Making an entrance: Front door fashions explored
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Your front door says more about you than you think - and the design options are endless.
I can’t pretend I make a habit of it, but I’ve had the world’s most famous front door opened for me more than once.
And it was only on the second visit that I was told the gleaming black Georgian entrance to 10 Downing Street was, in fact, a fake.
True, it still looks every bit the solid black oak door that greeted every PM from Robert Walpole in the 1700s to Margaret Thatcher more than 250 years later. But the 1991 IRA mortar attack saw it replaced with a bomb-proof metal lookalike. The current one doesn’t even have lock to pick. It was built without a keyhole.
Either way, it still ticks all the boxes in terms of kerb appeal and easily passes the eight second test - the time research has shown it takes a viewer to decide to buy a house, with the front door being the first impression.
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The last flat I let desperately needed one. All the external ones in a wide, sprawling block had been replaced over time by a mixture of retired people and young first-timers who lived there. The agent who found me tenants never gave it a thought. But when I came to sell, it was a different matter.
“The buyer I have in mind is probably a young, professional woman,” he said. “She’ll be looking to feel secure.”
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What sort did he have in mind? A simple uPVC one would do. “But not one that makes it looks like the only rental on the block.”
Houses are a different matter entirely. The trick here is to make a statement. And you don’t always need to match the styles. A period one like a wide Edwardian door with etched glass and side windows can add a sense of space and grandeur to a new build, for example.
The key thing is making sure it’s appropriate. Planked versions will do justice to a barn conversion but won’t work as well on a period terrace as a Georgian one, be it the faux one Theresa May uses every day or the famous blue one Hugh Grant had in Notting Hill.
More of us than ever are investing in tailor-made front doors, and are happy to pay twice as much as ready-made versions from B&Q. And owners are as happy to experiment with the size of a door as they would its style or colour.
Expert opinion tends to differ on many aspects but there’s general agreement on the basics. Whether your priority is privacy, styling or energy efficiency, it needs to work with the rest of the house.
And not just in terms of period-matching. Remember, it’s probably the most impactful aspect of any external viewing, so taking account of any rendering, cladding, window frames or metals used will be important.
It’s easy to overlook, but do consider whether the door you’re choosing is under cover, in a porch for example. And which way it faces. Those facing south or west take a lot more punishment from the weather so may need a different finish.
As for materials, suppliers such as Marwell of Bishops Stortford point out that wood is among the most common material for manufacturers, adding that they “are also usually the most expensive, although doors that are built up in layers, rather than solid wood, can be a good budget choice”.
It’s worth noting though that, unlike the more durable materials currently used, older wooden doors needed regular maintenance and are prone to warp out of shape, especially those built before modern central heating using bone glue. They may have been secure but not always the most energy efficient.
Elizabeth Assaf of door designer and manufacturer, Urban Front, recommends solid wood or, at least, a wood veneer as both flexible in terms of how it can be painted or stained but good for bridging “the gap between a traditional façade and a contemporary interior”.
Interior designer Sarah Pritchard goes further, describing the front door as “by far the first individual design statement you make with your home”.
Sarah, of the Ridgeway, St Albans, said: “This is ever more crucial when trying to sell your property as first impressions really do count. It’s a chance to inject a little personality before even entering a home and gives you a taster of what’s behind closed doors.
“Have fun with colour on the front door or maybe invest in some beautiful ironmongery. Create a greater impression with flowers and planting. Plus, don’t forgot about the appearance once the sun goes down - add some architectural lighting to enhance the feature so you don’t lose the effect in the evening.”
Colour is important, as paint giant Farrow & Ball know only too well. They’ve introduced a range of hues aimed at enhancing that first impression. They recommend classic colours such as black and red for “lofty townhouses” and more traditional homes and suggest pitch black or Incarnadine for an elegant and understated finish.
A more relaxed and contemporary feel can be gained by opting for blue gray or lichen in their Exterior Eggshell range.
Psychologists have long seen colour as a way of identifying personality. For example, green, one of the most popular choices, is said to suggest a calm and welcoming character, in the case of pale green anyway. Outdoorsy types go for darker shades.
Light blue suggests peacefulness - think oceans - whereas a deeper shade indicates honesty and intelligence. Extroverts live behind bright reds and fun-lovers favour orange.
As for Downing Street black, that’ll convince neighbours you see yourselves as important and earnest.
The sentiments are more than borne out in terms of investment. According to Remodeling Magazine’s 2017 Cost vs Value Report, a beautiful door contributes the highest percentage of return for your money.
Drive around some of the most expensive areas of Hertfordshire and you’ll find the roads becoming virtual catwalks for doors.
You’ll see laid-back, casual versions with statement touches such as transom windows or even carved into arches. You’ll see the grand entryways, very popular at the moment, with show-stopping exotic woods, rich stains or touches of leather.
And you’ll find the ultimate in entrance chic – double doors, often made to feel even wider with strips of glass to add light on either side. Some agents have told me they’d not recommend a developer uses anything else for houses in the £2 million plus bracket. Handy for removal men carrying a grand piano, I suppose.
The most impressive one I ever saw was not the one in Whitehall but Rio Ferdinand’s holiday villa on the Algarve. I didn’t measure it but it was about five feet wide set into a wide arch and opened by swivelling on a rod set three quarters of the way along. When it opened, it revealed the entrance on both sides giving an impression of masses of space.
It may not have had a policeman standing outside it but that wouldn’t have been appropriate in this case. It was so wide I just imagined Joe Hart standing in front of it.