The winter red cardinal and I regarded each other in silence. Only on my departure did he resume his song from the high, bare branch serving as his doorstep. I picked up my walk, too, and couldn’t help feeling that in spite of ice and cold there was something of spring in the air thanks to his voice. The cardinal’s doorstep will soon be leafed out in a sharp fresh green. His doorstep is totally self-renewing. My doorstep, however, could use some work.
In my city, the front doors of houses are often sheltered by broad and welcoming porches. We have a comfortable and lively porch society in my neighborhood where the entry becomes part of our outdoor living space. If you are on your front porch you are extending your welcome to neighbors and conversation! No matter where we live our front door and its surroundings send a message about who we are and what we care about. That message gets amplified when the entry also serves as a living space.
There is the clutter of kids shoes and skates, gardening tools and brooms in summer. Salt buckets and snow shovels in winter. It’s easy to let familiarity blind us to the messages that we send at our doorstep. This was brought vividly home to me when we were scheduled to have our house re-assessed. Part of this process requires that every room inside, and every aspect of the house outside, be photographed for the appraisal. Since we all want to put our best foot forward, especially when financial concerns are involved, the assessment process was highly motivational!
Knowing photographs would be taken of everything, I decided to make use of the same tool myself. By taking snapshots I could really see what had become too familiar to notice day to day. As a decorator, I witness daily what a powerful tool a snapshot can be. A photo puts everything in a different context. It creates distance between what it represents and the viewer, which makes it an excellent tool for critical review. Try it. There’s nothing like a photo to help you see the ratty doormat, the rusty mailbox or the dirty light fixture.
I was not surprised to see that after the long winter my doorstep photo revealed the need for a good cleaning: the porch floor, the ceiling fan and the crown molding where cobwebs gather. I cleaned out the covered basket that provides handy (and hidden) storage for gardening tools, gloves, citronella candles and cat brushes. I washed down the wicker chairs that offer summer hospitality, and gave them new cushions with classic stripes in my favorite colors. I continued the transformation with a new doormat in place of the ratty one.
My 1926 original-to-the-house mailbox was showing a bit of rust and paint wear. I removed it, gave it a sanding and a coat of fresh black paint. I used the same paint on the weathered wicker bicycle basket wired below the too-small mailbox years ago. It catches all the magazines and small packages. Now, painted the same black color, the basket no longer looks like an afterthought. The old glider was painted a few years ago. I dusted it down, and used an inexpensive patchwork quilt to drape the cushions with an invitation to comfort and conversation.
One of the most important issues to address when thinking about sprucing up your entry is the door itself. It should stand out and announce itself. Often the best way to accomplish this is with a distinctive color that harmonizes with, but is different from every other paint color on your home exterior. I never fail to notice the slender Victorian door painted a dusty purple or my neighbor’s sunny yellow cottage door. These colors say “this way in” in no uncertain terms.
My door is painted a shiny, shiny black complimenting the old leaded glass in it’s upper half. All the other trim on my sturdy brick house is white with plumy purple shutters and accents. Happily the paint is in good condition and the door just needed to have the dust of fall and winter wiped away along with a bit of polish for the old brass hardware.
The last thing was also the best thing. I filled the large planters on either side of the porch stairs with bright-faced pansies that virtually shout a welcome to spring yet are tough enough to flourish in the fickle weather of late March and April. After a long, cold winter, the cardinal and I are ready for spring on our doorstep.