The Six Major Elements of (Nearly) Every Entry

4 min read The components elements of an American house entry are fairly consistent, country or city, large or small.  Ranch entries are even more consistent: Door, Lights, Mailbox, House numbers, Wall and Overhang.  If you have your own door (and maybe even if you don’t) you have most of these to play with.

You probably have the ability to fix up each and every one of them (except the overhang) in a weekend project.  Here are a couple overarching ideas to bear in mind when you go to work. 

What to think about when you change up your Entry

Visibility: you want your front entry to be obvious from the street.  It’s a smiling face, a friendly halloo, and the way that the pizza gets into your home.

Asymmetry: Ranches aren’t Colonial or Georgian.  Aim for visual interest by enhancing the symmetrical elements of the entry area.

Color: Since entries are small relative to the rest of the house, they need to be eye catching and they can afford to be a little risky.  Go big with a bright or bold color you’d never dare for the whole house.  Play around, and have fun.

Shelter:  Try to use overhangs, walkways, steps up and enclosure to give the door a sense of being already surrounded.  It is a halfway space – partly inside and partly outside the house.  Make sure someone standing at your door has a sense of having already entered your domain.

Here are a few of my favorite area front entries (I’ve written a post on the subject before).  A few of these are architect designed, but some simply have the same paint on their door, mailbox and house numbers.  You don’t need a big budget for a fun front door.

The Six Elements of (Nearly) Every Entry and How to Tweak them

Door (and don’t forget the Storm)

PAINT IT.  Unless you happen to have a relatively new and gorgeous wood door with lovely grain, you probably just want to paint it.  Not only will you get a chance to smooth out any scratches and dings, you get to pick your color.  Check out this post on matching your paint color to specific objects.  I matched mine to the mailbox.

Don’t forget the storm door.  If you’ve expended the energy to zip up your pretty door with a great color, why would you hide it behind a ratty old aluminum storm door.


You need a storm/screen door to protect your air seal but you don’t want to obscure the entry door behind it so I recommend a full glass door if you have nearby windows that you can open for air movement or one of the new roll away screen models (which have an unfortunate structural bar dividing them horizontally) if you don’t.

 Light(s): Let there be

Every entry area should be well lit.

You might install a few simple can lights in the soffit for general light but it is also common to have a (semi-decorative) sconce light mounted to the house.  This should tie in with your general design theme when its off and provide warm white light when its on.

You’ll want something bright enough to let guest’s get organized and allow you to find your keys.  These also come in hand to signal that you are home to incoming guests, trick-or-treaters, and pizza delivery drivers.

Here I went with something (relatively) cheap from Home Depot although I did have to step up through several levels of the most inexpensive lights due to totally unacceptable levels of fussiness.  I’ve posted about that decision tree here.

Mailbox: A Chance to Accent

Some houses have the mailbox out at the street, some on the house.  There’s no reason to let this be blah.  You could keep your existing box and zip it up with some fresh paint or just replace it with something a little more exciting.  Make sure its big enough for magazines and catalogues but it doesn’t need to be huge.


Here’s my post on my own beloved mailbox, from ModBoxUSA.  I’ve had queries about this from the hip young mom down the street and my 80+ next door neighbor.

House Numbers: Way Finding


Again, if you want your guests and pizza to find you safely, you need numbers on the house.  I am a fan of the metal stand off variety – as long as they can be well lit.  Here are a few of the ideas I was chasing around on Pinterest before I zeroed in on my DIY option.

Here’s what I actually did to create my own custom house numbers and how you can repeat it at home.


Surrounding Wall and Trim

This is a bigger step.  Not every door is surrounded by a modifiable material and if you do change up the surface round the door, you might find yourself painting or revising the whole exterior of your house.

Still, at the very least you can give the door trim a fresh coat of paint.

As an intermediate step, you can look for a natural break area – if you have an alcove around your entry or any other place where materials change, you could limit yourself to  just updating that area.

At the most, you can do what I’ve done, which is take on a whole house painting or re-siding job.  Its a lot of work but the payoff is huge.  It can also be taken in stages.  I did the front of the house last fall, the two end gables this summer and finished up the back yard facade a few months ago.  I’m so relieved to finally be done scraping lead paint off this house!

Stoop:  the Third Dimension

Typically,  when you enter a house you are standing up off the ground on … something.  This stoop, deck, porch etc is part of the entry sequence of the house.  It give you something to step on in your sock feet when you get the mail and it gives your guests a sense of pre-entry into your personal domain as they ring the bell.

You want this to be big enough to have some presence and ideally to be covered by some sort of overhang.  In my case, I’m not willing to mess with the roof line of the house to change the overhang but I am planning to deck over the existing (too small) concrete stoop, to create a little more breathing room around the entry – room for several people to gather in front of the door or for me to step outside without immediately stepping down.

And beyond

The entry to your house isn’t just a flat thing, its a series of steps between the street and the inside of your home.  The more layers you have between you and the that public arena, the more comfortable you’ll feel.  A porch overhang, a low fence, a jog in the sidewalk, each of these elements help create the sequence of entering.  The more intermediate steps there are between sidewalk and door, the more buffer you have to feel comfortable hanging out on your front stoop.

More updates to follow when I bring about my front porch work next spring!


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