The security of a front door should be thought of like a chain; it is only as good as its weakest link.
If you have a brand new, handmade, bespoke front door fitted with flimsy locks, then clearly it’s security is limited by its locks. One big kick, the lock’s fixing screws may give and in you go.
The same high quality front door, fitted with high quality locks but hung in an old, repaired Victorian front door frame, will fail because the lock keeps will break out of the frame when it is attacked.
A flimsy, cheap door in a new, hardwood door frame, fitted with great locks, may simply fall to pieces when a burglar puts his size 9s through it.
However, a new, strong door, with excellent locks, fitted to a new hardwood door frame is a very different matter, which may result in the burglar visiting A&E with a broken foot, rather than his pals in the pub with his stolen loot.
I am sure you must have also heard the popular saying that the first impression matters a lot. When people come to your home for the first time, what do you think they see first –the paint colour of the house, the landscape, or the architectural design? Whether you believe it or not, your front door is what they notice first and that’s what creates the first impression about your home. In London today, most Georgian and Victorian homeowners are paying more attention to their front doors as homes are being designed in such a way that the first attraction about the home is the front door.
The importance of your Front door
Making a great first impression means you have to have a great front door as well. Don’t forget that is the first feature your guest sees when they visit your home.
It adds value to your home
You may be surprised to know that your period front door could add a really great value to the home when you are trying to sell the home. Since this is the first feature prospective buyers notice as they come for your home, having a great looking front door could make the other feature of the home more appealing. This could also work in the opposite as a bad front door could put buyers off. However, that doesn’t mean your Victorian door alone will sell your home, but it will certainly be a great plus. And even if it’s not your plan to sell your home anytime soon, a quality front door will forever be a piece adding value to your home when the time comes for you to sell. That, of course, will mean a higher asking price.
It gives a sense of security
Your front door does not only have the ability to invite people in by its appealing look, it also serves the purpose of keeping intruders away. The common point of entry into your home is the front door; both for unwanted intruders and honorable guests alike. However, if your front door looks old, worn-out, flimsy, and easy to breach, it may be a welcoming invitation to thieves. Whereas, a strong looking and a solid door, on the other hand, is a powerful deterrent and sends out that impression that your home is locked down and well protected.
In Part 1 this week, Lucy Greenslade visits two houses in Wandsworth on the trail of C.F.A. Voysey (1857-1941), architect and designer of furniture and textiles.
I wanted to link the word ‘vernacular’ – the language spoken by the people of the country – with Charles Voysey, an architect still best known as a designer of English country houses. Not all his houses were located in rural landscapes but you could say he designed them as if they were. With the exception of two town houses in Knightsbridge, Voysey didn’t do ‘urban’. The two buildings I have visited this week are both on the edges of Victorian suburbs and both face wooded Commons. ‘Dixcot’ – at Nº 8, North Drive, SW16, – looks over Tooting Bec Common and The White Cottage in Lyford Road, SW18, addresses a quiet corner of Wandsworth Common. Both appear to be detached and singular, havens of calm domesticity, remote from the busy streets, squares and terraces not so far away in Battersea, Balham or Clapham.
Considering that Voysey built no houses himself after 1918, his influence over English suburban architecture in the 1920s and 1930s became quite extraordinary. You could say that Voysey’s architecture was “truly suburban” only in the sense of using traditional materials and being suitable for low-density housing. A large part of his later appeal was that he worked in what was considered to be an authentically ‘English’ style and that was what developers were eager to copy. It wasn’t Voysey’s fault that the architects of suburbia built row after row of near-identical semi-detached houses in what became known as the ‘Tudorbethan’ style (falsely half-timbered and sporting leaded glass in their casement windows). What these ‘semis’ offered was the illusion of living in country cottages. The houses appeared to be ‘traditionally crafted’ and – ideally – came with neat hedges and lawns and roses growing around the Victorian front door. Estate agents call it ‘kerb appeal’.
On the surface, Voysey’s creations are deceptively simple. He believed that the richness of a design should be expressed in its form and minimal details, not in applied decorations. His houses often feature roughcast render on the outside of brick walls and massive chimney stacks piercing sweeping roofs. They do not display the overtly classical proportions expected by many of his contemporaries. His period front doors and windows give horizontal not vertical emphasis to each elevation. He did not use elaborately decorated carved stone pediments and his roofs are not hidden behind straight parapet walls. He used buttresses rather than pilasters to divide and give order to his elevations. His furniture too was simple and functional. He preferred to leave wood with its natural finish rather than covered with paints or stains and varnishes.
English Heritage describes this as:
“A 2-storey house, 3-bays wide, with stone dressings and hipped slate roof, the quadruple casement windows have stone mullions and leaded lights. The centre projects as a square bay rising through the eaves into a third-storey belvedere. The asymmetrically-placed 12-panelled London door, its top 3 panels glazed, is sheltered by a broad flat hood.”
In Part 2, Lucy pedals on through tempest, storm and flood to visit Chiswick and Hampstead…
Some thoughts on the importance of front doors, well put, by Anna Tyzack in The Telegraph.
It takes just eight seconds to decide whether or not you will buy a house, according to the latest research. And at least four of them will be spent waiting at the front door. Lord Lloyd-Webber has a mahogany one, Richard Rogers has a white one, and Kate Middleton has just installed a pair of them, in black. “People look at a front door before they look at anything else,” says designer Cecilia Neal, of Meltons. “Your front door reflects what you think about the house. A door can sell a property.”
An Oxford blue, Victorian front door with stained- and etched-glass panels and side windows sold a house in Putney to Susie King. “After being shown round by the agent, I drove back there that night, parked outside and just stared at the door. I wanted to live behind it so badly,” she says. A decade later, when it came to repainting the door, it took 12 attempts to mix the right shade of blue.
But a door can also jeopardise a sale. “We have had a buyer who refused to complete until we repainted the front door as it was green, which they felt was unlucky,” says Andy Buchanan, director of John D Wood, Chelsea.
A front door must be appropriate to a house, says Jeremy Musson, Architecture Editor of Country Life. Planked doors can work well on barn or warehouse conversions or new-builds. But there is no escaping the universal charm of the Georgian front door – “solid, well constructed, but at the same time curiously domestic and welcoming” – rather like the iconic blue London door belonging to Hugh Grant in the film Notting Hill. “The classic Georgian combination of solid, panelled door with a glazed fanlight over the top, as in London and Dublin, and Bath and Liverpool terraces, is just magic,” says Mr Musson.
There is nothing to say classic Georgian, Victorian or Edwardian period front doors cannot be used on new houses. Properties on the Wentworth and St George’s Hill estates, in Surrey, tend to use classical styles on a larger scale – taller and wider with vast porticos, illustrating that owners are happier to experiment with the size of a door rather than its style or colour. “Double doors are vital for new-builds over £2 million,” says Simon Ashwell, of Savills. “They give an impression of a much wider frontage. I will always tell a developer to put in a double door.”
Have you ever wondered why some doors have glass in them and some do not?
The Victorians were the first to make glazed doors the norm. Prior to the Victorians, front doors were generally made of solid timber and without glazing. For example the classic Georgian front door pictured below:
Doors without glass were considered more secure. The glass that was available in those days, such as float glass or leaded light was fragile and offered zero resistance to a cudgel-wielding nobbler! So what changed?
Prior to the mid-1850s most (terraced) housing had a relatively short foot-print. That is to say that the distance from the front to the rear of the property was quite short, as we can see from the side-section of a Georgian house below.
A window, positioned on the first half-landing, at the rear of the house, could flood the ground floor hallway with light. In the mid-1850s the Victorians innovated with terraced house design and began to add rear additions to their houses. These lengthed the footprint of a building but the new, rear rooms prevented light from reaching the hallway. As we can see in the floor plans below:
Victorian hallways would have been plunged into darkness and so front doors with glass were introduced. The additional living space was prioritised over reduced security and hallways enjoyed the light they needed.
Front doors have such significance in all our lives that they are used as a means of self-expression and not only identify individuals but also cultures and nations. Here in London we are so desensitised to how we express ourselves, via our mostly Victorian front doors, that we sometimes scarcely notice them. In the same way that we scarcely notice anything else that makes us Londoners or even British.
They say travel broadens the mind and doors from other places cause us to gaze inward and see our own period front doors with fresh eyes and appreciate how beautiful they are and what they tell the world about us. So here are some front doors from far and wide together with two of our own for you to ponder. Can you spot which they are?
Choosing paint colour, whether it is for furniture, walls or your Victorian front doors can be baffling at times. Read our earlier post about colours for some advice and guidance. If you are someone who likes to keep up with the Bespoke Front Door, we’ve put together a list of the most popular colours chosen by our customers so far this year:
1. Down Pipe Gray no. 26 by Farrow & Ball
This grey, that imitates the lead on exterior iron work has staying power. It seems like every day we meet some one who says, “I’ve always wanted a dark grey Period front door.” Despite interior trend bibles predicting strong bright colours for 2017, the people of London still love a strong grey.
2. Stiffkey Blue by Farrow & Ball
This dark, dusty blue has proved a big hit with our customers since its launch by Farrow & Ball in September 2013. It combines beautifully with polished chrome, brass and black iron door furniture.
3. Colour q6.09.81 by Sikkens
The enigmatically titled ‘q6.09.81’ by leading paint manufacturers Sikkens has been in demand since the summer of 2013. This very pale but vibrant blue, in a rich satin finish can be seen on the centrepiece front door .