At first blush, doors and windows are basic building components: They protect your home from the world beyond, usher in ventilation and natural light, keep unwanted air out and provide a means of entrance and egress. But beyond these surface-level service functions, doors and windows — especially those on display at the front of your home — offer unparalleled opportunity to add style to the exterior. Intentionally choosing doors and windows that cultivate character will turn these workhorse materials into meaningful design features that reflect your taste and take your curb appeal to the next level.
Focus Up Front
While all doors share certain commonalities, they can give off a totally different vibe depending on the shape, materials and features included. This is especially true of a home’s front door, which tends to move beyond basic to include elevated design details that create a strong style statement. After all, they’re on display 24-7, even to people who never set foot inside!
Kent Olsen, president and owner of Specialty Woodworks who has been crafting doors for decades, says custom entrance doors are a don’t-miss addition to your log or timber home. While options are nearly endless, he cites a few popular varieties, such as a custom-carved number with a wildlife motif, an elegant arched double door with leaded glass or a Craftsman-style entry. If you’re trying to narrow down your options, listen to Kent’s sage advice: “We tell people to look through magazines and online for inspiration, let the style of their home inform their choice and then go with their gut.”
He also advises clients to opt for entry doors that nod to the logs and timbers inside the home, rather than bring contrast. In other words, if you have hand-hewn timbers throughout your interior spaces, skip the heavily polished furniture-grade door in favor of a rough-sawn finish. “When it comes to surface textures, you want to complement, not clash,” he warns.
Even a simple wood door can get a major facelift with the addition of a few thoughtful details. “There are a lot of ways to add ornamentation to a basic door — hinges, knockers and doorknobs, to name a few,” says Kent.
A quick online search reveals countless styles — from nature-inspired knockers to medieval-themed strap hinges. Material choices are just as abundant, ranging from rustic wrought iron to gleaming brass. Match your choice to other metal elements throughout the home (such as plumbing and light fixtures) or use contrasting hardware to make a statement.
Get Creative, Be Smart
Over the years, Kent has seen it all in the way of custom applications, from the use of reclaimed wood to antique stained glass and decorative metal panels. If you can dream it up, there is a craftsman who can make it happen. But he offers this word of caution to all homeowners, and especially those splurging on outside-the-box specialty doors: “You’ve got to protect your investment,” he says. He recommends adding a covered front porch, a deep portico or wide overhangs to shield your door from sun and water damage, while also adding a focal point and weather protection for visitors.
While you could grab a knotty alder door off the shelf at a big box store, Kent says choosing from more unusual wood species will go “a long way” in complementing your log or timber home. Some common species he works with: rustic hickory, oak, beech and butternut.
As with doors, today’s home buyer has a dizzying selection of windows from which to choose. Thankfully, homing in on a few key factors that give a window its overall style vibe — shape, color and grid pattern — can help narrow the choices considerably and allow you to select the best windows to bring personality to your home.
Mix and Match
Having all one size and shape of window can create a cookie-cutter feel. Switch up your window styles to add custom appeal. Place windows with angled or arched details alongside traditional rectangular shapes to boost curbside character and architectural interest. A few possibilities: a curved transom over an entry door, eyebrow arches above picture windows in a great room or a circular peekaboo window in the powder room.
Color the Lines
Moving beyond traditional white, black and wood-toned frames and grids into the wonderful world of color will take your windows — even those on the ground floor — to new heights. Today’s window companies offer vinyl and aluminum frames in shades from forest green and barn red to classic navy. For even more architectural flair, add decorative features, like grilles, in these coordinating tones.
So Long, See-Through
When choosing the glass for windows in your home, the choice (literally) isn’t always clear. Opting for a mix of glass styles can bring subtle or serious style to your spaces, in addition to helping with practical concerns, like privacy. Both frosted glass, which takes on a hazy appearance due to sandblasting or acid-etching, and semi-transparent textured glass are popular options for glass-front doors and bathrooms, while new or antique stained-glass windows often are used in small doses to add shots of color and character.