The Front Door – The Plan and Cold Feet

I’m hoping to start facade restoration next year as soon as there’s no risk of frost. In the meantime, I need to take my front door off and refinish it while the awnings are still up. I will be locking the house with an old fashioned skeleton key in the vestibule door in the meantime. Can you see how bad the varnish stain is right now?


But this gets me to something I’ve been ignoring. I get a lot of compliments on this door, some of them from people I care deeply about. And this style of door is all over the place. But I look at it and think, “meh.” So anyways, if you strongly disagree with me here, please call me crazy since that crazy sounds better than a huge snob.

This is not how I react to old doors. In case you need a reminder, I said that the day I found a matched set of 5 doors that were pretty much period correct was the happiest in my life.


And I spent about 100 hours refinishing them. (These doors are in fact a smidge too fancy with reeded details on the panels, but I can live with that.)


I used trigonometry, the arctangent function, to cut framing lumber for this sloped ceiling in the back bedroom to make the room fit these (definitely not period correct but definitely awesome) closet doors.


I carried these home when I had literally no use for them just because the idea of them going in the trash upset me. They got passed around to 3 different people but have hopefully now found their forever home. Important: the parallelogram panels in between the triangles were originally glass.


And when the renovation got me stressed out, I laid out my door hardware and looked at it just to cheer myself up.


So, old doors get an emotional reaction out of me. And actually so do the hollow core doors I started with.


But a mahogany door in a not quite historically accurate Victorian style? Meh. But I’ve already put money into things that revolve around keeping it, and I still can’t afford to back out of that and dump more money into something else. The Irishman built nice jamb extensions and casings on the inside and when I needed a new lock I went one from Baldwin, the closest approximation I could find of the mortise locks I covet with the modern tubular design.


For perspective, the oldest doors on my block or the next, which has identical houses, appear to be from the 1930’s.


And there are others behind storm doors that look more like this wider door on a wider house. Note the starburst cut into the glass.


Meanwhile, the fanciest houses in the neighborhood seem to hold onto their original doors more often.


Even this weird effort to suburbanize a brownstone makes one side of me almost happy. Yes, I’m a fan of that mid-mod/colonial hybrid door if not the rest of what’s going on here.


So, I’m not counting on ever looking at my door and being in awe of it.


But can we drag its appearance a little closer to the doors I really love?


Because when I take a second look at it, I realize that what I like least about this door is the faux-Victorian glass.


So, like I said, I’m taking the door off to refinish it. And I’m thinking about my options here. What do you think? I’ll post some ideas next time but maybe yours are better than mine. For now, let’s just say that I have mixed feelings about clear glass.

20 thoughts on “The Front Door – The Plan and Cold Feet

  1. Casey

    The faux-victorian glass does kind of fight the look you’ve worked so hard to create. Maybe a plain, beveled piece would work better?


  2. Ross

    There is NO question of what to do.


    It is an insult to the house and all your work.

    I would scour the neighborhood to find an original door on a comparable house, and then haunt salvage yards for something similar.



  3. Mary Elizabeth

    Am not at all wild about this door, but when I began to imagine it refinished and with plain glass I could see how you could live with it while you execute a search for the perfect entry door. That could take years. You could put one of those door window curtain panels behind the glass to create some interest and let in light while retaining privacy. By the way, Country Curtains is going out of business, so everything is on sale.


      1. Architectural Observer

        Like anything else, “value” depends upon the audience. A purist fan of 19th-century architecture would not see much value in the door while someone restoring a 1980’s McMansion would pay a premium for it.


      2. Architectural Observer

        True; the door is more petit than the proportions favored in McMansions, but the style is more late 20th-century than early 20th-century. Aesthetically, it just doesn’t relate to your particular house. Many front doors don’t – I cringe every time I see a 1950’s ranch house with some neo-Victorian door featuring a giant oval leaded glass panel with matching sidelights or an Italianate house with a neo-Craftsman door stuck on it. Architecture generally looks best when all of the components are relaying the same message, otherwise known as “architectural integrity”. It’s not about whether the door is nice or not; it’s about whether or not it stylistically is an appropriate fit for its context. Anything you do to the door will be an improvement so that you will be happier with it until you find your “forever door”!


      3. Chad's Crooked House Post author

        I was just thinking similar things this morning while doing a K-turn in a 1950’s modern-ish ranch house development to avoid traffic. Prairie muntins and a half timbered gable…. also, you haven’t seen my next post.


      4. Chad's Crooked House Post author

        But counterpoint: there are buildings with alterations that changed their styles around that I like a lot. I don’t necessarily mean that the alterations were an improvement, but they’re nice enough that I wouldn’t try to undo them. I think every time I like them the alterations happened before 1950.


      5. Architectural Observer

        The house in Delaware County is impressive… most of the Arts and Crafts makeover was confined to the exterior and it was done very well. A bit of the influence creeps inside at the fireplace surrounds, but it is very restrained. Who would have thought that this aesthetic could be merged so pleasantly with Greek Revival?! Not everyone can blend such divergent styles so smoothly… this is the exception and unfortunately not the rule. Thanks for sharing!


  4. khend519

    How do you feel about painting it a statement color? I love a good, eye-popping statement door, and I think your existing door would look lovely with a laquer (even just a glossy black), with all that detail. If you’re dead set on stain, then ya, I’d probably find something more appropriate from a salvage.



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