested in having visitors, as you've essentially made it hard to find the front door, given an unwelcoming vibe by having a visitor walk across the driveway to get to it, and if it's not softened in any way (interesting door colour, plants etc) it can most definitely give off a "go away" feel.



There's a lot of psychology behind the traditional entry. It's a transition point between the public and private realms, and it's the first clue you give anyone to your aspirations in life (Grand/ Informal/ Unassuming etc). I've mentioned before the book A Pattern Language, which is a bit of an Architectural bible. It talks a lot about the best way a house relates to the wider community via the design of the facade - and the one thing that is consistently stated is that a garage should not be given priority. Unfortunately though, sometimes practicality dictates that this is the only way a house can be designed… but if you can at least balance it out by giving a good Front Door experience, you can alleviate some of the lack of welcome you can otherwise experience.


Adelaide cottage front garden via


Greenery
Soften an entry with greenery. If you have acres of paving leading up to the front door (which is what it will feel like if you have a large driveway taking up most of what would otherwise be a front garden) you need things in pots. Living things always make everything feel more welcoming.

London town house planters via 

One of my favourite things about London are the window boxes and planters prevalent in the houses and apartments in the posh areas (Belgravia, Kensington, Knightsbridge, Chelsea etc). These are usually tended by specialist window box gardeners (really), who will change the plants over seasonally and create quite amazing variety in tiny little boxes. The people who live in these houses understand that even when you have no opportunity to plant things in the ground, greenery will always give a more welcoming entry to a home.



Front Path
Overscaling the width of the path, as demonstrated in the image below gives more prominence to people, rather than cars. I did this with our front path, which is fairly short (we don't have a deep front garden). The prior path was extremely narrow - I made ours around 1.6m wide, which gives a feel of generosity of space, even when there is a short transition from street to door. Consider a different material to construct the path out of from the driveway, and have a separate gate for foot traffic. This will give emphasis on the person, rather than the cars.

Paul Bangay design via


Door mat
Get a decent door mat! This seems obvious, but often you grow so used to what you've had for years you get a little blind to how others will view it. Large sized ones are always good for the reasons I've mentioned above with the path. If you have a front door with sidelights around it, a wider than normal doormat works well, as the photo above also demonstrates.



Front door colour
People love a colourful front door. In Australia this is not common at all for a few reasons. If you're in a group of townhouses, you'll need Body Corporate approval…. which will usually mean you won't be allowed to change the colour. If you have an old house, and live in an old suburb, you'll likely have local council heritage restrictions on what colour you can paint your door. It will be restricted to the heritage colour palette, which means you won't have a lot of options… but anyone else not restricted by these two things can have some fun.


Lighting
Lighting will add a lot of ambience to a home, and if you're pushed for space in your entry way to do much else to soften it, it may be one of your only ways to add a bit of personality. The 3 lanterns below give a really nice warm ambience to the entry (as do the plants in their zinc planters).


Finally, just making sure it's clean is always a good idea! If you're entering your home via your garage or side door all the time, you need to go out and check how the front entry looks - piles of dead leaves and a dusty front step does not make for much of a welcome. We all become used to our homes but trying to see it through the fresh eyes of a stranger might prompt you to give it a clean once a week, so get out the broom!

Belgravia town house via

I was going through my draft posts today, and realised I've got around 7 half written posts on Design or Interiors sitting there… so I'm going to try to get them finished off and up on the blog at last… stay tuned for a bit of a design month (or two).

41 comments:

  1. In modern western house building the facade is mostly garage so I always wonder how they will classify those types of homes in the future. In fact I really want to change my garage door back to the original wooden fixtures but oddly it is needed to apply for a change as it's conservation which makes it tedious to change. I think I Europe it's difficult to be in control of ones own entrance bc most share an entrance to flats but these points still apply to communal entries. Always informative and spot on in your decor posts H and I also refer to the pattern language too even as non architect x

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    1. It's kind of a tricky thing - from a practicality perspective if you have to have a double garage, and you don't have width to a block of land, it's really the only option… but it's how it's placed in terms of the design that is key. I know a few newer suburban designs put the old lane way concept behind the houses so that cars are removed from the front of houses and allocated to the back of the block. But it's also kind of an indicator of what we value most - just as church spires used to be the highest and most visible point in a city, now it's the skyscrapers of commerce… and so too house entrances that emphasise people and connection to community and streets cape have gone in the past 50 years and been replaced in prominence with cars and ease of use for them. I'm still mystified how you came across Pattern Language though N - you need to tell me how you heard of it, as it's not much known outside of design circles so I'm really curious! xx

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    2. I wanted a window seat for an old place I used to live and googled way back Google was still new and there was this interesting thing about how 16 inches while it seems ideal is a width no one actually sits in and to be used it has to be 18 inches. That intrigued me so much that I bought the book which also explained why I never used certain balconies etc. I actually think everyone interested in design should read it! X

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    3. I agree, and that's interesting it came up through a google search… I always read it and think it's so spot on - everything you like/ dislike in a building intuitively is explained and set out. It's such a great reference when looking to design a house.

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  2. Yay a Design Month!
    I've been thinking about just this topic Heidi, we have a pretty front door and a large porch, it's very inviting but I need to give it a bit of a refresh this spring. I have Christopher coming in April/May to do the garden over so he'll be helping me with the front garden/porch as well. He has a great eye for containers and greenery, in fact his cottage has a beautiful entrance and porch.
    I'll be pinning some of these images, thanks for the inspiration Heidi! xo

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    1. I couldn't believe how many half written posts I had in a backlog - suppose I started on them then lost interest, so I'll try to have a virtual clean out of them!
      I know you're dying for Spring, and I'm sure it will be a fun project for you now that the building work is over to get the garden going - can't wait to see what you do Dani xx

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  3. All so true. Love those gorgeously romantic entries with all the roses, also the chic Belgravia ones with the pot plants. Fascinating to learn the care is contracted out! Adore the jacaranda coloured door with the real thing growing alongside and up and beyond that fabulous white archway! Looking forward to your next design posts! Pammie

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    1. I love those rose and wisteria ones too Pammie - so pretty, and perfect the way the front door matches the colour. I though it was quite funny when I found out the tiny window boxes were mostly contracted out, but it does make sense! xx

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    2. Ooops, of course it's wisteria! After reliving old memories in Brisbane kept thinking of jacaranda.

      Any chance we might see you and Mr AV in Cambridge for the Wolfson reunion?

      Had our front doors (double doors) painted bright red but they've begun to fade a bit and never had that wonderful English gloss. There are large potted pink geraniums on either side. You've made me think I should go out and give them a good clean! The doors, that is.
      Agree with other readers who say you should have a column - or even better a book on design! You should think about putting together all your design posts and pictures for book publication. They're so very practical and helpful and at the same time so gorgeous. Pammie xx

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    3. Sadly no reunion in Cambridge for us - don't think there's any globetrotting on the cards this year… you'll have to celebrate for us, it sounds like a lot of fun Pammie!
      Bright pigments are always tricky with the fading - Dulux is probably the best from that perspective. They developed a new paint to cope with bright colours outdoors specifically for Melbourne and the sculptural pieces you see along the Citilink freeway into the city from the airport (also known as the Pick up sticks) as they're bright yellow and fade quickly… they still need to be painted every 10 years, and are faded toward the end of that time, but the colour fastness is much better. But yes, very tricky to get the gloss

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  4. Very interesting Heidi and look forward to your series on other design aspects. In the winter months in Chicago, the front door entranceway always seems to serve as a mudroom with a bench for unshodding guests of boots with the runner supplemented by towels for salty slush absorption. The perpetually tardy GSL knows the 6 foot radius surrounding the bench soon becomes a salt water marsh so brings an extra pair drinking slippers to slip into once he hits dry ground.

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    1. I suppose snow brings a whole other meaning to entry and practicalities… can only imagine the mess it causes too! No wonder mud rooms are so popular in the US - we've started having them rise in popularity here too, although perhaps it's more a case of dust rooms, as we're unlikely to have problems with snow and its associated mess!

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  5. Hi Heidi - now this is a topic close to my own mantra - and has been one of the most popular series on my own blog - which simply gives me a chance to rave on about the importance of a fabulous front entrance. It's always one of my favourite parts of the design process, because it is, as you say, so symbolic as a gesture of welcome. I think there has been a massive trend away from making the garage door the centre piece in Australian design over the last few years though, which is a very good thing - as unless handled well, it can simply read as one big massed form. I always set mine back as far as possible, so as not to dominate the front facade. But like it or not, we have to work with the block layouts that exist, and sometimes that means bringing the garage door right to the front. I see it as an exciting opportunity.

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    1. Yes, block layout will always dictate what can and can't be done. But I do think that for the sake of convenience often you end up with a poor overriding design compromise. I was talking to my husband about our design layout of the extension and pointed out that many people would have put the garage where our outdoor dining area now is, and had an entry directly into the house… rather than having a garage at the end of the block and further from the house as we will have. He asked why we hadn't done that, as he thought that would have been much more convenient (which it would have)…. and I pointed out that it would have taken all the North light, would have completely altered the appearance of the garden/ back living/ outdoor entertaining and the relationship between in and outside. In short, a huge compromise would have been created for the sake of saving energy by walking to a car. But there is so much psychology behind entries and all they mean it's quite a fascinating topic (and one that I could probably write many more things about, as you no doubt could too Virginia!).

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  6. My front door is a double door with nobbly glass on one side and some baby deer on the other.
    I luff it. It's gorgeous, and we will keep it in the renovations.

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    1. You definitely have to keep that Cilla - I love original features in houses, and you'd never be able to buy that these days!

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  7. Oh goodie! Will look forward to your other design posts. I always enjoy reading them! Function v's aesthetics and how to resolve that balance, is what good design is about I think!

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    1. It's always a toss up KL - I'm constantly trying to walk the line between practicality and aesthetics, as I know you are too!

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  8. This is so relevant to me right now! I'm starting with a blank page as far as entrance (and my whole house/garden really) goes. I love greenery at the front and am in the process of deciding what color I want my front door.

    Wow, the window boxes! Who knew? I love the look of them. My eldery great aunt lived in a very nice granny flat out the back of my grandparents house when I was a kid and I she had some great window boxes. I remember she was always redesigning them according to the season. I thought how cute that would look on a child's cubby house. And a good way to teach them about gardening/seasons, etc!

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    1. That's quite exciting that you're able to start with it all from scratch JLT - so many possibilities… love the story about your great aunt too - when people don't have space they will try to garden anywhere. For years I had a tiny step out balcony, which was crammed with plants (so no stepping out). But yes, it did make me laugh a bit when I found out that the window boxes came with their own gardeners in London!

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  9. Hello Heidi,

    You make some excellent points in this post, illustrated beautifully by many beautiful doors. I cannot tell you how many photographs I've taken of doors on my travels, particularly in London and New York. English doors are always painted in high gloss and to me at least, they actually appear glossier than the glossiest paint available in the United States. Paired with classic planters and plantings, well, no wonder I can't help myself and snap away with my camera.

    I've always disliked houses where the front door is nowhere to be seen, swallowed up by a double or triple wide garage, which is exceedingly common here in California and may actually be the norm on new construction.

    I look forward to reading more of your design musings over the coming weeks, thank you.

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    1. Hi CD - my favourite thing to do in big cities is to just walk around looking at houses in the nice neighbourhoods.. and I can well imagine how much fun it is for you to look at your collection of photos of front doors! Agree with you about the gloss factor. I did read once about the process that the door to 10 Downing St goes through to get that gloss.Afraid mine is no where near as glossy, but I think it was rubbed down with extremely fine grade sandpaper between coats, and had around 20 coats of thin paint on it to get the gloss and depth of shine!

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  10. I've just spent my morning traipsing around a very modern uni campus where the buildings look like giant Lego technic models fallen haphazardly out of the sky, searching in vain for the entry to said buildings and cursing the move away from the beautiful symmetry of classical proportions that require no guesswork to determine the location of the front door. I often mutter a very Heslopian 'you can't stop progress' in these situations. Big fan of doormats and plants at an entry. Like setting the dinner table and eating en famille, we are losing that sense of occasion that comes from arriving somewhere.

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    1. I think that's a modern bit of Architectural trickery to hide the door… and it does give you a feeling of unease as you don't know where you're going and feeling a bit foolish as a result. And totally agree with you about losing the sense of arrival somewhere… modern design has taken away the emphasis on arrival on a human scale and by foot - a lot of buildings look very impressive on a model or in plan, but from the experience on the street are pretty bland.

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  11. I've wanted a statement front door for ages but another thing about Australian front doors is that they're usually covered by the good old flyscreen door in front of it!

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    1. Yes, you're right about the flyscreens… also affects our French Doors which always open inwards in Australia, and outwards elsewhere in the world!

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    2. Mine open outwards! Love them.
      Tonkath

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  12. Re not seeing what you live with everyday - Mr T has that problem so I go around with the camera and take photos of anything I think is ugly or nee or attention. Seeing the image really helps to see with fresh eyes (and saves me nagging) as he tends to be untidily around the garden. I adore the shot of the front door with roses. I have Pierre De Ronsards in two large pots but they are nowhere near that stage yet. On another topic - the architect son has bought an apartment in the Cairo buildings. I’m sure you will know of them? Very exciting. He plans to reconfigure the floor plan quite a bit and do pretty much a complete renovation. Small but at least he has entered the market and said goodbye to renting. Tonkath

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    1. That's a great idea with the photos Tonkath - I always think going away for a week or two and coming home is enlightening.. that's when you're more likely to walk in and think how drab/ messy/ etc your house is before it normalises again and you don't see it.
      The Cairo flats are in Fitzroy aren't they? If that's the building I think I do remember them from when we lived in East Melbourne and used to spend a lot of time in Fitzroy/ Carlton/ Collingwood. How exciting for him that he's finally got a toe in - house prices in Melb are crazy. And no doubt he will do a fab job renovating it and honouring its heritage at the same time.

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    2. Yes, they’re the ones. I’ve just told him to read your next blog as I found it so interesting. He’s always very much about staying with the era of a building and is excited about the high ceilings and steel windows etc. I actually think your flooring in family/kitchen would look great in his space as he wants to run the same material all through and I don’t think he will be able to afford wooden floors along with new kitchen and bathroom all at the same time. As you mention - not the most highly paid profession for all that study and hard work! Keep the blogs coming. Love them thanks,Tonkath

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  13. Back in the dark ages, when I had a blog, I was a bit obsessed about front doors. I had a whole series and lived in an Auckland suburb that did them so very well. All slightly different, most memorable was a shiny copper door.

    I still take snaps of front doors now but as you say so rare.

    Your design month is so well time - I'm in a period of house improvement so will lap up all tips - keep it coming !!
    I still think you need a magazine column, There is more of substance in your single blog post than a whole issue of H and Garden. Maybe we need to start a magazineof substance ... I could do with a career change. x

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    1. I remember your blog well Ann, and used to love your front door series around Auckland!
      You're very kind about my writing… I think the design mags tend to focus on outcome rather than process, so they're not that informative for a lot of people… the lower end decorating magazines (like home beautiful, H&G etc) also tend to be very trend driven and used as a vehicle for the advertisers selling the cheap throw run/ vase as pop of colour type thing which is not really design.

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  14. I wanted a really great fun colour on my front door, but I dislike yellow and not much goes with red brick. . . hmm. I painted my back door a mint colour (I wasn't entirely happy with it, because of what you explained in your previous post. I need some black in it, some glaze look to it. It looks too one dimensional and flat and candy coloured. Not what I hoped for) with a view to have the back of my house, eventually, painted brick in a light colour so it would pop out. But the front I want to keep the red brick.

    I am definitely going to have pots that flank the entrance to my porch with a topiaries of some sort and underplanting, but I haven't got to it as yet as I need to remove a garden bed which is in the way. I also would have loved to have 2 lanterns on either side of my arch porch entrance, but there is no provision for power there. I have thought about growing a climbing rose around the arch, but haven't invested anytime into researching it. Plus the house needs to be tuck pointed first. Anyway, I am rambling.

    Yes, I really want to make an inviting entry way. I didn't consider widening my driveway for comfortable progression to my front door past the car. That is something to think about.

    I DETEST all the new build (and some renovators) front doors that EVERYONE seems to use. The wooden doors that are really heavy and wide and have horizontal strips of glazing. Like in your example. Ppl please, be more creative and not a sheep thinking they are nice. I could drive past every new duplex in the surrounding suburbs and they would have that door.

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    1. Definitely keep the brick for the front of your house - It looks really lovely from the photo I've seen, and I think if I were you I wouldn't do a fun front door colour as it won't really work with the house.
      You know, the photo I found (from a local project home builder in SA) was really just a stereotypical modern facade. I'd walked through an adjacent neighbourhood the past weekend, and all the new build duplexes had those sort of front doors, plus the double garage prominent front and centre (and if it was a duplex that had been mirror imaged then you got a 4 car garage as a facade) and wide driveways. They really did nothing for the streetscape.

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  15. what an interesting post - I look forward to the others.
    Our house has two doors, but it actually seems to work. The driveway wraps around the front of the house and you see the old front door with a porch: this looks like it should be the front door, i.e. if you were taking a photograph of the house. However, the driveway leads you to a courtyard in front of the detached garage/granny annex and this is on the side of the house, where there is another (newer) porch which you actually use the enter the house. I definitely need to do some sprucing-up, but the bones are good and the design works well (although garage is obviously not attached to the house - but that doesn't really bother me).
    xx

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    1. That sound like the perfect solution to the front door/ side door dilemma. You often find an old house where the front door has been rendered obsolete - I remember a house of a friend and it had obviously had a very large block of land when built that had been reduced down… the street entry therefore brought you side on to the house, with the original front door/ entry hall facing a narrow garden bed and the neighbours fence. It really didn't work at all well… Front doors in England are so pretty Charlotte - wish you and a blog so that I could see some of the things you describe to me! xx

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  16. One of the great thinks about living in the British Isles is the the fabulous variety of elegant interesting front doors and well presented entrances, maintained in part by Conservation Areas...Lovely to look at, and lovely to live in : )

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    1. They certainly are Si, and I've always found Prince Charles' stance on modern Architecture in the UK quite fascinating - there's been such a fashion away from vernacular architecture and traditional building elements (such as the entry/ front door style of old) over the past 50 years yet it's what people are drawn to and feel comfortable with

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  17. We are about to start a renovation and unfortunately half our front garden is going to be demolished to make way for a double garage. I am going to be so sad to see the trees cut down as they provide a lot of shade and privacy to our front verandah, create street appeal, and also a green view from inside the house which I think is so important. But we are unable to excavate under the house for an underground garage so this is the only way to have off-street parking. I intend to have a separate pedestrian entrance beside the garage with a gate and path/steps leading up to the front door. This will be planted out to hopefully create a nice entrance for our visitors. I also intend to grow something like star jasmine on a trellis on the side walls and across the front of the garage in order to soften it and add greenery. Can't wait to pick some beautiful lantern-style lights too. Thank you for the tips on creating a welcoming entrance – I will certainly keep these things in mind as we do the final plans.

    Although I haven't read the whole book, I really liked the chapter in A Pattern Language that talks about light on two sides of a room. The concept really clicked with me as I realised this is what drew me over and over again to certain rooms. Great book! I must finish it someday! Can't wait to read your other design posts. I'm so glad I found your blog. Just love it! - Denita

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    1. Hi Denita, well it sounds like you've really thought through your design dilemma with the garage, and the things you're planning to do will definitely make up for any potential compromise in the house entry.
      Agree with you on the two sides with the light thing - and this was something I really wanted for our casual living area - I have to say I absolutely love having light coming in from multiple directions and watching it change throughout the day. And I love reading Pattern Language and it explaining to me why I like certain things and why I don't, it's always so spot on.

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  18. Very interesting post Heidi. The psychology of design is such a fascinating topic & I really appreciate these posts which often highlight to me how architecture & design isn't just about lines, shapes & spaces but rather how those things impact on our psyche & lives & are or should be a reflection of our lives (better, happy & healthy lives that is). I love real estate stalking & it is always important to me what a place looks like from the front before I consider whether to go & snoop. I love entrances & I'm happy to say mine is quite impressive. Looking forward to more design posts like these.
    Have a great weekend.

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Architect & Interior Designer. Mother of three. A sometimes Cook, Baker, Reader, Gardener, Fashion Lover, Renovator, Writer of random things in South Australia email me on anadelaidevilla@bigpond.com
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