Swinging London

Open in or open out? Hinges on the left, latch on the right? Getting your door swings right raises more questions than you’d think. Take front doors; the convention is that they open into the building simply because it’s not very welcoming to push the door into your visitor’s face – forcing them to retreat – before you’ve even said “Hello!”. Back doors and garden doors, on the other hand, generally open outwards.

Victorian front door
A Victorian four panel front door in south London by Bespoke Front Door

From a security point of view, an outward-opening door is a better bet than an inward opener for the simple reason that anyone pushing against the door will be pushing it more tightly shut. To force open an outward swinging door, the would-be intruder has to overcome the resistance of the door-stops and probably the back of the sill as well. Attack an inward-opener and they only have to overcome the lock(s). So, to be sociable, we favour inward-opening front doors and rely on good-quality locks – of which there should be at least two – for our security.

The convention is that French windows (or ‘garden doors’ if you prefer) open outwards into the garden. With our climate, garden doors are unlikely to be opened everyday and indeed may stay closed all winter long. If they were designed to open inwards we might find ourselves having to re-arrange half the living room furniture every spring before we could swing the doors open.

With pairs of doors there is an additional question; which door should have the handle on it and therefore open first? The majority of humans are right handed and therefore most pairs have the right-hander opening first and away from you – but, remember, that’s the ‘left-hander’ opening towards you when you’re approaching from the other side. (Think about it – take as long as you need).

After that, you’d think that deciding the door swing for internal room doors would be easy. Doors off a hallway generally open inwards for the simple practical reason of avoiding blocking the gangway. The only exceptions are doors to walk-in storage cupboards. These generally open out into the hallway and this is seldom a problem since they are kept shut most of the time.

For reception rooms, bathrooms and bedrooms, when the door is left ajar, it is generally better for it to still block most of the view into the room rather than reveal the whole room at a glance. Remember that the light switch needs to be accessible on entering any room – or you’ll be feeling your way around the back of the door in the dark.

Until next time,

Bespoke Front Door


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