Posted by: jeb1 | December 14, 2010

Design Details: Entryways

Whether your budget is large or small, a memorable front door can provide lots of bang for your buck.

By: Jenny Sullivan

BUILDER is pleased to introduce Design Details, an ongoing series that will focus on the little stuff. Each visual installment will explore a particular theme, showcasing the kinds of innovative solutions that make a house memorable. Got a clever detail you’d like to show off? Send photos, specs, and a brief project description to senior design editor Jenny Sullivan at

A house needn’t be 10,000 square feet with an unlimited budget to make an impact. If your resources are finite, many experts suggest giving the most attention to things at eye level that people can see and touch. The front door is one such spot that can make a huge statement about the personality of the house and the people who live inside. 

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Credit: Art Gray

Wide Welcome

A massive, swiveling front door offers the first clue that this is no ordinary house, despite its otherwise traditional dormered façade. Whimsically pivoting as though revealing a secret passage, the opaque glass door directs visitors into a narrow, intimate gallery hall. This hall then expands into a larger volume space, with ceilings that soar 12 feet high. Contemporary artwork lines the entry hall, but the custom door is the masterpiece. Framed in Douglas fir and outlined by the home’s exterior redwood siding, it’s the first of several monumental-scale doors that flood the home’s interiors with natural light.

Project: Rock Living
Location: Los Angeles
Architect: MINARC, Santa Monica, Calif.
Builder: Homeowner

Credit: Courtesy RNM Design

Picture Frame

Nested in the foothills of California wine country, this Andalusian-style home savors views on multiple scales, from the panoramic to the intimate. Here, the covered entry vestibule of a detached casita frames a keyhole view of the front door to the main house. Moorish arches, which form a consistent element throughout the compound, are articulated with stucco walls, rough-hewn beams, distressed brick masonry, cast stone columns, decorative 6″ x 6” tile, and wrought iron accents. This project won a 2009 Gold Nugget Award.

Project: Sierra de Montserrat
Location: Loomis, Calif.
Architect: RNM Design, Irvine, CA
Builder: Westwood Homes, Golden River, CA

Credit: Richard Laughlin

Square Root

Privacy wasn’t a requirement for this front door, which gave builder Richard Laughlin license to play with its form. The house is hidden in a grove of elm trees, and this entry, which spills into the foyer, is buffered from the driveway by a long breezeway and an adjacent courtyard. Its protected position allowed plenty of glass, which in this case is divided by no fewer than 112 muntin bars. Custom-designed by Laughlin, the door panel and grilles (collectively measuring 42″ x 96″ x 1-3/4″) are made of knotty alder with a walnut stain–the same combo used in window trim and interior casings throughout the house. The door’s definitive personality establishes an ordered, yet casual tone for this Craftsman-style home, which features an eclectic mix of local materials, including limestone columns, reclaimed beams, and wide plank floors. 

Project: Elm Grove Home
Location: Fredericksburg, Texas
Builder: Laughlin Homes & Restoration, Fredericksburg
Woodworker: Pat Smith & Co., Fredericksburg

Credit: Jason S. Gray

Heavy Metal

The massive metal door providing entry to this hillside home is dramatic, but it also serves a functional purpose. Only the toughest building materials pass muster in this fire-prone part of the country. And in this custom remodel by architect Arthur Dyson and Pete Moffat Construction, that meant a steel skeleton skinned with a metal and gravel roof, slate decks, a brawny stainless steel door, and glimmering copper siding–-the reflection of which casts the steel door in a warm glow, depending on the angle and time of day. Once inside, a glass-floor foyer provides a light counterbalance to the heavy door, as does a folding glass wall that exposes the valley-side of the house to the treetops.
Project: Kelly Residence
Location: Portola Valley, Calif.
Architect: Arthur Dyson Architect, Fresno
Builder: Pete Moffat Construction, Palo Alto

Credit: Courtesy David Baker + Partners Architects

Simply Red

This graphic door has become somewhat of a signature move for David Baker + Partners Architects in San Francisco. After specifying the first one for their own office space, the firm realized it made a nice accent point–particularly in a gray urban landscape–and has since replicated the style in several multifamily buildings, including this affordable project wedged between commuter rail tracks and an elevated freeway.

As in so many of this firm’s projects, the building façades of Crescent Cove are activated in a poetic way with unusual colors, rhythmic bays and recesses, clever window groupings, patios, decks, and atypical siding configurations. The exclamation point is that custom Douglas fir entry door, painted candy red. The doors are made nearby by a local woodworker.
Project: Crescent Cove
Location: San Francisco
Architect: David Baker + Partners, Architects, San Francisco
Builder: Nibbi Brothers, San Francisco

New Wave

The owners of this property lost their original 1958 hilltop home in a wildfire. With the rebuild, they were determined to continue the mid-century modern spirit of the first house in a new airy and open structure. To capitalize on the site’s fabulous 365-degree hilltop views and minimize the use of artificial light during the day, Hartman Baldwin Design Build specified 12-foot ceilings with skylights, expansive glass walls, and corner windows without posts. Deep overhangs keep the house cool and protected from the sun. The custom front entry door, which is made of metal and textured glass, provides a curvy, sculptural element that complements the home’s otherwise clean lines and simple geometry.
Project: Mason Residence
Location: Claremont, Calif.
Builder/Designer: Hartman Baldwin Design Build, Claremont, Calif. 

Life Aquatic

The rear elevation of this lakeside residence in North Carolina’s Piedmont region includes a perfectly proportioned, stone-clad lighthouse tower–the interior rotunda of which is visible from the front door. So it only made sense for the main entry and foyer to reference the tower’s distinct vocabulary. Brightleaf Development Co. went with a 36″ x 84” mahogany door with beveled and leaded glass panels and a transom top. Custom designed by Architectural Concepts, the door’s wavy stained glass motif evokes a maritime flavor, and the vestibule’s inlaid floor design is octagonal, mimicking the massing of the lighthouse itself. During daylight hours, sight lines extend through the house and the rear windows to views of the lake.

Project: Lighthouse Residence
Location: Central North Carolina
Builder: Brightleaf Development Co., Cary, N.C.
Architect: Shaw Design Associates, Chapel Hill, N.C.

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