The entrance to your home is often its public face, which conveys your sense of style to the world. It is also a transition space that can be either inviting or prohibitive – a source of either pleasure or frustration.
“I consider it an outdoor space and it is the first room you come in contact with that sets the stage for everything you will experience indoors,” said Scott J. Sottile, partner at Ferguson & Shamamian Architects, a New York-based company whose latest book, Collaborations: Architecture, Interiors, Landscapes, is due out next month.
So the right design is “incredibly important,” said Sottile.
The main entrance is also a place where a few inexpensive modifications can add to the overall value of a home. “We believe that the appeal of curbs increases the value of real estate in very direct ways,” said Prentis Hale, a director at Seattle-based architecture firm Shed. In fact, a recent study published in the Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics estimates that the appeal of the curb alone could add up to 7 percent of the selling price of a home.
So it’s nice to have an attractive entryway, but there is also a strong financial incentive. Mr. Hale and other architects and designers gave some advice on how to proceed.
Break out the color
It is common knowledge that color is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to transform a room. But “simple” is a relative term and doesn’t take into account the hours it takes to prepare, prime, and paint four walls and a ceiling.
Painting the front door is a more manageable task. To quickly give your entryway a new look, paint the door a color that is different from the rest of the house and the paneling and make it an eye catcher.
“It’s something that stops the eye, so you say, ‘Yes, that’s where I should go,'” said Mr. Sottile. “It can be a strong, contrasting color or a fun color,” he said, like a bright red or yellow. “Or maybe it’s a lush green that blends in with the planting.”
Even if you opt for a subtle color, changing the sheen can make the door look special.
Philip Gorrivan, a New York-based interior designer, painted the door of his London townhouse a high gloss black to make it stand out. “I love a painted door,” said Mr. Gorrivan. “It adds a little personality.”
When you’re feeling more ambitious and have a porch, it’s time to paint the ceiling. It could be a traditional light blue that has long been popular in southern states like South Carolina and Georgia, or something unexpected like a light yellow, said Lindsay Anyon Brier, the founder of Anyon Interior Design in San Francisco.
But choose “a really subtle shade”, advised Ms. Brier, “so that there is only a small splash of color.”
Change the lighting
Lighting around the front door can do more than just shine for security and help you find the lock at night – it should set the mood.
“You don’t want a bright security light when you come through the front entrance,” says Beth Webb, an Atlanta interior designer. “The outdoor lighting is so incredibly important. You want that soft glow. “
A large hanging lantern is a great way to create general lighting while also making a statement, Ms. Webb said, as is a pair of wall-mounted lanterns.
When choosing such decorative lights, carefully think about the size. Lights that look big in a shop or your home can sometimes appear tiny when put outside. Depending on the size of the house, bigger is often better.
Then look for ways to add accent lighting. “I always like to layer the lighting,” said Ms. Brier. Options include step lights above stairs, lights that illuminate textured walls, landscape lighting, and candle lanterns.
Mr. Gorrivant put landscape lights in the planters by the front door of his London townhouse, and Mr. Sottile uses candle lanterns at home. If they are equipped with battery operated LED candles with built-in timers, they can light up every night without any worries.
Placing a few green-planted containers around the entrance is an easy way to make it more attractive. “It always makes a difference whether there is just some plant material, whether it is boxwood, bougainvillea or something else,” said Ms. Webb.
One way to add containers is to install a matching pair of tall pots or urns on either side of the front steps. For a looser approach, place two or three different sized pots on one side of the front door.
“Even if you have a very formal house, urns with loose planting look a little friendlier,” said Mr Sottile. “You add things that bring life and softness.”
Ms. Brier is looking for plants that are not only visually appealing, but also smell good. Sometimes she fills pots on the doorstep with rosemary, for a touch of green and a pleasant scent – as well as a practical supply for cooking.
If you have an expansive front porch, there may be room for a fully equipped seating area. But even with a smaller front entrance, it’s usually possible to add a single small stool, chair, or bench that serves multiple functions.
“It doesn’t have to be constructed like a whole seating arrangement,” said Ms. Brier. “It could be a stump or a base that provides a spontaneous place to sit.”
Such a surface – for example, a ceramic, teak or metal mesh stool – provides seating for casual encounters when guests come and go, and serves as a place to put bags and packages, said Ms. Webb, who has a compact faux-bois Bench on a customer’s porch for this very purpose. “When they unload the car, there is a bench out there where they can leave packages and luggage,” she said.
Update your hardware
Many homeowners have improved the look of old kitchen cabinets or a bathroom vanity by changing the hardware, and the same technique can be used to upgrade a front door.
“Your doorstep hardware is very important,” said Ms. Webb. “It’s your exclamation point.”
If the door has a satin nickel transition handle but you want a more modern look, for example, replace it with a clean design in matte black. If you want more character, consider a traditional brass or bronze handle with intricate details, or one with a handcrafted look.
But don’t stop at the handle: Mr. Gorrivan often recommends installing a distinctive door knocker for added visual interest. “They can be wonderful, whimsical, and unusual,” he said.
Other functional pieces can add more decorative flair, like the horse figure boot scraper that Ms. Webb installed next to the door of a house in South Carolina.
House numbers also deserve attention. “Often times they’re an afterthought,” said Mr. Hale, but they should be selected and placed as carefully as any other decorative element. For some of Shed’s projects, the company designs bespoke metal plates with water-jet cut numerals; for others, the architects choose modern figures installed on raised posts that create elongated shadows.
Roll out the welcome mat (s)
It’s not called the welcome mat for nothing: a small rug in front of the front door is an inviting gesture that has the advantage of scrubbing the dirt off your shoes.
“You can monogramming them or have logos on them, but I like to keep them very simple,” says Gorrivan, who recommended installing a simple, coarse coconut or coconut fiber mat in front of the door. “The focus should be on the door and the door fittings,” he said, not on a whimsical mat.
Ms. Brier also uses simple coconut mats and suggested choosing the largest one that you can reasonably put outside the door. “The idea is that your natural step is to hit both feet on the mat before entering the house,” she said.
Ms. Webb recommended a two-step approach to welcome mats: “We’re making a decorative inner door and a more practical outer mat” to remove dirt with increasingly finer fibers.
She often uses a rush mat outside. Inside, she said, “I’m trying to use something either super-structural or antique, with a pattern that just doesn’t show anything” – even when muddy boots trample on it.
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