Ask A Designer: Front porches and entries that say ‘welcome’
Interior designer Joan Craig sees many clients who give the decorating of their living room or kitchen a lot of thought.
Yet while "people have become much more attuned to developing personality inside a house," she says, "the outside becomes something that often can be much more generic."
And even if you give your backyard patio or deck some decorating attention, the front entrance often remains an afterthought.
"The front of your home is the first thing your guests will see," says Edyta Czajkowska, founder of the Chicago-based design firm Edyta & Co., "so creating a beautifully crafted, welcoming atmosphere is important."
In this season of outdoor entertaining, we've asked Craig, Czajkowska and Dallas-based interior designer Abbe Fenimore for advice on creating the most welcoming front entry areas.
It's hard to assess your front-door area when standing right in front of it.
A home's entrance area begins where the visitor can first see it, says Craig, so stand at the road and consider your home from that distance. That may inspire you to embrace larger, more dramatic items.
"Pump up the scale of lanterns on either side of the door," Craig says, or go for dramatic containers for planting.
Or stay with simple planters, but put dramatic plants in them: "Even if you have a small container," Craig says, "it can have an incredible climbing rose coming out of it."
She also suggests Boston ivy or climbing ivy.
Czajkowska recommends hydrangeas, which bloom for months and add color and texture to the front of a house.
Climbing roses also add drama and romance, she says, "and if your entry allows for it, adding a spot where they can climb and envelope your entry can add major impact."
Consider the style of your home and the vibe of your neighborhood, says Fenimore. One client of hers, an artist, added artificial flamingos to the lawn around her front door. It wouldn't work in every neighborhood, Fenimore says, but at this house the effect was "jazzy and classy in a fun way, without being too kitschy."
Even a small front porch may have room for a little bench, and these designers say it's worth adding seating. Tiny as your space may be, Craig says, "think of it as an outdoor room."
Fenimore likes porch swings, which don't have to take up much space and are welcoming. A simple canvas seat cushion matched with indoor/outdoor pillows can create a perfect space for reading or having coffee in the morning, she says.
Outdoor seating offers not just a spot to relax, Czajkowska says, but can double as a place to rest your bag while searching for keys.
It may even be worth investing in an expanded porch area to make space for seating, Fenimore says. She remodeled her own front porch to create a sitting area.
BE BOLD WITH COLOR
A beautiful, bright color can make an otherwise simple front door area look special. When you pass homes with brightly colored front doors, "you drive by and think, 'Oh my gosh, that's really pretty,'" Fenimore says, and it "gives you the warm fuzzies."
Dark front doors painted black or charcoal have also become popular and work well on some houses.
"Personally, I don't care for dark-colored doors unless it speaks to the rest of your home's architecture and design aesthetic," says Czajkowska.
"However, I do think your door should be impactful, whether that means painting it a bold color or letting the beautiful craftsmanship and hardware shine."
"Beautifully crafted house numbers," says Czajkowska, "add a ton of character, while highlighting and playing off of the other architectural details on your home."
Ditto for outdoor lighting: "Selecting good outdoor lighting can make or break the ambiance of your home," she says.
"Gas lanterns add an instant charm and set a cozy vibe, but if you don't want to go with gas, make sure to choose warm lighting that creates a soft glow."
Craig and Fenimore agree: Sweating the details can pay off handsomely.
"Whether you have a little space or a lot," Fenimore says, "be creative with even the smallest things."