Front Doors with Personality
By Tammy Adamson-McMullen
Front doors and doorways since antiquity have featured decorations that suggest something about the occupants inside. Whether elaborately decorated like those in medieval castles in Europe or traditionally painted like those in Colonial Williamsburg, front doors say something about the occupants’ personalities, lifestyles, aesthetic preferences and so much more.
The earliest records of doors have been found in Egyptian tombs and were simple single or double doors meant to lead to the “great beyond.” In the centuries that followed, doors often featured iconic symbols meant to denote peace (olive branches), hospitality (pineapples), royalty and power (lion heads) or fertility (grapevines).
Doors became more elaborate during the Renaissance, with bas reliefs of landscapes, fruit, animals, insects or Biblical themes appearing not only on cathedrals and seats of power but also on the homes of people who could afford them. Wreaths, meanwhile, have been popular door decorations for centuries. Grapevine and evergreen wreaths became popular in the 1800s and later in the century were further embellished with flowers and fruits, especially during the holidays.
The trend for decorated doorways has ebbed and flowed in modern times but is reaching something of a zenith of late. Cable and Internet home-makeover shows are at least partly responsible, often stressing the importance of a well-designed exterior to make a home stand out from others in the neighborhood or on the market. Regardless, door decorations are going way beyond the simple wreaths of yesterday to include striking paint colors and color combinations, custom engravings, unusual hardware and embellishments of every variety.
Here are just a few ways you can easily update your door to give it the ultimate curb appeal.
Paint Color: Painting your front door is one of the fastest ways to update your home’s exterior and give it some punch. This seems an obvious suggestion, but it’s one that homeowners often wrestle with as they try to choose a color. It’s true that the door color needs to work with the rest of the home’s exterior, but it doesn’t have to be too “matchy.”
Bright colors can give a much-needed facelift to a front door and liven up a blah interior. In the article “How to Choose a Front Door Color” (June 23, 2014, by Vanessa Brunner), Houzz notes that brighter colors keep doors from blending into the background. They also say something about the occupants within. Yellow, for example, denotes happiness; red, especially in deeper tones, sophistication; and orange, hospitality.
In general, bright-colored doors work best with neutrals, such as grays, linens and sage greens, as well as with very dark exteriors, such as dark green or black. And what about some of the other bright colors? According to the Houzz article and links to that article, vibrant blue doors are rarely seen but can be paired with neutral colors or natural materials, such as stone. Greens, meanwhile, can play off surrounding landscaping and can go from olive to mint or even lime.
Additionally, the article notes that black also is a stunning color for a front door. Black, when paired with light or warm colors on the siding and trim, creates an elegant look and statement of opulence.
Custom Doors: Fifteen or 20 years ago, you might have some difficulty tracking down a custom door maker, unless there was one located in your immediate vicinity. Today, there are many custom door makers on the Internet who can take your door measurements, desired design and other information and work with you long-distance to create truly one-of-a-kind creations. The costs of these creations can be hefty; however, for some homeowners the cost is worth it to create a door with the ultimate curb appeal.
An example of a custom door manufacturer is Borano, which has showrooms in Florida and New Jersey. Specializing in mahogany custom doors, Borano advertises that it takes customer’s designs “from napkin to door” by working one-on-on with architects to meet the project’s specifications. Borano provides quotes online but will need to know some information first, such as the height and width of the desired door; whether the door will be arched, elliptical or with a straight top; the door’s swing direction; the number of door levers; the desired hinge finish; glass options; and trim package details (with custom moldings available upon request).
Another custom door maker is Antigua, which advertises its creations as “works of art.” Antigua doors are meticulously hand-crafted under the watchful eyes and steady hands of artisans and are made from the finest hardwoods, hardware and finishing materials to create truly discerning pieces. Custom doors with this type of quality not only make a home standout but also add to its worth and sales value.
Door Knobs and Pulls: While door knobs and pulls serve an important purpose, they don’t have to be strictly utilitarian. Unusual knobs and pulls are “in” and can be found at many hardware stores and garden shops. They come in all types of materials, including brushed satin, bronze, glass, stained glass, wood and wrought iron, and in every configuration imaginable. You can find:
• Mother Nature-inspired hardware, such as knobs in the shape of buzzing bees, croaking toads and horse heads and pulls that resemble bare twigs, bamboo shoots, swimming fish and deer antlers;
• Antique pieces, from pewter pulls stamped with Venetian roses to brass hand-hammered plates with lock-and-knob combinations to vintage bronze pieces embellished with fleur de lis;
• mid-century modern pieces made with clean lines and shiny metals;
• contemporary pieces, from knobs in the shape of body parts (such as a head or extended hand) to porcelain knobs in psychedelic colors to long, thin pulls made from blown glass; and
• everything in between.
Custom hardware that speaks to the homeowner’s hobbies or passions is especially popular at present. A music lover, for example, might commission a door pull in the shape of a guitar; a gardener, a knob in the shape of a specific type of lily. (For a fun “tour” of distinctive door knobs, look on Pinterest under “Unusual Door Knobs” and browse to your heart’s content.) There are many custom hardware manufacturers on the Internet and, like custom door makers, they are adept at working with customers long distance.
Door Embellishments: Wreaths, flat-sided baskets and other extras add pizzazz to doors and doorways. They also help to make a house look like "a home."
Some creative ideas—and lots of visual examples—can be found at homestoriesatoz.com. They include:
• umbrellas hung upside and filled with flowers;
• large letter monograms embellished with moss, paint or lights;
• small chalkboards hung with ribbon on which you might write personal notes to arriving visitors, such as “The party is out back” or “Enter without knocking”;
• empty picture frames embellished with flowers or with a string of photos hung on the inside; and
• quirky wooden cutouts, which can be painted and accessorized.
A couple more ideas? Try taking a metal door plaque, available at many home and garden stores, and hanging it on the door in lieu of a wreath. The plaques, which often are painted with birds, flowers or landscapes, can be swapped out as the season changes. Make sure the plaques are weather-resistant, unless you have a screen door or enclosed porch.
Additionally, try attaching a small window box to your door to hold flowers and holiday decorations (evergreens and red and green ribbon, for example). Make sure the box is small enough to avoid interfering with the operation of the door.
In whatever way you decide to decorate your door, remember that it’s the first thing visitors see upon entering your home and the last thing they see upon leaving it. Take a tip that has been passed down through the centuries and make both impressions count.