This section is from the book "Your Home And Its Decoration", by The Sherwin-Williams Company. See also: Nell Hill's Feather Your Nest: It's All in the Details.
THERE is no single feature of the house which so impresses the passer-by or casual visitor as its entrance or front door. A lack of hospitality is felt where a narrow, skimpy door, opening like a slit in the wall, seems to frown forbiddingly on the guest. The effect on one's mental attitude produced by such first impression contrasted with that resulting from a broad, inviting doorway is readily realized. One feels the conditions rendering necessary the first illustration cited must have resulted from careless planning, or an utter lack of correct feeling in designing.
The position of the entrance door in relation to the porch, or veranda, should be direct and logical. A circuitous route to reach it is always a mistake. Its character and purpose should be so pronounced that it might never be confused with doors of lesser importance opening on the same porch.
Putting aside the function which the front door fills, other than its most manifest one of being the threshold or entrance-way into the home, we find it affected and modified in numberless ways, made necessary by the conditions arising from the design of the exterior of the house, or by the floor plan.
As the entrance to the inner circle of the home, it should possess dignity of design, refinement of detail, and simplicity of treatment. No useless ornamentation should embellish it, yet its construction may be very properly ornamented by details in harmony with the house design.
Plate XII. No Useless Ornament Should Embellish It.
Plate XIII. There is No Single Feature of the House Which So Impresses the Passer-by as its Entrance.
The design of the house should fix the style of the entranceway. Thus, for the house of Colonial type, or what is so called in America, the doorway might properly be flanked by side lights, and have a fan transom, - the whole being painted white; or the door itself may be of the mahogany finish and all of the frame and surrounding trim be white.
These are matters of taste which should be discussed with the architect, if the owner has decided preferences. Should the house take on the form and design of the Elizabethan or late Tudor period, or if Gothic feeling should be evidenced in the design, then the doorway and all the surrounding woodwork should show the natural grain of the wood, and be stained to reproduce those beautiful effects in color which the elements and long years of exposure will otherwise be required to produce.
In vernacular types of houses there exists a wide range of suggestion for the doorway, and no set rule may be formulated. Suffice it, that the architect will usually suggest the appropriate design, taking all affecting conditions into consideration.
A single door may be used, or it may be a double one; it may have one panel or many, either of wood or of glass. It may be flanked with side lights as the circumstances or conditions seem to indicate. It may be of fine wood showing the natural grain, or it may be of inexpensive wood carefully painted.
Plate XIV. The Design of the House Should Fix the Style of the Doorway.
Plate XV. The Architect Will Usually Suggest the Appropriate Design.
Should the hall into which the door opens be finished in natural wood, as is often the case, the inside of the door may show the same wood, either solid or veneered, at the same time showing on the outside a painted surface, or a natural finish of entirely different wood from the interior.
A common fault with front doors, and one which detracts largely from the finished effect, is a lack of sufficient thickness. Under no circumstances should the thickness be less than two inches, and from that up to four inches, from two and one-half to three inches being in most instances satisfactory. As the exterior of the door is subjected to all of the changing weather conditions, while the inside is mostly of a strongly contrasting temperature (at least during the winter season), it is important that it be substantially built.
A core built up of narrow strips of well-sawed wood, with alternating direction of grain, upon which the finishing wood is veneered, makes a good door, which will withstand the weather, and, if treated with the proper protecting paint or varnish, may be considered indestructible, as far, at least, as weather conditions are concerned.
It is not the purpose of this book to enter into discussion of the merits of the several styles of architectural design best suited to the needs of the present day, nor to advise the selection of any particular pattern of front door as being the one thing suitable in a specified place. There are so many points which must be determined by the demands of existing conditions, - the site of the house and its environment, etc., will largely fix the design, and the design, in turn, will indicate the detail of the front door or entrance to the house.
In addition to this, the individual taste of the owner forms an important factor in the final decision. These several conditions, often widely conflicting, impose upon the architect the necessity of compromise.
Plate XVI. Or It May Be of Inexpensive Wood Carefully Painted.
The greatest care, however, should be exercised in the selection of finishing materials employed on the exterior of the house.
The owner has nearly always some preconceived idea of the color effects he desires the building to show. The foundation, body color, trim, and shingles should be tried together, if one holds any doubts of the harmonious combination of the colors determined upon. It is possible to get panels or shingles painted and stained in the required shades. This matter of materials for the exterior of the house will be fully discussed in later chapters.