Doors: Not just for in and out

Together with windows, doors greatly reflect the architectural style of a house, and should be chosen and modified with care, architects say.

Fancier isn't necessarily better. Your goal should be to blend the visual elements, said Kevin Harris, an architect in Baton Rouge who frequently works in traditional styles.

You can't successfully redesign your entire house with just the front door, he said. Too often, someone will want to improve a house, and will add a very elaborate door, such as one in the Queen Anne style. The new door itself may be "pretty," Harris said, "but it really doesn't help the house."

For consistency, he suggests that homeowners research the style of their houses. One resource he recommends is "Get Your House Right: Architectural Elements to Use & Avoid," by Marianne Cusato, Ben Pentreath, Richard Sammons and Leon Krier.

The choice of materials can influence how doors look, even if they're in the same style.

Only about 10 percent of the doors that Jeld-Wen sells are made of wood, said John Monfore, a marketing manager for the Oregon-based door manufacturer. Twenty percent are fiberglass, often mimicking wood, and the rest are steel, he said.

Steel and fiberglass may appeal to budget- and maintenance-conscious homeowners, but the use of such materials in doors is restricted by some homeowners associations and historic districts.

Here's a look at a few broad categories of door styles commonly found in American homes:

  • Colonial. Broadly speaking, in a Colonial-style house, you will find an "elegant" four- or six-panel door, Harris said.
  • Cape Cods. Cape Cods generally have simple plank doors, he said.
  • French Colonial. These doors are very distinctive, Harris said. Look for narrow double doors, with no dividers.
  • Victorian. These doors frequently include ornate carvings and elaborate leaded glass, Harris said.
  • Craftsman. These wood doors can include a combination of panels or glass, Harris said. Dutch doors, which allow the top half to be open while the bottom is closed, also appear in houses of this style.
  • Contemporary. These doors are often characterized by their sleek lines, Monfore said. There can be lots of glass, and the door may be painted.

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