Doors to Adore

High style and function meet in the latest exterior and interior doors

Nick Schulz of Del Mar Company Inc.

Doors matter. Aside from their utilitarian roles, they play a huge part in the way your home looks. The front door provides visitors with that important first impression of your home. The side door is the one you use all through the day, going to work, carrying in groceries, taking out the recyclables. And even when the garage houses just one car, its door is a big feature with a large impact on your home’s appearance. 

Interior doors matter, too. While it’s true that all those open-concept spaces have made them less relevant, we still need some doors for privacy, notes Jeff Lowanski, vice president of technical services for the Window & Door Manufacturers Association. 

“Since they’re part of the general decor, interesting new concepts have cropped up,” he says. “The barn door, which evokes industrial chic, is one of them. The unique Murphy door, which incorporates a bookcase, is another. It gets its name from the Murphy bed, which reveals a bed as you pull a door out of a wall.”

Doors, both exterior and interior versions, are available in a dizzying variety of materials and styles. Design-conscious homeowners like that, of course, but, on the other hand, the broad spectrum can be confusing. Lowanski’s advice is to start out learning about the structural properties of doors and then proceed to style considerations.

“After all, exterior doors must stand up to all kinds of weather and also offer security,” he points out.

Exit here, please

Wood doors remain popular, primarily because of their natural good looks, and in luxe versions like mahogany and teak they’re impressive, but be forewarned. They work best under an overhang or in shade; weather takes a toll on them. Wood can crack and warp and requires annual maintenance. 

Fiberglass doors can mimic the look of wood doors so perfectly that even a door expert has trouble telling the difference, and they’re way tougher, stand up better to adverse weather, are energy-efficient and extremely low-maintenance. They cost a pretty penny, though. Costs range from $300 to $4,000, but architects and builders say that in the long run the benefits will justify the investment.

Courtesy of Marvin Windows and doors

Doors can also serve as windows on the world and lend a feeling of openness to interior spaces. Let’s be clear — in waterfront settings, there really is no alternative to glass, no matter how much Windex may be required.

Steel doors, says Lowanski, are affordable and offer excellent security. Usually they feature a foam core for insulation, and they resist cracking and warping. However, in direct sunlight they can become almost too hot to handle.

The architecture of your house should dictate the style of your exterior doors. For a really grand French chateau style, for example, think of an intricately paneled double front door. For a  craftsman bungalow, a door with a leaded glass window and transom would be perfect. And if your house is contemporary, go with something sleek, perhaps a flat door with a slender off-centered vertical slit of glass.

Manufacturers offer so many options that your door can appear custom-made. And be brave with color. Bright colors for front doors are on trend. Or perhaps take a cue from feng shui, which advocates color choices according to the direction of the door. Who knew that a green or black door facing south brings good luck?

Manufacturers are turning out doors in endless variety, making choices difficult. Bear in mind that a door sets the tone for a home.

What’s inside matters

Architects lament that too few homeowners pay attention to interior doors. “It’s my pet peeve,” writes Florida architect Bud Dietrich on Houzz, a design website. “It’s as if the entire world shifted from the 1950s flat door to the six-panel colonial door and forgot everything else.”

Lowanski agrees. “There are so many types and styles available,” he says. “It’s a pity that too few homeowners take advantage of them. It makes sense to choose a simpler door for a craftsman-style home than for a stately Georgian. As a rule of thumb, the fewer raised panels on a door, the less fuzzy it is. You can also choose flat panels rather than raised ones for a simpler look without sacrificing architectural interest.”

For man’s best friend

How about a pet door? You’ll be thrilled to discover how much attention door manufacturers are paying to man’s best friend. Here are some of the options.

You can get pet doors with electric locks to prevent strays and other critters from coming in. Your pet wears a collar with a key, and when the key is close to the door, it unlocks. Or you might choose some kind of manual direction control. Set it so that your pet can go out and come in at will or set it so the pet can come in, but not go out again. Then there’s the powered door that senses when the pet approaches and electrically opens the door. Small pets like these doors because it takes no effort to open them, and there’s no flap or door to hit their behinds.

Look for doors with hard plastic flaps for longer life. The soft vinyl type tends to tear, doesn’t provide a tight weather seal and won’t keep out unwelcome visitors, such as raccoons.

It will come as no surprise that the more you pay, the better quality and features you get.

Categories: Homes