How frequently do you consider your front door? I’m sure it doesn’t happen very often… That’s unfortunate because your house’s front door is crucial. It serves as the initial exclamation point of the entry procession, in addition to being the entryway to your home. When considering a front door, there are a few self-evident goals to keep in mind: security (both real and perceived), weather protection, and a warm and welcome (ideally – though this isn’t always the case) reception point.
I’m not going to emphasize on the obvious purposes of your front door – it would be like me warning you not to touch a hot skillet because you’ll get burned. Most of these elements should be familiar to you, so I’ll concentrate on the visual aspects of a front door, and I’ll use a door that we’re now constructing as an example of what can happen when you have some fun.
The schematic above depicts the floor plan for the entrance door of a house I’m currently building. The architectural style is transitional (something between modern and classic), and the materials palette is quite clean. I’ve highlighted the course of the door swing in blue to make it clear that this door isn’t hinged on one side, but rather pivots at a point around 12 inches in from one edge. The pivot point is positioned along the center of the door thickness, which is referred to as a “center hung pivot hinge.” Hinging a door in this manner can make an extraordinarily wide door – in this case, 5′-7 1/2′′ wide – a little easier to control. And, let’s face it, it’s a far more appealing door.
This was the earliest version of the front Internal Doors: a big steel frame with a wood panel insert, and transparent glass for viewing that ran vertically along the thickened steel border that would later house all of the door hardware mechanisms. Above the eight-foot-tall door is a two-foot-tall glass transom. I should mention that I used Photoshop to colorize our building plans so that it would be a little simpler to tell what’s what. Steel is used for the gray, light blue for the glass, and brown for the wood. Just for you, easy-peasy.
When it comes to staring out their front door, most people fall into one of two camps:
a) Those who require a clear view of the front door, and
b) Those who do not require direct access to the front door
I’ve always wondered whether there was some type of distinguishing quality among the people that fall into each category… Do people who don’t want to be seen in public often stroll around in their underwear? Perhaps those who enjoy having windows in their front rooms spend a lot of time in their underwear… They don’t mind if you don’t see them, though.
In either case, these specific clients did not want a window at the front door, and I was pleased to accommodate them because I, too, do not need to see out the front door. Or is it possible that I spend a lot of time in my underwear? You’ll never know if you don’t try.
This is my actual front door, and while I don’t walk around in my underwear very often, I do dance a lot right in front of it, and if you’ve seen my ridiculously amazing dance moves, I’m sure the rest of the neighborhood would appreciate a glass vision panel in it so they could get a free show every now and then.
So, after the glass panel was removed, this is the new front door. If you look at the design above, you’ll notice four dashed lines flowing diagonally — they look like an off-balanced letter “X” pushed to one side. This is how we indicate which direction the door opens. The dashed diagonal lines converge on the edge where the hinge (or in our instance, the pivot) will be, and the far extreme points of the lines indicate the extent of the door corners where it opens. (If that doesn’t make sense, try expressing it to someone else — it’s a lot harder than you think.)
This entry door isn’t something you can pick up from your local big box store, and it shouldn’t be. One of the most appealing aspects of designing residential projects for unique clients is that you can truly dive in and explore the possibilities for delivering a superior result that exceeds expectations. You’re looking at what’s known as the “hinge” side jamb feature in the image above. We’re attempting to make the door span the entire width of the entry hall, which necessitates lowering the door’s frame to its bare minimum. By integrating the steel frame into the wall and making the finish materials flush with the frame’s edge, we are able to achieve this optical “minimization.” Only the 3/8′′ painted steel frame is visible from the outside.
If you look closely, you can see a 2′′ x 3/8′′ steel panel sitting within the 3/8′′ perimeter frame. The wood will be attached to this internal steel frame, which also secures the front door… This door isn’t being slammed shut by accident.
The “strike” side of the door is on the opposite side of the door. The door hardware will be installed and engaged/locked into the steel frame on this side. On the left, you can see the rectangular steel tube that is sized to accept the door lockset. I might also mention (for those of you who are really perceptive) the 1′′ tall #3 gauge steel door stop… You can find it by reading the notes above – or by glancing at the steel tube’s bottom left-hand corner. Both sides of the door have one of these steel doorstops, but because this is a rotating door rather than a swinging door, they are on different sides of the steel frame. (Perhaps it’s a good idea to have another look at the proposal)
The tone and expectation for the remainder of your home can be set by the front door. If you pay attention to the small details the moment someone enters your home, it’s safe to assume you’ll pay attention to the same type of details throughout the rest of your home. There are around four additional features that are absolutely necessary to properly implement the design of this door – and I’m sure there will be a few things to consider once we give these plans to the steel fabricator.
That’s fine, though. One of the most enjoyable things of being an architect and working on the kind of projects that come into my office is the opportunity to constantly reinvent the wheel and look at personal experiences that will enrich the process for the people I am working with. This door will be a source of pride for everyone concerned; passing through such a door will be a memorable event that people will talk about.