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    T. Ortega Gaines

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    Door 1: The home of Libby and Jim Fink.
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    Door 1: The door is painted vivid blue and glazed with a hint of dark brown.
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    Door 2: This double door in Huntersville is crafted of tongue-and-groove mahogany.
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    Door 3: Colored panels in the door represent members of the family.
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    Door 4: A glass and copper door owned by B.D. and Pat Rodgers.
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    Door 4: Glass and copper.
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    Door 5: A double front door in Foxcroft being featured on the Mid-Century Modern Tour hosted by Historic Charlotte.
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    Door 6: This Cameron Wood home has a vivid red door.
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    Door 6: Cameron Wood.
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    Door 7: Original to the 1924 Dilworth home.
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    Door 7: Dilworth.
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    Door 8: A metal door at the Spainhour home.
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    Door 8: Spainhour home.
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    Door 9: The Ackerman home in the Park Crossing neighborhood of south Charlotte.
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    Door 9: Park Crossing.
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    T. Ortega Gaines - ogaines@charlotteobserver.com
    Door 1: The home of Libby and Jim Fink.

Welcome home

By Allen Norwood | Photography by T. Ortega Gaines

Posted: Wednesday, May. 25, 2011

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Architects say that front doors prove the old adage that you get only one chance to make a first impression.

A bright, well-tended door says, “Come on in.” A faded, neglected door says, “Go away.” Whatever the size and style of the house, whatever the cost of the door, those messages are clear.

If done thoughtfully, the front door complements the architecture and sets the tone for the entire house.

It doesn't do that job by itself, though. While the door is the centerpiece, the entire facade is important. The glass above and beside the door, the lighting, the porch and its railings, even the greenery lining the front walk need to complement the door. All of those things help the door say, “Welcome.”

“I think a door is like a party invitation,” says Pat Rodgers, whose husband personally designed doors for their last three houses. “When you get an invitation, you can tell what kind of party it's going to be. A front door tells you what kind of house it’s going to be.”

Door 1 (SouthPark Magazine cover door)

Libby and Jim Fink bought a traditional brick house and, seeing possibilities others had missed, transformed it. And the door was crucial to their vision.

They painted the brick exterior, to provide Low country cottage appeal.

Before deciding what to do about the door they studied lots of pictures, and drove through neighborhoods looking at doors on other homes. Which were their favorites? Why?

They replaced the single door with double doors, then painted the doors and the antique shutters vivid blue. To tone the blue down a bit, and add the patina of age, they glazed the blue with a hint of dark brown.

The painted doors are more in keeping with the new look of the house, Libby Fink said. And the glaze helps ensure that they won't tire of the blue, as they might have with a brighter color.

Libby Fink credits her husband with so much time and attention spent on the door. “He felt like it would make a big impact,” she said. “And the neighbors agree: It has.”

Door 2

The front door should set the tone for everything else about a house – and no door better exemplifies that than this massive, sculptural creation.

The double doors are 3 ½ inches thick, crafted of tongue-and-groove mahogany planks with a clear finish like fine furniture. And the two doors are curved to complement the circular shape of the large foyer. Even the glass above the door is curved.

Architect Harry Schrader, who designed the house, paid careful attention to every small detail. He designed the lighting, the cabinetry, the hardware throughout. The entry was no exception.

“The doors are a series of bent planks,” he said. “We went to a custom shop in Greensboro.” The stainless steel handles and hinges were made in a machine shop.

The result is beautiful, and that attention paid off in other ways. The doors swing smoothly and fit tightly, even after eight years.

Door 3

Look closely at the mahogany door with wide sidelights on Peter and Cindy Levinson's house – look again and perhaps squint a bit – and you'll see the stylized “L” representing their last name. It's there in the glass, in what looks at first glance like a random geometric pattern.

What's more, the colored panels amid the clear glass represent members of the family. The colors are lilac, pink, raspberry and a golden yellow. Architect Stan Russell, who designed the door when he helped the Levinsons rebuild their home, asked each to pick a color. Peter and Cindy Levinson, along with daughters Jill, 16, and Sophie, 13, each chose a favorite hue.

Which is which? Well... “I might be hard pressed to figure whose was which,” Cindy Levinson said with a laugh. “But it's beautiful.”

Door 4

B.D. Rodgers helps design the front doors for homes he shares with his wife, Pat Rodgers. He's a stickler. He collects contemporary sculpture, and wants the door to welcome guests, fit comfortably into the architecture and complement his favorite artworks.

That's a lot to ask of a door, but the stunning glass and copper door on their current home delivers.

To create this door and sidelights, as with previous doors, Rodgers worked closely with Ellie Knight at Shed Brand Studios. The glass pattern is one-of-a-kind. The glass is thicker than normal, and was melted and shaped by Shed Brand. The caming, or metal between the glass pieces, is wide copper instead of narrow lead as in the typical cut-glass door or window. That makes the metal as important as the glass to the artistry of the door. And the combination of glass and copper perfectly complements the glass, bronze and stainless steel sculpture, Rodgers said. “The door lets the light come in from the front, all the way through the house. There's a nice pattern of light... and it blends with the art inside the home.”

Door 5

The double front door of this house in Foxcroft has a secret. Look closely, and see if you can spot it.

Oh, the doors are stunning. You can't miss the brightly colored panels around the door. And the inset glass panels reach all the way to the edge of each steel door. You don’t often see that. But look again.

The right door is larger than the one on the left, said Toby Witte with Dialect Design, who helped the owners complete an ambitious remodeling of the one-story house. The difference is unique, and turned out to be a great way to handle one issue in the renovation.

Behind these doors, a staircase on the right rises to the attic. Making the right door larger was an innovative way to hide the base of the stairs. It's functional – and fun.

And the house remains so true to its original design that it was to be featured on the Mid-Century Modern Tour hosted by Historic Charlotte.

Door 6

When Caele Gambs and her husband, Richard, bought their home in Cameron Wood, one of her first projects was painting the front door and storm door. The doors were blue, like the shutters. Now they're vivid red. “The color is Pompeii red, like the town that got buried,” she said, referring to the city near Naples, Italy. She also lived for a while in Japan, where red is an important color culturally. It's considered very welcoming. Also, she loves it.

The front door and its surroundings are the first things visitors see, she said. That's why she touches up the paint on the door regularly, and spends lots of time on the flowers and shrubs.

She updated the brass door hardware, too. “That's like jewelry for your door.”

Door 7

The white double doors on the Leaf family's home in Dilworth are original to the house, which was built in 1924. The doors are mostly glass. They're arched, and mimic the arch in the brick of f the front porch.

Chip Leaf, an architect, says the doors were probably unusual for their day – and still are. “There was a different level of craftsmanship then, with the curved wood and curved glass.”

The glass is original, too, and its imperfections refract the morning sun and dapple the room with changing shapes and shadows.

Like other homeowners, Leaf likes the way the doors fill the interior with light. But light travels from the inside to the outside, too. You'll appreciate what that means if you'll notice your favorite front doors after dusk.

When golden light spills out, it creates a welcoming beacon in the darkness.

Door 8

Beverly Spainhour and her husband, Sterling, wanted a door that could stand up to the strong afternoon sun, yet still look warm and welcoming. She found exactly what she was looking for with this metal door by Clark Hall. Her designer, Gary Mathis, helped with the decorator touches – from the door’s curved top, to the adaptation of a fleur-de-lis design in the side glass windows.

Spainhour hopes visitors get “a warm feeling when they look at the front of our home – I hope a welcoming feeling.”

And she loves how the door stands on its own. “We feel the door is decorated as much as we want it to be,” Spainhour says. “It’s for all seasons. It’s just perfect.”

Door 9

Les Ackerman recently added a full view glass storm door to his home in Park Crossing. It's painted crisp black, matching the six-panel wood door behind it. It's a simple and functional combination that, combined with other elements, makes it one of the most eye-catching doors on a street of striking doors.

“I replaced a very traditional aluminum storm door,” Ackerman said. “I have two Jack Russell terriers – one is 14 years old – and they can look out front. It's perfect.”

Ackerman didn't stop with the new storm door, though. He restored the railings and repainted them bright white. He replaced the brass kick plate. He added glazed ceramic pots with topiaries and trailing vines. The leaded glass over the door is even more appealing, he said, now that other elements have been refurbished.

From the street, the entire setting is very traditional and very welcoming. “It's good to hear that,” he said. “That's exactly how I feel, and how the house feels.”

The bonus? Ackerman and his guests are using the front door more, now that it looks its best.

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