The history of the front door – part 2

A photo of a stained glass front door window in the art nouveau style

Continuing our history of the front door from the late 18th century onwards, let’s take a look at how we arrived at the entryways we know and love today.

Federal & Empire 1780-1850

With the boom of terraced housing dominating this era’s design, the front door was probably the only exterior carved ornamentation. With both exterior and interior doors made from one of the choice timbers of the period – maple, cypress, and poplar – they were almost always given a finish to replicate the more elaborate mahogany.

British Victorian 1837-1901

In the grander Victorian houses, the emphasis was on porches, which were designed to give the houses an added air of grandeur. With front doors either made of hardwood or an inferior painted timber, they were almost all composed of four panels with two small window panes at the top. Later on in the period these windows were either stained or made from etched glass, giving the doors their trademark look.

From the 1840s onwards, the introduction of letterboxes into front doors made all door manufacturers rethink their designs, but it wasn’t just letterboxes that were introduced during Victorian times either. The cold harsh winters were felt more in small terraced houses, prompting the Victorians to begin insulating their homes – giving birth to the concept of the front door curtain.

Edwardian 1901-1914

A photograph of an open entryway to a passage with seating. The walls around the doorway are red, as is the metalwork around the archway.In contrast to the Victorian era, the front door of this period pays homage to the Queen Anne / art nouveau style. With mass produced front doors to the average homes being made from softwood, the colours they were painted moved away from the dark green of the previous era and made way for contrasting, more vibrant shades.

With the trademark stained glass bearing either the Queen Anne leaded rectangular design or the art nouveau coloured panes forming an abstract design, the Edwardian door is still popular today. 

Over the years it became accepted that first impressions of a house were made at the front door. This led to the more affluent properties hiring architects to design their front doors, which would be carved from teak or untreated oak and made to strict specifications.

This trend continues today – reports from property experts will be quick to tell you that ‘the colour, material and style of a front door can make or break a house sale. Get it wrong, and it could be all over in seconds.’ 

It was in this era that some doors were fitted with electric doorbells, although door knockers were still more or less ubiquitous.

The modern movement 1920-1950

This era concentrated on simplicity, and with the introduction of plywood it allowed the production of panelled doors made from layers of layers of softer wood built up to give the strength and durability of hardwood – without the additional cost.

Glazed doors became popular as both front doors and doors leading to gardens.

Beyond modern 1950-1975

Oddly, it was the eradication of doors that stands out in the this post-war era. The concept of an entrance opening out to a staircase in an area with doorways but no doors offered a wide open living space and quickly grew in popularity.

As well as strong colours being popular, sliding doors were also the rage along with simple lever handles.

Contemporary era 1975-modern day

Although styles are constantly changing, there is something quite irreplaceable about a carved front door. So much so that restoration and maintenance of an original carved door is as specialist a job as painting a front door.

It’s worth remembering though that with a modern building, it’s a wise move to fit a modern door. A clash of designs doesn’t bode well and with the range of doors, front, back and interior to choose from it’s a good bet there will always be something to gratify everyone’s personal taste.

For advice and help on choosing or replacing a front door contact one of our specialists today.

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