It’s Summer time here in New Jersey. Suburban weekends are filled with the sound of lawnmowers and the roads are busy with traffic as people head to the local garden center.
I am one of those people. Each Spring I plant coral colored geraniums in my window box at the front of my house. For years I tried to be adventurous with different types of flowers, but lack of water and excessive sunlight soon led me to accept that geraniums were the tried and true flower that would survive in my window box until Fall. Being originally from England I tend to gravitate towards the more haphazard cottage style of gardening. I like things to be unstructured and interesting. Loosely translated it means I can be a lazy gardener, but I prefer to think of it as welcoming and nicely imperfect. When I first moved into my house the front door was covered by a screen door that is normally found at the back of a house. It was rusty and old and white. The concrete steps were crumbling and the landscaping was very formal. It was totally at odds with the 1930’s house that I had bought. The house looked rundown and I was embarrassed when people came up the steps to visit. Over time I replaced the front screen door with a non-traditional one and painted it dark red. Such a small thing immediately directed the focus to the entrance of the house, before the white door had just blended into the white house. The concrete was replaced with limestone, and later on a small overhead porch was added that matched the existing roof line. I dug out the formal conifers and planted perennials instead. It took me ages to make these decisions; I wanted to reclaim the character of the house and I wanted the improvements to appear seamless. To fight against the bones of my old house would have been exhausting, and would have looked ridiculous.
A lot of houses in my neighborhood are getting makeovers this year. New doors and windows are everywhere and I often stop to wonder about the contractors who install them. Do they (or the owners) try to match the improvement to the integrity of the house? No less than 10 homes in my neighborhood have installed the exact same front door this year. I am sure that the owners saw the door, loved it and bought it right away. I live in a middle class neighborhood with nice homes, but these are not expensive homes. The door in question looks confused by it’s new surroundings, and the houses that once had character seem to be struggling to find a new identity.
If you absolutely fall in love with a door that does not suit your home then try to modify some of the other features about the house. Change some of the plants around the doorway or install a different style of house numbers; both ideas are quick and inexpensive but they would begin to create a story around the door that would support your decision. It is similar to decorating inside. When we buy a new sofa that is totally different from the other furniture, we have to integrate it into our home. If we don’t rearrange our home around it it looks like we have just dropped a new sofa into an old room, it screams brand-new and everything around it is uncomfortable. When you are considering purchasing a door the first idea is to look on the Internet. Do a search of houses similar to yours and see what you like the look of. If you have a 1930’s home then maybe a wood door in a simple design would work for you rather than a shiny brass one? If the door you like is too formal for your home maybe you can modify it? You could scratch the lacquer off the brass to make it less shiny (!) or order it in a different stain/paint color to make it look more interesting. Alternatively, if you want a more formal look consider the new finishes that are available; matching hardware is always more formal but look beyond the obvious. There are beautiful nickel, copper and iron options too. Inquire at the Home Improvement store; ask if the doors can be painted to order and the hardware changed before installation. Don’t assume that what is in the store is your only option. Be creative. Ask questions. Buying and installing a door can be expensive, take the time to make an informed decision. Another idea that I use all the time is to take a photograph of the front of the house, then photocopy it about 10 times in black and white. Take markers or crayons and draw in the improvement you are thinking about doing. Play with it – change colors and styles as many times as you need to. This will give you a very good idea of what it would look like. We rarely see our home the way other people do so an actual photograph of the Outside can be a very useful tool when considering changes. I think we underestimate the impression of the front door. Next time you come home, stand outside for a while, take a good look. Do you like what you see?
For more by Wendy and the Blue Giraffe, go to: http://www.thebluegiraffe.com/