This is my front door. It opens to welcome me home, my family and my friends. I think of it as the moment that sets the tone of what’s to follow. I mean, if someone cares enough to pick a cheery green to paint it, and drag a pot of flowering annuals to sit to one side, they’ll probably also be offering you a cuppa (or something more punchy) once you’re indoors.
With this in mind, how well does the entrance to your place work? Fabulously? Just fine, or it could do with a bit of help? In case you think a front door makeover might be just the thing, I’ve rummaged around and pulled together the following pic tour of some things that work and some that don’t . . .
The red door. Check out these red doors, above and below. Above is a contemporary take set within a funky bit of landscaping by Green Artisans. The one below sits in a more traditional context and seems even more of a statement because of it. The point is, these both work because there is absolutely no confusion about where the way in is. The colour adds a welcoming bonus.
Nice but confusing. Good landscape designers work with visual logic, the clues you get about where to go when you’re somewhere new. Imagine arriving at this house (above) for the first time – it’s tricky to spot the way in until you’ve done a little bit of a wander (and that usually makes me feel like an idiot). If you think your place is a bit ambiguous, think about ways in which you can send the message more clearly about where to find the front door. Paint it a bright colour or lay a clear path to it.
This way in. Designer Ann Kearsley has sorted this simply and nicely. If you can’t figure the way in, it’s you that has the problem as the visual logic clues are loud and clear here.
People and cars. This place does a good job managing arrivals on foot or on wheels, and in a relatively small space. Yes they could have just had a driveway and let the foot traffic use that, but drives tend to be a bit less welcoming. (They make me feel like I’m a lesser visitor somehow.) Here the loose crazy paving says, “Welcome pedestrians! Yes, we value a visit from you too!” And because it is unstructured, it allows the planting to be incorporated which helps play down the amount of paving which actually covers a high proportion of the front garden.
Street entrances. Sometimes there’s a good argument to create the entrance closer to the street and further away from the house. It could be because you want to claim some front garden space to use privately behind a wall. Or it may be the simplest way to sort out a confusing entrance position. The walled walkway above draws people in with style. Below, the garden is large enough to divide into a public corral zone and a more private space beyond the wooden door-gates.
And now for some mistakes. This is a nice house (below) with carefully balanced walls, steps and planting. But everything has been spoiled by the inset lights that have become a bizarre feature. Yes, steps need illumination at night, but this can be achieved with soft washes of light from fixtures hidden in the planting beds. (Think of the light itself should be the feature, never the actual source.)
Temple of doom. Ok what’s going on below? Unless Indiana Jones lives here, (yes, I know he’s not real) I think this entrance is over the top. Always be wary of themes (Balinese, Japanese, Versailles etc) as it can quickly slip into laugh-ability. I’m just picturing guests arriving for dinner, and having to cross the rapids via the footbridge without dropping the pie they offered to bring.
Say it big. I am a big fan of the big street number. It’s also a great way to flag the entry point. Not every one would love this ripe-for-a-tweak entrance (the green is pretty dull, I admit), but you have to admire the design that went into the angled siding and the number-mail box combo.
A pot. Maybe the extent of the makeover that you’re up for is a nice pot full of something in flower. Positioned next to the door, it will flag the fact that it’s the main way in, and that you’re pleased to welcome most of the people who will visit. But beware – there is the potential to get this wrong, just as these people above have done. This pot is way too small. Far above in that shot of my front door, the pot is probably as small as I’d risk going.
Worth the effort. The front door makeover really is the easiest project with the most potential impact for effort and dollars expended. Even just a bit of paint and potted colour could do wonders. Here’s the Munster’s place (before and after) to show you what’s possible… though it still seems to make young people wary…