Ingredients for a grand entrance

Nearly all homeowners want their houses to have a grand-looking entrance. What defines grand, however, is different for each person. Regardless, all exterior elements, including doors, windows, shutters and landscaping, must blend together to create a cohesive look.

Karen Sheetz, who co-owns Palatine, Ill.-based Lake Cook Exterior alongside her husband Bill, says a grand entrance is based on the final look the homeowner wants to achieve. “A grand entrance is not determined by the size of the door but the transformation it makes when given an updated style. This can be done by adding decorative glass or different shaped glass, adding a pop of color, changing to a contrasting hardware finish or lockset or changing the height of the standard door to an 8-ft. door,” she says.

Necessary elements for creating a grand entrance vary as much as the intricacies of a given house does. “The most important factor is how the door fits with the style of the home and becomes the focal point,” Sheetz says. “It is like eating at a great restaurant; the details make the experience.” For example, a popular 8-ft. door that looks great from a distance will look even better up close with details such as full-length sidelites, a transom above the door, detailed glass and an oil-rubbed bronze lockset, she asserts.

Landscaping also is a vital element of a striking entry. Maintaining a well-manicured lawn and pathway polishes the final appearance of a home’s entrance. Sheetz says: “You could have a great lawn and walkway that make your friends, family and neighbors jealous, but if your entry door is older or needs to be painted, it takes away from all of it. Of course, improving a walkway by using pavers, etc., could be another way to get a cohesive look for the front of the house.”

Colors contribute to an entryway’s wow factor, too. Ensuring customers have options and realizing how each will add to or detract from their home is important when presenting options. “For example, on a door with two sidelites, we use software to place the door on the customer’s home,” Sheetz says. “I usually try to send two doors – one with all stained or painted framework, doors and sidelites and the other with white framework. Just this one change makes a difference in the door’s appearance, especially against dark paint. The white trim can lighten the overall look. Most people don’t realize what a visual difference there can be.”

Bones of style

The bones of a house must be factored into an entryway. “We suggest doors that will look aesthetically appropriate for the home,” Sheetz says. “For example, say you have a transom over your standard door and you want to replace it. Instead of replacing it with a 6-ft., 8-in. door, we can offer 8-ft.-tall doors. That new height will give your home a totally different look.”

Entryway design also should fluctuate according to a house’s architectural style. For contemporary designs with smooth and polished surfaces, clean lines and a simple, uncluttered look, Sheetz often suggests a spacious, comfortable door that focuses on color, texture and lighting. With a more traditional home, though, she recommends a sturdy door with hallmarks like carved mouldings, fine woodwork and graceful lines. 

Her recommended door for a Southwest style has warm colors, distressed woods and ornate metal scroll work. “It’s not truly contemporary, but yet not fully traditional. Southwest interior design is a mix of the old, highlighted by color and a backdrop for handcrafted pottery and decorative tin.

“At the end of the process it comes down to what the homeowner is looking for and providing the products that give the customer the final, finished look that they are wanting to accomplish,” Sheetz concludes. “When a customer calls us back to say, ‘I just wanted to let you know we love our new door – all the neighbors are talking about it.’ That is rewarding to see how the end result makes the homeowners feel so happy about their new front entrance.”