Monday, August 10, 2009

The View from the Front Door

I love houses, and find the differences in home designs to be fascinating. One thing I always notice is what I see when I enter the front door. Is there a view from the front to the back? Are the stairs immediately in front? Perhaps this is too much of a generalization, but it seems like many older homes often have a wall or stairs on a wall when entering a house. It also seems like many homes I have seen in the past 2 years do not have the stairs front and center, but rather have the stairs tucked away to the side. When looking at real estate photos, I wish there were more pictures capturing the views from the entry to the back of the house; to me, this is what sets the stage for the house.
This beautiful home designed by Steve Giannetti has what I consider to be my favorite axial view when entering a house: a view from the front to the back. The stairs are in the hall between the entry and the living room.
This picture is from an old real estate listing. I thought that the entry was similar to mine, however in my house I see through to the back of the house through the living room. I can't help but wish that there was a view through to the back of the house when looking at this picture!
I am not sure where this gorgeous room is located in its Parisian townhouse, but I like to imagine this is the view when entering the home. Does it matter if the view is not centered? to me, it does not. A beautiful view like this would be a great reward for the eye when entering a home. I suppose that the view when entering a city apartments is not as easy to control as it is in a large home, as much is determined by the apartment's location and position in a building.
Here is a picture from the set of the Nanny Diaries, which portrays a luxe Upper East Side apartment. There is a view from the entry hall through to the living room. Image via Traditional Home.
This was the Regency style home that was used as the Atlanta Homes and Lifestyles Christmas showhouse in 2008. The house was large and formal, but I liked how the view from the front door went through to the back. The living room was decorated by Suzanne Kasler, and the beauty of the room is a lovely reward at the end of the view. Often the living room is on one side of the entry, the dining room on the other side (in traditional symmetrical floor plans); in this house the library/study is on the left, the dining room on the right. The living room has a door that opens to the family room and breakfast area, which in turn open to the kitchen. Although the house is quite large and grand, I thought that the floor plan on the main level flowed really well.
I love blog house tours from Joni of Cote de Texas - she is as obsessed with floor plans and views as I am! She always shows the view from the front door to the back of the house, which really helps set the stage for the house. This house was on a home tour in her neighborhood, on an unusually deep lot for the area. To see more of the house, please see her post.
A very sculptural floating staircase and a grand piano greet the visitor when entering this house. This floor plan essentially divides a house in two, doesn't it?
swan house 1 piece stair
The Swan Coach House in Atlanta has a similar perspective when entering through the front door.
An attractive stairway makes a great first impression, and the Gothic style Tudor door prevents this area from being a dead end. Although you do not see through to the back of the house, the doorway provides a glimpse at the rooms in the back of the house.
An unusual view of the Blue Room in the White House - when you enter the White House through the front door, this is the room that is seen through to the back. Most of the pictures of this room have a huge Christmas tree blocking the view - this is where the official White House Christmas tree is placed. Image via Washington DC photographer Kristoffer Tripplaar.
The entry from Suzanne Kasler's old home did not have a view to the back - instead the visitor was greeted with a wall - but she made it a beautiful focal point with contemporary art and an antique French day bed.
Here is another entry where you walk in and see a wall, in a home that belonged to a friend. The home was built in the 1920s on the Chesapeake Bay, and the floorplan could not be changed from the original footprint. In designer Jim Hawes' words:
"The single, most difficult design aspect of this house was the entry. A two story high fireplace wall set just 10 feet back from the double glass door entry created a formidable physical and psychological barrier to arriving guests -- and the wall could not be moved. On entering you felt you had literally "hit" a wall. Instead of a mirror, we used a pair of antique French conservatory windows mounted on the wall -- the wavy glass panes providing a mirror of sorts, and much greater sense of depth. A sugar marble topped antique Swedish pine table offered a perfect compromise of weight/mass and lack of depth! Accessories and furnishings were kept simple, but refined. A South Seas clam shell filled with miniature sand dollars, oversize hurricane lamp, two silver candlesticks and a wonderful Meiji bronze crab dress the table. A marvelous fluted 19th century pedestal and whitewashed bamboo style arm chair flank the table." Don't you love hearing the thought process behind the design? Image via Caldwell-Beebe.
A picture from an Atlanta real estate listing. A pretty standard front hall with staircase - I really do not like to see the library table blocking the view to the back. Not only does it block the view, but it interferes with the traffic pattern of the hall.
This picture has been featured on just about every blog I know! There is something about it that really strikes a chord. Occasionally, the casual dining area is the view from the front to the back, as this is often the area that is the middle ground between the family room and the kitchen, and in modern floor plans (and renovations) the family room and kitchen often span the back of the house. Image via Traditional Home.
This entry, from an Atlanta real estate listing, is quite beautiful. But, I must admit, I prefer entries that are not so closed - I like to see through to the back of the house. When looking at potential houses for purchase, a closed entry is a deal breaker to me.
This home was on the market many years ago, yet I saved all of the pictures because I really liked how the house flowed. This is the perspective from the front door; the living room can be seen through the door openings, and the three sets of French doors open to the back yard. The one thing I would change: the living room is on its own, a bit of a dead end. Theoretically, one could go out the back doors and in through the outside doors to the family room, but I think it would be nicer to have a door or opening that connects the living room to the family room/breakfast area. The kitchen is on the right side of the house, and the family room is a wing that goes off the back of the house, also opening to the pool.
This home, from a high end spec house in Atlanta, has a view from the front to the back with a fireplace in view. For me, the important thing is to see from the front to the back; I don't mind looking at a fireplace, as long as there is a clear view through the house.
A view in an old real estate listing. Often when the family room and kitchen span the back of the house, a 'middle ground' is the view from the front of the house - and often there is a round table.
This is a home currently on the market in Atlanta. Although there is not a picture from the front door, I have been in this home and know that the front looks through to this hall in the back of the house. The house forms a 'U' shape; the master bedroom is one side of the 'U', the family room the other side of the 'U', and in the middle (off this hall) is a courtyard.
Brochsteins 038
The home of one of Cote de Texas' clients - I love the glimpse at the beautiful living room from the front door.
Last year I walked through a home that was being constructed, and liked the view from the front to the back, through two arched entrances. The room in the back is the family room. The stairs are in the middle hall. Seeing these floors was the inspiration for my post on chevron and herringbone floors.
The home I featured earlier this year - currently for sale, and the winner of the Southern Accents 2009 Kitchen of the year, has a hall that spans from the front of the house to the back. The view from the front is this sitting area, which is the middle ground between the kitchen and the family room.
Readers, now it is your turn to chime in! I would love to hear what you see when you enter the front door of your home. Do you like it? If not, what would you see when you enter the front door of your 'dream house'? For those of you reading this by email, click here to comment. I look forward to reading your responses!
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  1. A home with a view from the front entry seems welcoming, visually extending an invitation to come in.

  2. I see straight from the front door along an off-center axis to a view of the sky through the living room windows - but I live in a high-rise. A neighbor's decorator blocked her view with a wall with artwork etc. screening the view and it makes the hallway feel like a waiting room.

  3. I've lived in so many homes with different floor plans I can safely say the open view from the front door is by far my favorite. Wonderful photos!

  4. Wonderful design. I also loved that brightly striped silk skirted round table!

  5. Discovered the enfilade via landscape design and have been in love ever since.

    In landscape design the 'architecture' is mostly foyers, hallways, living room, the enfilade. Exactly like each of your pics.

    Placing evergreens marking the architecture and focal points to create the 'view'.

    Most often I'm hired because the owner can't 'see' their enfilade. It's incredible watching the light bulb moments as I place enfilades in the landscape.

    Adore your post and appreciate the collection of pics used.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  6. What a great post!! First impressions...after all!

    I have always loved a round hall table with a vase of flowers...so classic.

    Steve and Brooke do amazing work, don't they? Waht a pair!

    Having a west coast asthetic, I love walking into a house, and seeing the view out through to the back of the house...yum...crashing waves would be great :)


  7. * What a WONDERFUL BLOG today, in EVERY way~~~ one of your VERY BEST!!! Thank you SOOO much!

    We adored the first home we built on the golf course 7 years ago. From the super-wide foyer w/ broken-stone floors, one could see all the way through to the fairway & red mountains~~~ breathtaking!

    Our new 4 year old home now looks straight through to the pool, desert mountains and sky, and every single day we thank Him for our blessings. It, too, is breathtaking & visitors, first-timers & "regulars" alike, always enjoy it & comment on the beauty of it all.

    Now I can't even IMAGINE NOT having a "looking-straight-thru-to-the-view" foyer~~~ it's ALWAYS a most WONDERFUL JOY see & live with!

    Again, such super-wonderful blog today!!!

    Warmly & w/ thanks for the "treats",
    Linda in AZ *

  8. Great post! Love all of the photos. I agree that this type of plan does not seem to be the norm in the newer homes.

  9. These are beautiful!!

    Our foyer, from the door, looks through the living room, to triple windows, through which the back porch is seen and a wooded area beyond.

    Our home was on a garden club Christmas tour, a few years ago. There were several hundred visitors, that day, many wanted to walk through the living room, for a better look at the view, rather than turning a corner, to follow the "plan". They were drawn, to those windows.

    Our stairs are actually in the living room area. The original plan was for columns in the dining room. We added walls; the stairs would have been visible from the door, on the original plan. We like the change we made.

  10. Thanks for adding me to your blog roll. Your sweet comment was one of the nicest I have ever gotten! Would love to know which of my eariler post you really liked???? As for what do I see when I enter my house, all the way to the back...lol Thanks again!

  11. Such grand entrys and all so beautiful. Hugs, Marty

  12. Love that you highlighted the entry: architecture is number 1, but creativity and good design can achieve miracles. Thanks so much.

  13. Such gorgeous examples of perfect entryways!! A pleasure to wander through. Thanks!

  14. I like many of the same elements but I guess my priority is some way of ensuring that visitors come in through the main entry not the garage, as inevitably seems to be the habit. I like a drive in area and perhaps porch that invites guests to come in through the front rather than parking behind the garage, and immediately ringing that doorbell. (another blog entry for you?) Jeanine

  15. What an excellent post. We live in a neighborhood of tract homes in the pacific NW. And EASILY most homes in our area have a view of the kitchen table from the front door - for some reason I dislike that look. We lucked out and have a foyer framed by a curving staircase. Your post gives LOTS of ideas to dream about.

  16. my house is a no-style california tract house, but one can see through the entry,living and dining rooms to the backyard upon entering. what one sees is very nice, but because of the window placement in the rooms, and looking toward/into the light outside, the interior appears dark. the good side of the darkness is that it feels cool, and in hot southern ca. that is a good thing. i lack the space for the round table at the entry, but i have a nice antique dresser and a chair to welcome people. it works. jkj

  17. Thank you for helping me appreciate my house. I don't like that everyone comes into the tiny back hall at my house, but it does have a nice view straight through the kitchen, then family room to a back window and door out to the mountains (beyond the utility poles/lines)! I have often thought of switching the wide my front door swings into, so you would walk into the view out the back to the mountains instead of walking directly into a staircase. Supposedly seeing all the way from the front out to a window or door are bad fung shui, but I've never had any problems with any good "escaping" out the back!

  18. The first impression and the last impression....the front door is what it is all about, xv.

  19. In our current townhome, the entryway is relatively small, but the height (2-stories) definitely helps make up for it. In my new house, the entryway is long and gives you a direct view into the family room and it's large 2-story windows -- I love that. The staircase, while not floating (a detail I love in many of your pictures), curves gently along one wall. For me, it was definitely the entryway that sold me on the new house.

  20. I ran across your nice blog today and loved the piece about home entryways. I feel as you do that the ideal view is one straight through to the back. Husband and I are beginning renovation on a 1940s ranch that had a dark entryway with a coat closet/wall facing the front door. That closet and wall were torn down in the last few days and a staircase (going down, so no blocked view) has been created with a wall of windows behind, looking out to the back and an huge old oak. Window just went in yesterday. A great view refreshes the soul!

  21. It may sound strange but we never enter through the front door. Our driveway actually comes up from the back of the house so our back door is used as the main entryway. We do have a huge foyer but it isn't used.

  22. I think you need zen views from the entry. Something that intrigues you and makes you want to go further but a view that doesn't show you everything. I think the entry should tease you. Moving further into the house should be even more impressive. I think you should save the very best for where family spends most of its time.

    So you'd like to show views without bursting in on folks in the house. From A Pattern Language. "The family, sitting, talking, or at table, do not want to feel disturbed or intruded upon when someone comes to the door." It's uncomfortable for family and for guests both going in and going out.

  23. I enjoyed years of planning a home and then actually building it. I thought I was the only one who loved looking through a house to the back. My view from my entrance is of a large open living room/dining room area out onto a porch then a yard and golf course. I feel like I live on an estate. Trust me it is just an illusion but one I enjoy everyday.
    I have loved discovering your blog! It is something I look forward to reading every time it pops up on my computer. I think of Julie in "Julie & Julia" fame when I read it. Speaking of them when do we get to walk through a Parisian inspired Atlanta home. Many thanks for so much fun.

  24. I love a tablescape, a mirror or some art maybe. But prefer not to have much of my house on view to whoever may come to the door. Prefer to have that as something for those I invite in. So have to say I like it if others allow their homes to be viewed from the front door :-) but for me personally I agree with Terry above.

  25. Steve was so excited when I showed him that you included one of the homes that he designed.
    I prefer homes that have a view of the yard from the entry. We designed our own home that way. It makes the home feel so much more open and bright.
    Of course I'm also drawn to your images with those beautiful spiral stairways. They are so romantic.


  26. I love front entry halls!

    Our first house was a small cape, and you opened the door and were greeted by the steps right in front of you, with an opening into the living room on one side and the den on the other. I always hated that cramped entryway. Then, we lived in a 100 year old home, where you entered and saw two openings each on both sides of the hall (living room, family room, dining room, guest room), a stairway, and all the way through to the back porch. Loved, loved, loved it!!. Then we moved to a home where you walked right into the living room (I made an entry area there) and looked through the room out to the sunroom. So, no entry hall, but you look straight through the house.

    And now, we have moved to a very small two story townhouse at the beach with a reverse floor plan. It is dark downstairs, but I love it anyway, as it has a hall way and at the end is the main guest bedroom (the other room downstairs is a small den) and you can see straight to the windows in the guest room. I have told people one of the things I like about our small place is that hallway; I love a home with a hallway as you enter and especially one with a view to the outside at the end. And even though only our 100 year old home came near to the grandeur of the many homes you showed us on your blog today, even the small hallway in the downstairs of our beach townhouse makes me happy! : )


  27. I'm in a small cape so upon entering my front door you are in a faced with another door to enter my living room.

    Not much going on. I wished I had a grand entrance with amazing center staircase.

    I loved this post. You always think of the most interesting posts.


  28. Thank you so much for the tour. They are beautiful.

    Sorry-I've been out of commission -- terribly sick for over a week-- but do you want to know how I cut my grocery bill in half? go to Cut your grocery bills now plus I have a give a way and a new MckLinky party starting Monday

    Its So Very Cheri

  29. These palces are magnificent, especially I am enjoying the front hall with that unbelieveable broad transom. And "prom stiarcases" are we call them in our family are always a great addition to an MLS listing!

  30. The picture you showed of the closed entry is still beautiful with those GREAT black screen doors - I can feel the breeze! But a view is awfully inviting.

  31. A beautiful entry way is something I dream of. The way our house is set up now there is not any entry way. I would love one like the very first picture!

  32. The reason your blog has been featured in the WP so many times is because of the way your brain works. The posts you dream up are uniquely yours and totally inspired! I loved every single image, it really does give you a better feel for the entire house!

    Great post, as always!

  33. What a nice post! I loved all the pictures - especially the house that Brooke and Steve designed. (I love everything in that picture: the layout, the architectural elements and the interior design). And those spiral staircases are so beautiful!

    In my house, you can see through to my family room from my front door, and at a certain angle, you can see out one of the sliding doors to the deck and the back yard. My stairs are in my front hall.

    Thanks again for such a wonderful post.

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  35. I totally agree with what you said about seeing through to the back of the house!!

    The Caldwell-Bebee entry gives me hope. Our house is a split foyer and you're smacked in the face with the wall when you open the door. (Literally I think it's 7 feet from you...) The panes of glass are a great idea. I also like having a chair there. Will have to see what I can squeeze in!!
    Great one!!! :)

  36. So beautiful! I'm drawn first to formal symmetry for many reasons, including the fact that I love balance. That said, those spiral staircases are breathtaking!

    Thank you for featuring so many photographs of beautiful views from the front door. What a great idea!


  37. I love to see through the house too. Saladino doesn't like it though. he likes the entry to be small, low, create an air of mystery until you arrive into the house. different strokes. he does have a point though.

  38. Great post today! I really enjoyed it!

  39. I love this look upon entering a home, too. My house has that feature; you can see all the way through from front to back to outside and I never tire of the view upon entering. Great post.

  40. I would LOVE to see any of these visions when I open my front door!

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  42. The pictures were so great. This was an especially good way to see the difference in design and focal points of foyers. The grand opulent stairways make such a statement, but I much prefer the front to back view, with the stairway hidden or off to one side. Thanks for sharing.

  43. I know that being able to see from the front to the back of the house from the foyer is my personal preference but wonder how this applies to the principles of Feng Shui?

    ...Not a subscriber of Feng Shui theories necessarily but think this issue would be fundamental.

    Tricia - Avolli

  44. I would be interested to hear the Feng Shui impacts as well. I have heard that you should not have your front door facing your back door.

  45. Wow, you found some beautiful homes to share :-)

    When you walk in the front door of our house, you look down a hallway down to the family room. The fireplace is flanked by two windows and is directly ahead. You can see the backyard through the windows.

    My dream house would be a bungalow by the water. You would walk in through the front door into an open concept space. In front of you would be a sunken living room with a wall of huge windows with views of the water.


  46. I see straight thru and love it. My friends think I am crazy because you can see in my front door also but oh well what are you going to do cover up all the beauty with curtains? MB

  47. Great post. To answer an earlier post, here is some feng shui say about front entrance:



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