Considering your front doorstep is the first thing that greets you when you arrive home—and your first opportunity to make guests feel welcome—it’s certainly an area worthy of attention. Fortunately, there are a variety of ways to upgrade an entry to ensure your abode makes a memorable first impression. To help those seeking inspiration for an entryway refresh decide where to focus their energy, we reached out to an architect, an interior designer, and a garden designer for guidance. From light fixture recommendations to bold front door colors to how to choose containers, here is their expert advice.
Go custom to add character. “The best way to make an impactful update to your front entry is with a new front door,” says Baltimore, Maryland-based architect Everett Schram, who recommends that homeowners consider having a custom door designed and built specifically to accentuate the character and style of the home. For a contemporary house, he suggests incorporating a wood species that can be stained, and unique hardware like a pivot hinge if the doorway is wide enough. For a historic house, he suggests looking to “high-style” iterations of the home and emulating their front doors.
Update your door finish. Using a special finish or eye-catching color on your front door can go a long way toward creating an inviting and statement-making entrance. Schram recommends opting for a wonderful complimenting color done in a Hollandic lacquer, a warm and rich species of wood with a French polish, or a rustic bleached and waxed wood for a timeless look. Meanwhile, Jackson Hole, Wyoming-based interior designer Shannon Whitesays this the perfect place to think about going bold with a color that speaks to you, such as navy, deep green, or powder blue. “Use bright colors to break up an otherwise monochrome exterior,” she suggests. “A bright green door set in an otherwise monochromatic front elevation beckons visitors to enter and can add interest to your home.”
Repeat and reference other elements. When imagining ways to upgrade your front entrance, think about design details, patterns, materials, and palettes that occur elsewhere—either outdoors or inside—that can be referenced, says White. For example, lattice work on a gate can be echoed in a custom gridwork pattern on the front door, or a limestone interior fireplace can inform what you use to clad your entry.
An entryway by Shannon White Design. Photography by McNair Evans Photography.
Invest in high-quality door hardware. According to Schram, if you’re going to splurge, door hardware is an area where it pays to spend a little extra. “This is the one tangible element that immediately implies the quality your entire home was built with,” he says. “And trust me, you can feel the difference in your hand—and so can your guests!” He recommends selecting heavy, luxurious, and durable pieces in a beautiful finish, but cautions that you should also consider your environment and purchase items that will stand up to the elements.
Look to lighting to make a statement. “Think of exterior lighting as the jewelry of your home’s exterior,” says White, who says that the goal is to give thought to enhancing your home’s architecture without overshadowing it. For a modern entry, she recommends understated fixtures where the light cast is the focal point, rather than the fixture itself. For a traditional home, she suggests a gas-lit sconce or lantern to add appeal. Schram concurs, adding, “Little is more charming than a flickering gas flame…it just entices people to drop in and stay a while.”
Consider scale when adding accessories. “Lanterns, welcome mats, and benches all beckon while offering an opportunity to show your personal style,” White says, adding that it’s important to use care to scale furnishings in proportion to the size of your entry door. (As a rule of thumb, doormats should be at least equal to the width of your front door.) Garden designer Tyne Martinez of Atlanta, Georgia-based Floralis seconds the importance of scale when considering containers, noting that it’s better to have fewer containers that are slightly larger than a multitude of smaller containers. “This allows for greater impact from the container plantings themselves,” she says. “When finished, the plantings should be close to the size of the container for proper balance.”
Choose containers that complement the architecture. A thoughtfully chosen container can go a long way in terms of enhancing an entry. Whether you’re selecting one to stand alone or multiple containers for a grouping, Martinez recommends choosing a material that adds interest without detracting from the house’s aesthetic, and opting for a style that reflects the formality of the abode. “For example, a house that’s classically designed with a limestone surround should have limestone containers,” she notes. When selecting a container for outside a bungalow or cottage, however, she says you can consider a wider range of material options, such as cast concrete, terracotta, zinc, or a glazed version.
Think about the permanence of your plantings. As you’re deciding what to plant in your containers, Martinez says you should consider how frequently you plan on switching them out. Colorful plantings will likely be changed out two or more times a year, while boxwoods, conifers, aspidistra, or other evergreen plants will be planted more permanently. Your planting zone and the amount of light the area will get will also factor into your decision-making, as you’ll want to select plants that will thrive for seasons to come.
Use plants to frame the front door. When creating an inviting front entrance, Martinez says to start by adding some structural plantings that frame the front door. “Boxwoods, whether in a grouping or singular, are always our ‘go-to’ plant,” she says. “They provide a bit of formality and can be a counterpoint to looser companion plantings.”
Credits: TSG Tip 335 from Everett Schram of J. E. Schram Architect in Baltimore, Maryland, Shannon White of Shannon White Design in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and Tyne Martinez of Floralis Garden Design in Atlanta, Georgia. J. E. Schram Architect is featured in The Scout Guide Baltimore & Annapolis, Shannon White Design is featured in The Scout Guide Jackson Hole, and Floralis is featured in The Scout Guide Atlanta.