Choosing a front door is fraught with considerations.
Here are ways to narrow your choices.
By Carol Brock
“A front door is your opening statement,” says Anne Shutan, a “custom-door maven,” sculptor and furniture maker in Longmont. “It’s people’s first impression of your home.”
When deciding upon a front door, you’ll need to take several things into account. “Number one: It should not be ugly,” jokes senior salesperson Boone Becker of SolarGlass Window and Door in Boulder. Seriously, he adds, “It’s the least expensive way to greatly change the appearance of your home.” He suggests perusing catalogs to help define the door style for you.
With so many doors on today’s market, answering a few questions can help narrow your choices. “How much privacy do you need from your front door?” asks Barbee James, owner of Details Design Studio in Boulder. Sidelights—those two glass panels that flank a door—will let passersby see in, depending on the opacity. Transoms above a door can provide both privacy and natural light.
Scott Rodwin, owner of Rodwin Architecture + Skycastle Construction in Boulder, has created a number of homes on mountain properties that have plenty of privacy. “This allowed me to use large areas of thermal glass in the front door to visually connect the indoors to the outdoors,” he says.
Homeowners can also pare choices by considering their home’s exterior. “If someone wants a prairie-style door,” James says, “his house should have a prairie exterior” (an architectural style marked by horizontal lines, flat or hipped roofs, and overhanging eaves). James once had a client with a farmhouse who installed a custom contemporary door without consulting her. “It looked way out of place,” she says.
If the door has glass, you need to consider what exterior style it would best complement. A door with oval glass would complement a traditional, farm-style or Victorian home, James says. Square glass would fit with prairie style, and glass slivers or slats would complement a contemporary home.
Doors should also correlate with the home’s setting. Fine-art woodcarver Ron Ramsey of Lake Tahoe, Calif., makes custom doors with carved depictions of trees, herons, bears and other nature images. “A bear could go with a mountain home, a heron could go with a lakeside home, and a tree could go with most any home,” James notes.
A front door should support the house’s overall exterior design, agrees George Witters, co-owner of Schacht Mill Works in Lafayette, which manufactures custom entranceways. But you also must consider weather exposure. Is the door in the sun, shade or both? “Exterior doors are moving parts of a house and, in addition, they see temperature extremes,” Witters says. In winter, it can be 10 below outside and 70 inside. In summer it can be over 100 outside and 68 inside. “Those extremes tear moving parts apart.”
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Style Versus Durability
After taking weather and style into account, consider the pros and cons of materials. Each material has benefits and drawbacks, depending on your preferences and the home’s exposure. Wood is classic and the preferred material for many homeowners. “The pro is, it’s wood—people love wood,” says Becker, whose company sells more fiberglass than wood doors. “The pro for fiberglass is, it’s not wood.”
The building palette in Colorado tends toward natural materials, and nothing beats wood’s beauty. But weather takes its toll. “In our climate, a wood door can become a hobby, because it will require a good bit of maintenance,” Becker notes.
“Stability is very key, so the wood type is important,” adds Shutan, whose custom wood doors are created with farmed mahogany, or teak or cherry, and often incorporate stone, glass, metal and other materials. “Maple would be a horrible wood choice for a door. The grain is so tight, there would be nowhere for the moisture to go, so the door would crack and warp.”
If not properly maintained and sited, wood doors are prone to warping, splitting and cracking. Fiberglass is extremely durable and a good insulator but has fewer design options because it’s mass-manufactured. Some other materials include energy–efficient steel, high-efficiency thermal glass, and composites like aluminum-clad wood or wood-and-fiberglass.
“Style tends to override the concern with the elements in Boulder County, so style often wins out over durability,” Witters says. He suggests homeowners consult with a knowledgeable professional who can walk them through the trade-offs of style, materials and durability. For example, double doors were the rage in the ’70s and ’80s, Witters adds, “but they don’t seal well. A much better alternative is a single door with two sidelights.”
Contemporary is a popular style in Boulder County, with new homes boasting higher ceilings. “Things are getting taller,” Rodwin says, noting the standard door height is 6-feet-8-inches tall, but he’s seeing door heights of 7 and 8 feet on luxury homes.
He adds that many people enter their house through a garage door most of the time. “So we’ve seen a trend toward enhancing this entrance and making the door from the garage into the house the same quality as the interior doors, which typically are stained, solid wood.”
Painted doors in bold colors, like black, red, purple, teal and yellow, are also popular, James says. And both Becker and Rodwin point to a glass trend. The thermal efficiency of architectural glass has vastly improved, Rodwin notes, resulting in more glass being incorporated into front doors.
Instead of classic grilles and glass inserts, however, “a contemporary, fun style” is emerging, Becker says, that features glass in vertical or horizontal stacks and contemporary patterned grilles. According to Witters, unlike the leaded and beveled glass of former years, modern doors are minimalist, with simpler details like geometric glass in unusual positions.
Yet, singling out a top style is futile here. “We really don’t have one, I’m happy to say,” Becker says. “Everyone here follows their own muse.” Witters agrees: “You see the whole rainbow. When you drive down the streets in Boulder, all the houses are different, and I think the doors follow that.”
Having a front door you love does guarantee one thing, though. “It’s like opening a new door on your life,” Shutan says. “If you have something in your home that you love, you just feel better about yourself. People even pet my doors!”