Where Will The Front Door Go?

Notice bushes nearly block the steps to this home's rarely used front door. The garage is behind the first set of windows at the left.
Notice bushes nearly block the steps to this home's rarely used front door. The garage is behind the first set of windows at the left.

This may sound silly in light of the real problems in the world, but one of my pet peeves is the plethora of useless front doors. By "useless", I mean front doors that rarely - if ever - get used for entering or exiting a home.

They aren't hard to spot while driving around newer sections of a town, or recently-developed subdivisions beyond the city limits.

SiTing (not SiDing) a new house on a lot is for the most part dependent on slope, sun, soil, and sewer. For instance:

  • Don't build a house meant for a flat lot on a slope.
  • Don't put a lot of windows on the south side.
  • Do make sure the soil will adequately support the foundation.
  • Do make sure all toilets and drains will be uphill from the sewer line they'll connect to.

Things like placement of sewer lines, of course, are governed by local building codes, but the position of the house on the lot is usually determined purely by how the home will look from the street, not the lifestyle and traffic patterns of the people who will actually live in it.

Hence, the one factor future occupants of a house rarely consider prior to building is the location of the front door!

At first glance, a house will catch your eye because it's aesthetically pleasing. Interesting architectural details make it look like it came right out of a magazine or a house plans book!

A second look, however, will reveal:

  • there's no walkway from the driveway to the front door, or...
  • there is a walkway but the front door is so far from the driveway that only a pair of Jehovah's Witnesses will ever knock on it.

It's not rocket science to figure out family members don't use that front door, but routinely enter the house from the attached garage through the kitchen, or perhaps a mud room and then the kitchen. They do so because they've put the car where it lives at night and it'd be silly to go outside and around to the front door when they're only a few steps from the back door.

Or else the groceries they just purchased need to be unloaded and carried in. Only a ninny would park in the driveway, haul groceries across the lawn to the front door and all the way through the house to the kitchen, and then go back out and put the car in the garage! Get the picture?

As for guests, anyone the family wants to see also enters the house via the garage (or a side door right outside the garage). Only strangers go to the front door.

For all the use it gets, if fire codes didn't require the front door to be a door that actually opens, one might as well paint a fake one on the front of the house and use the entry hall for storage.

But it doesn't have to be this way.

Until the foundation is poured, house plans are only lines on paper. Making modifications then is a lot easier and much less expensive than making changes after the home's footprint is literally set in stone. Okay, concrete - but might as well be stone once it sets.

On paper, rooms are easy to move around or eliminate altogether. Do those who only ever invite people over for BBQ in the back yard, or pizza and movies in the family room, really need a formal entry hall next to a formal living room that'll never be used? Probably not.

Can the front door be placed somewhere more convenient to family members and guests alike?

Not a problem...at this point, anything can be moved.

House plans can be "flipped"

Say the garage will be on the wrong side of the lot. Or there's an existing tree (or two) worth keeping.

The garage here is behind the three windows to the right of the tree. The driveway is at the far right, resulting in an "orphan" front door, although this one may get more use than most owing to the rather inviting front porch. The architect does get points for incorporating several Craftsman elements.

However, notice the porch lights - plural - are already on, even though the photo was obviously taken in broad daylight. How much energy is wasted unnecessarily by disguising the garage as a room that blocks daylight to the front porch?

the most useless door of all!

Brits will recognize the alternating dark and light stones as a feature of Westminster Cathedral (not the Abbey a few blocks away). This is one bit of England that should've remained there...
Brits will recognize the alternating dark and light stones as a feature of Westminster Cathedral (not the Abbey a few blocks away). This is one bit of England that should've remained there...

And last but not least...

At right is only one of many similar homes in an exclusive gated community in Topeka, KS. Not sure what look the developer was going for, but if it was "gawdawful" then he was spot on. Notice the total absence of trees and shrubs.

If the current owners bought it as a place to hold large gatherings, they might've put a bit more thought into how female (or elderly) guests would get to the front door after alighting from cars at the bottom of those steps! 

(Did I mention it's for sale? Are you surprised?)

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Comments 47 comments

Elena. profile image

Elena. 7 years ago from Madrid

Jama, sweetheart, you're quickly becoming my favorite real state rep round here in Hubpages. Laugh! I swear, you had me guffawing like a hyena with your front door recount. Paint a fake one, indeed!

In a less joking mode: I'm of the opinion that many people don't reflect about their real needs when buying or building a house, they just "go with the flow". I mean, they reproduce the supposedly "acceptable" house concept, but don't give any thought to whether they actually need a front door hall or not, and whether that space wouldn't be better used for, say, a storage room. Oh well, I have strong opinions on all of this but I'll get off my soapbox now :-) Besos!

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Good morning, Elena!! I'm about to head off to bed, but *had* to say thank you for your wonderful comments! Obviously I can't write a *totally* serious hub - those bits of humor always sneak in somewhere, even in a hub about cemeteries. ;} You have a GREAT day! 'Nite...

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

I forgot to say I think you're sooo right that people don't reflect about their real needs in a house, but just go with the flow. Buy a house that doesn't suit them at all. The house in the very first photo is also for sale. Interior photos on the realtor's site show huge rooms with very little or mis-matched furniture in each. Indicating they bought too much house for their needs *and* budget, which left them too little cash to furnish it properly. New and big is not always "better". I'd rather have a tiny house filled with nice furniture than a big one that echos because it's half-empty... Now I'm really off to get a few hours sleep!

C. C. Riter 7 years ago

Very good hub my dear, as usual. Very important tips here, and nevah leave out your humor my dear Jama. Thanks now.

Cris A profile image

Cris A 7 years ago from Manila, Philippines

this makes me wonder, is the front door the last architectural detail that is either planned or drawn? in movies, a newlywed couple (usually) building a nest is depicted as usually discussing where they'd put the kitchen, the bedroom, the living room etx. And come to think of it nobody says "we'll put the front door here" :D

Silver Freak profile image

Silver Freak 7 years ago from The state of confusion

When you're right, you're right! As a veteran of the "Let's design our house the way WE want it" madness, I've gone through reams of paper trying to get the exactly perfect house design for our needs. The very last thing I ever put in place is the Front Door. Mostly it just gets tucked in where ever it will fit. Like you said, stupid law that says there has to be one. Like the idea of a Triomph l'Oil painting that just looks like a real one. Be a riot to see people trying to open a door that isn't there!

Good Hub!

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Wise words, C.C. - nevah leave out da humor!  Got it! ;}

Cris A, it's either the last detail, or else the very first that's then forgotten as soon as the rest of the house is added to it.  Good point!

SF, were I to build a house, the kitchen would be next to the front door. I saw a house the other day that looks like that's exactly what was done.  When Spring returns to Flyover Country, I'll have to get a pic of it.  

Kscharles 7 years ago

Some of these homes are colossal blunders on the part of the architect, builder...AND buyers! And I've personally seen many others. What were they THINKING??

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Well, hello Kscharles! My thought is they *weren't* thinking! That they pick a house plan because that unused front door will look smashing for the two and a half months the Christmas wreath hangs on it (from Thanksgiving to Valentine's). ;}

Laughing Mom profile image

Laughing Mom 7 years ago

Ha Ha, Jama!! This was great. Yes, I wondered how you would write a hub about a front door, but here it is, and wonderful, too! Unfortunately, we are the ninnies you elequently illustrated as carrying their groceries across the front lawn to the front door. We didn't design our house very well, and if I had it to do over again, ALOT of things would be different. But alas, as it stands, it is much shorter to carry the groceries through the front door to the kitchen than it is to go through the garage. And you know how I am about carrying my groceries in.

The house with the stairs to the front door was designed for Sylvester Stallone so he doesn't have to leave home to train for Rocky 37, coming out in Spring 2010.

And I'm not sure why you take the Christmas wreath down on Valentine's Day. That just makes the Christmas lights look silly in July.

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Apologies for the ninny comment, LM.  You seem like such a "together" lady...well, except for keeping fish that look amazingly like children in a tank that looks amazingly like a school bus.....that I never dreamed you'd be one of those ninnies who haul groceries across the lawn.  ;}

As for Christmas lights looking silly in July, they won't if you replace every second and third bulb with red and blue ones before the 4th.  They'll look so patriotic, nobody will mind that they stay that way until Thanksgiving, when you put all-white bulbs in again.  Cousin Cletus says that's how Aunt Eugenia-don't-call-me-Jeannie! does it.  If you insist on leaving the wreath up, remember to stick a few of those little flags in it to match the lights! ;}}}

Shalini Kagal profile image

Shalini Kagal 7 years ago from India

That was so funny Jama - and yet so true! I guess more often than not, people tend to look at the exterior more from an aesthetic angle than a practical angle. Aside from the very pertinent observations, thanks for the laughs!

William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 7 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

You wouldn't think Siting a House would be such a funny hub, but this one was a joy to read, JamaGenee. Aside from "great hub," my only comment is that "failure to think" is a common trait that extends far beyond siting houses. A few of my own hubs touch on the fact that most of us try very hard to avoid anything that looks like "thinking." Thumbs up!

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Why, thank you, Bill!  As I told Elena, I may've lost the ability to write a *totally* serious hub! 

But seriously...really...thinking used to be "cool".  What happened to change that?  Especially when one is making decisions about the #1 most expensive investment in his or her life.

sophieqd profile image

sophieqd 7 years ago

Fantastic hub... I will be using some of your advice.

-Nicki B.

Cindy Letchworth profile image

Cindy Letchworth 7 years ago from Midwest, U.S.A.

What interesting ideas. You are right about the door placement, especially in these new homes they are building now.

I remember when I was looking for my current home, I visited a home that had a step-way like the one in the photo. I took one look at that and said, forget it. The realitor wanted me to go in, and I said, no, that there was no way I was putting up with that type of entrance construction. She didn't seem to understand, but maybe that's because she was a lot younger than me.

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Thanks, Nikki.  Glad to be of help!

Cindy, good for you!  If more people did that, architects and builders might take the hint.  The bottom line is...well.. the bottom line.  Realtors, despite the fancy title, are salespeople whose income depends on making a sale, whether a house "fits" you or not.  If you already know from simply looking at it that you don't like it, why would you waste your time going inside??? Never made sense to me either.

Cris A profile image

Cris A 7 years ago from Manila, Philippines

uh-oh! **hollers** Jamaaaaaa!!!! Teresaaaaaa!!!

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Cris, it doesn't matter how many times you knock on that gorgeous front door, we're not going to answer.  (The doorbell doesn't work, either - like the door, it's only for show.) :D

AEvans profile image

AEvans 7 years ago from SomeWhere Out There

I never truly thought about the placement of a door , but 9 out of 10 times it is rarely used. I love the home that is for sale, but climbing those steps and not even a plant out front is to sterile for me. :)

realestateuk profile image

realestateuk 7 years ago from United Kingdom

I'd like to join the soon-to-be aesthetic/philosophical thread on the front door placement, but sadly I have seen this so many times as well. As someone into real estate, I've had my share of scratching my head at 'orphan' doors, as you mentioned, and other less than stellar door positions. Good hub.

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

realestateuk, don't those "orphan" doors kinda remind you of people in weird clothing that make you wonder if they ever look in a mirror? I think architects who design homes with orphan doors need to have a "functionality mirror" for their work!

propertyauction profile image

propertyauction 7 years ago from UK

I'm into property auctions and sadly I've seen many houses with ill-placed front doors auctioned off. At some point it would seem to make sense that the contractors and architects may have felt obligated to put in a 'door' on the plans, and only later call it 'front'. What do you think? :D

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

property, I sooo agree! The door is only deignated "front" as an afterthought. As I said in the hub, if it weren't for building codes, many homes could have a fake "front door" painted on the front of the house for all the real door ever gets used! ;D

MindField profile image

MindField 7 years ago from Portland, Oregon

Great hub, Jama. Now how do we get the idiot builders (rarely are trained architects involved any more) to read it?

I've been appalled for years at what has happened to neighborhoods. When I was growing up, homes were lovely and simple if small or lovely and grand if big. They were not ugly. Architects in those days were educated in both sound and aesthetic building techniques, as well as the history of architecture through the ages.

Builders today are simpletons who have all the design ability of a one-year-old with an Etch-a-Sketch. They haven't got the first idea of what does or doesn't work. When my mother was well, we used to drive through new neighborhoods here in Fresno. Almost every time, Mom, whose father (my beloved grandfather) was a highly respected architect in Portland, Oregon, would say to me, "Thank heavens Grandpa didn't live to see this. It would have killed him."

Some of the front doors and their absurd surrounds look like portaloos. Other times, they remind me of nothing so much as concrete mausoleums. Many homes look as if the elements had been blown in place by a cyclone. I have literally seen Spanish roofs paired with Japanese doors and Alpine A-frames rising above ramblers and ranches. Most of the time you can't even put a name to the mess. Perhaps it should be called Fresno Freak or Central Valley Violence. Except that it's everywhere these days.

We need a great aesthetic renewal in this country. There really is no excuse for allowing the building of monstrosities, no matter how large or small, to continue.

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

I couldn't agree more!  What happened to aesthetics?  Or a sense of functionality?  I certainly find it lacking around here too, the last photo here being a prime example.  What could possibly be pleasing to the eye *or* functional about those steps?  They're just plain ugly, and I can't imagine anyone actually uses them.

Too many times, I think, for custom-built homes, the size of the owner's bank account trumps beauty and function.  A Spanish tile roof over a Japanese doorway?  Sure, no prob.  The house in the last photo, however, wasn't a custom-built but only one of dozens just like it in the same subdivision. Scary, to say the least.

MindField profile image

MindField 7 years ago from Portland, Oregon

None of those I mentioned were custom-built either. These hideous piles are poured from the local 'Lacking-All-Artistry-and-Functionality' builders' kits. (LAAF for short - if you are prone to laugh while crying.)

To attempt to make them look 'custom,' a word that is now synonymous with bad taste, one will be covered in a cheap rock face and sporting an Italianate fountain; another has windows cut in bizarre shapes and sizes in every wall; and a third boasts a Southern plantation portico which dwarfs the front door of a home otherwise lacking any plantation features whatsoever.

As I say, building by cyclone. Wherever it lands, it sticks, and no one - not builders, buyers, or city planners - notices or cares. Your example above fits right in. Apparently 'form follows function' has followed the dodo into oblivion.

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

LAAF - I like it. Excuse me, I have to get a tissue.

LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London

My parents' house has a completely useless front door. It's a gorgeous door, with a lovely porch, and opens into a small hall with the kitchen on the right and the sitting room on the left. But the door weighs ten tons (a guess) and the key alone must weigh a good couple of pounds (it's HUGE) so it's never, ever used.

They didn't have the choice of moving the door, which is about 700 years old (-:

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

A 700-yr-old door?  Oh my!  Aside from the fact that its size and the weight of the key make it unusable, I can't help but think of the reason such a heavy door was necessary back then, and how many generations did go in and out of it. 

Personally, I'm glad moving it isn't an option for the same reason I was glad the doors at the 350+ yo farm I stayed at in Somerset had never been replaced.  They were a tad short of 6 ft tall and at least 4 ft wide - to accommodate the wide skirts of the ladies who came calling there in the 1600s.  The circular drive in front of the massive front door (still used) had been grassed over long ago, but I had no problem imagining carriages arriving and ladies in grand gowns alighting from them.

joseph houston 7 years ago from Round Rock, Texas

Let's see?!? Front doors should be on the front. With new construction the garage is the point of entry for the owner as you have stated. If you have a detached garage you should incorporate a breeze way for entry through the rear at the kitchen and/or breakfast room. The front door is for the look. Have you not driven down a street and been impressed with double 8 foot doors? Granted not all front doors have easy access, but that is because the buying public wants communities with no driveways in the front of the home, which forces the construction of alleys - which are very unsafe. Builders and developers want to sell homes and lots and try to produce what the buying public wants in most cases. You do make some legitimate points, and I like your writing. You can design a foundation for most soil conditions with a post tension foundation. It is almost impossible to redesign most homes after the foundation is poured because the plumbing is already in place and you do not want to jack hammer a lot of your foundation. You do want windows faceing north and south because the sun rises and sets east and west. This will minimize the amount of direct sun light.

Some of us builders do care about quality of life and we do talk to our buyers about how they plan on living in their home and about how they might live in them in the future. Thanks

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

I once knew a man who had a natural talent for siting a house on a lot. He worked for a custom-builder, in a developer of "cookie cutter" subdivisions. Before the hole was ever dug for the foundation, he'd go to the site with the blueprint and "see" the completed house. Many times just turning the foundation a few degrees, for instance, would prevent having to take out a tree that would be where the patio would be in the original configuration. Or he'd "see" how moving a wall a few feet would give the future owners a better view from the breakfast room. I always wondered why he didn't go into business for himself as a siting consultant. For a fee of a few hundred dollars, one could have a more livable house, as opposed to one that look good on paper but isn't suited to the lot.

ethel smith profile image

ethel smith 5 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

Never thought about the front door this way lol

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 5 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

But I'm guessing you will from now on! I do think Brits, tho, are more sensible in this respect, at least from what I saw in my travels in the South of England and the West Country. ;D

Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

Our front door is actually used by all of our guests unless we specifically tell them to park on the side of the house with the garage and come in that way. You had me smiling with your clever wording and sense of humor. It is true that sometimes builders do not do the sensible thing when it comes to placement of a front door. Voted useful and funny.

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 5 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Good for you! Some friends must've been of the same mind when they built their house, but they took it one step further. It was laid out in such a way that the back door was all the way around on the backside of the house with no sidewalk or path to it from the driveway, only sloping lawn. The two-car garage was a few feet to the side of the front door, but in all the dozens of times I visited them, I never saw the garage doors open. Which, it turns out, was not to be unsociable. The garage was only used for storage; their cars were always parked in the driveway. There's probably a hub in that common practice too! ;D

Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

We have actually always parked our cars in our garages over the years and leave them down for security purposes. Thus our front door with sidewalk leading to it is always used. To reach our back door, one would have to go through the gate in the wooden fence and no one enters there except for the monthly meter readers who come and go. Many people seem to use their garages for storage...especially in Houston where there are commonly no basements and the attics are like ovens in the summer months. Will be awaiting your hub on the subject! :)

2patricias profile image

2patricias 4 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

The photo of the house with all the stairs made me laugh. The very first house I bought (with Wonderful Husband) had a flight of steps to the front door. We were so naïve we thought it looked picturesque. We soon learned it was almost worthless. At least we knew that if the door bell rang it was probably Jehovah's Witnesses.

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 4 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

2patricias, isn't that the truth! Or someone selling magazines! In that respect, those "almost worthless" front doors DO have a purpose - to alert the occupants to the presence of a stranger.

The house with the long flight of steps, btw, is in Topeka KS, which historically gets blanketed at least once (but usually several times) by ice every winter. Even with "just" snow sans an undercoating of ice, those steps are a broken arm, leg, or hip waiting to happen! ;D

Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 3 years ago from East Coast, United States

Jama, in my older home, we use the front door all the time. but I like the idea of a mud room or coming into the kitchen when you are lugging a lot of groceries. I hate the front doors that sit off to the side and it's all about the garage. A front door should be pretty and welcoming.

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 3 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

regarding the house with all the steps to get to it, I know a lot of older neighborhoods with much the same sort of thing. In some cases they had alleys in back to approach by car. The real problem was how to mow the lawn.

I think front doors were used more in the days when I was growing up. Visitors would usually come to the fron door but kids were instructed to come in the back door and not track up the house. Garages were usually at the back of the lot, so those parking in back would use the back door.

Blond Logic profile image

Blond Logic 3 years ago from Brazil

We don't use our front door any longer since we put a side door in.

We were forever walking around carrying things, the long way round. We just knocked out a window and put in a door.

My pet peeve is sinks. They seem to lean one way or another allowing water to pool. Or the tap is too far back or forward.

Why don't builders think 'Useability' first?

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 3 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Dolores, how nice that you actually use your front door! It's been a long time since I've been to a home that does. One friend won't even answer hers, since she knows it'll be someone she doesn't know (and probably doesn't WANT to know). Friends, relatives, neighbors and the pizza guy all know to come to the BACK door. ;D

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 3 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

dahoglund, I think the front door went out of favor (first) when houses stopped being built with porches bigger than a postage stamp. Front porches that were actually meant (and used) for sitting out on of an evening, visiting with the neighbors, and in the summer time, shelling peas and snapping green beans from the garden out back. Before air conditioning became affordable for all.

The second was when the "front parlor" fell out of favor as the main gathering space and kitchens were integrated into that uniquely American space in the back of the house called the "family room".

How does one mow a front yard with those steps running up the middle? In shifts! Do one side, take a break, do the other side. Which takes all the "fun" out of firing up the mower at one side of the yard and following along behind until time to make a U-turn at the other side, while indulging in much daydreaming in between! At least that's how I did it when I lived in homes that had yards.

Thanks for stopping by! ;D

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 3 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Hey, Blond Logic! Knocking out a window and repacing it with a door sounds like something I would've done when I had the fixer-upper we came to call the Money Pit. Actually, I DID knock out most of an outside wall in the kitchen that only had one teensy weensy high-up window and replace it with a side-by-side double window unit so we could stop having to turn on the light to get a drink of water at 2:00 in the afternoon on a sunny day...

As for the sink thing, if you have one that leans or the tap is too far back, I suggest you contact the guys at "Ask This Old House" and have them come out with a camera crew to fix it!

As for why builders don't think of "useability". Because they don't HAVE to. If they're building a subdivision, it's all about how the houses LOOK. Plus, they rely on potential buyers not looking too closely at how things work INSIDE the house before signing on the dotted line. If it's a single home on the owner's own lot, nine times out of ten the future residents have only "seen" the home on blueprints, pay more attention to how it's going to look from the curb, and will leave it up to the builder to pick out and install utilitarian items like sinks and such.

Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 2 years ago from Long Island, NY

I really related to this article because I know many houses that were designed poorly in this way, without any consideration to the relationship between the garage and the front door. Without giving thought to how far people have to walk to get to the front door is ridiculous. I have friends who always use their side door or rear door for that reason.

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 2 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Glenn, I'm lucky to have two friends whose homes are routinely entered via the front door, but only because one keeps the doors to the garage closed and locked to hide the fact that it's used for storage instead of housing cars, and the other's is an old "row" house built in the mid-1800s whose driveway is too narrow for modern vehicles, so she has to park at the curb, as do her guests. There's something to be said for brownstones (and their counterparts in Europe) that can only be entered from the street through the front door!

Thanks for reading and commenting! ;D

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