Monday, September 5, 2011

Front doors

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I love the idea of a prominent front door, carefully considered as a key element of the design of a house.  One of my favorite architectural design books, A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander, has some interesting notes on the front door or main entrance:

Place the main entrance of the building at a point where it can be seen immediately from the main avenues of approach and give it a bold, visible shape which stands out in front of the building.

I like giving a front door a bold, visible color.  Some of the most memorable doors to me are the ones where the homeowner has made a statement.  The perfect example – the door of Miles Redd, which is a custom color that took many color combinations to derive:

This door is so highly custom – it looks like the hardware was selected first, then the door was designed to frame the hardware.  Image source.

There is something so endearing about this image (Miles Redd’s door again) with the iconic front door seen in the context of the entire building. The door is placed to the side – characteristic of the brownstone style – with 8 windows and the door as the ninth opening, it’s interesting to note that the third floor windows are not quite as wide as the first and second floor windows, making the shutters a bit more narrow.  Also interesting to note how the shutters on different windows seem to have a latch that connects them.  Image source.

House Beautiful has a great feature on picking the right color for your front door, with thoughts and advice from a dozen designers.  House Beautiful deems changing the color of your front door “the easiest of makeovers” and encourages readers to go bold in order to make a great first impression. (Image above is folly green by Farrow & Ball, selected by Kathryn Ireland).

We have spent months testing out colors for our new front door; as soon as the front door went in back in March, we had samples up there (initially we had Farrow & Ball vert de terre and French gray as our two samples).  We all feel that green would be a great choice for the door, but green is a tricky shade.  An additional challenge is that the door gets no sun until mid afternoon, so it looks entirely different in the morning and the afternoon.  Most shades of green we have tested look good either in the morning or the afternoon, but not both.

The upper right is SW Privilege green, which is a great shade but looks very dark and dull unless it has light shining on it.  The upper part of the left is a Benjamin Moore color that I can’t recall, and the lower part of the upper section is Farrow & Ball Chappell green, a vibrant green-blue.  The middle of the left is Farrow & Ball blue gray, which actually translates as a green blue.  There are four F&B colors across the bottom – pigeon, lichen, blue gray, and vert de terre.

We are going to try a full coat of Chappell green, simply because we think that the door needs the deeper value of the upper right sample, but a color that will pop a bit.   Although we had previously rejected F&B vert de terre, now I am wondering whether it might be a shade to try if Chappell green ends up being too much. Vert de terre is more subtle.  As far as colors go, F&Bl blue gray is perhaps my favorite color, but it might be too soft and subdued in this application and look too similar to the trim.  My builder finds it amusing that out of all of the thousands of decisions that have gone into this house, it is the front door color that has stumped me – but the good news is that it is only paint, so we can try something and change it if the color doesn’t work.

While writing this post, I came across a wonderful blog post on ‘The Language of Doors, Part I’, by the blog Heirloom Philosophy.  The post is full of inspiring images and quotes on doors and their place in interior and exterior design . (Part II is a great read too, all about interior doors). 

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  1. Have loved watching the transformation of your new home coming to life. With respect to the front door color have you considered toning a color down and using it quarter strength or half strength to see if you like it better. some of my favorites are muted tones of stronger colors. Just a thought!

  2. Hi Suzanne - great idea! We have done this in other areas of the house - half strength on the wall and ceilings in some rooms, which makes all the difference.

    For the front door, we like F&B as it is full spectrum and looks really beautiful in the high gloss finish, and the paint is shipped already mixed. This has been a challenge - no spur of the moment decisions possible! You have to plan ahead or pay $85 to ship.

  3. Your front door is so gorgeous!!! Where did you get it? Is it antique?

  4. Remember the color will also change with the seasons due to the shifting of the sun.
    In a previous home I had 4 different doors in different colors which included a stained door for Fall that I changed @ the beginning of each season. It made me so happy & it was such fun!

    Love the Chappel.

  5. Cheers to the door looking it's best in sun, shade, and after dark. Imagine all the colors it will take over the next 100 years. How are the shutter color tests going?

  6. I love all your beautiful Farrow & Ball options. I've used both lichen and blue grey before and have been dying to try vert de terre as a best friend just used it with great success. I am already a fan of Heirloom Philosophy and remember that door post!! Can't wait to see what you decide. I'm going to keep my eye peeled for all the colorful doors in London when I'm there for BlogTour - as I remember, they always seem to have such inspiring choices!!

  7. I love colored front doors...and these are wonderful examples. Such an easy change, but somehow I can never be brave enough to try...maybe this will inspire me!!

  8. Holly I adore interesting doors and windows.

    Regarding Miles fabulous door, I would love to see that gorgeous shade of paint on the shutters as well. It is so soft, i don't feel it would detract from the door, maybe even enhance it!


    Art by Karena

  9. Holly I love your front door, I think of doors almost like the smile on a house and I think yours will be smiling with the FB color. I have actually mixed two colors formulas together to get the quality of both in one color before. It takes time working with my tinter, but I love a custom color I can call my own. I think you are going in a wonderful direction and it is the first introduction to the subtle and tasteful interiors you are creating. Thank you for taking us along on your journey. I am going to take a look at the post you mentioned. The Miles Redd door hardware is some of my favs!! Happy Labor day!! Kathysue

  10. Your front door is simply gorgeous. So classic! Any color would look good on this door, you can't go wrong!

    I hope everything is great with you, Holly!


    Luciane at HomeBunch.com

  11. I love Miles Redd's door! Love yours too. A door says a lot about what's inside.

  12. Holly,
    Thanks so much for sending readers my way! Your posts always make me think and this post has me wanting to change my front door color again. Farrow and Ball paint colors are always interesting...I think that's why it has me stumped...I like them all. There's a gorgeous, traditional Georgian house here in Winston Salem that is very stately with a slate roof, painted white brick with black shutters. This weekend they painted the front door a shocking chartruese and added silver hardware like Miles Redd door....I adore it! I have been following your progress on your new home and can't wait to see more both inside and out. Thanks for always inspiring me!

  13. There is an untold language among doors and I love it. Stunning!

  14. I like your doors! I had a similar pair made a few years ago for clients with a great collection of Swedish neoclassical furnishings.

  15. For some reason I am not quite sure what to think about Miles Redd's door. I mean, I do like, really, but I think I would use a slightly brighter color to make it even more striking - now it looks just like the rest of the house, you know, it does not immediately catch your attention.

  16. It takes time working with my tinter, but I love a custom color I can call my own. I think you are going in a wonderful direction and it is the first introduction to the subtle and tasteful interiors you are creating


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