Our amazing son, Frank deGruy VI, is an architect. He sent a fabulous comment on my post about windows and doors which I got his permission to use as a guest post instead. It is beautiful. Enjoy!
During one of my reviews in Architecture School, I had a professor really lay into me for the front door placement on one of my projects. He asked me why I decided to put the door where I did, and I couldn't really give him a solid answer. I think I mumbled something about "It's centered on the front wall... sidewalk comes up to the house... sunshine... neighbor... potato chips..." Not a good answer.
He got all in my face, as is the norm for a review, but later on, after I was done and had taken all my work down, came over to explain what he meant. How a door was the threshold from one world into the next. Not just from public to private, or inside to outside, or living room to kitchen. It's a threshold from one mind-state to another from one world into another.
When you walk through that enormous 2,000 year old door of the Pantheon, you know that you have crossed into a special place. All the noise and bustle and excitement of Rome melts away and you walk into this peaceful, beautiful, powerful space. It literally takes your breath away. Your words are whispered. Your steps are quieter. Your thoughts are clearer.
Those big shiny double-doors in a hospital are terrifying if you're being wheeled through them to undergo surgery, scared, cold, alone, and semi-sedated. But they can also be the big, shiny, happy, gateway that your first-born child is just on the other side of.
The front door to the house of the first girl that you ever asked out on a date is pretty weird. It feels all clammy, and you can hear its heart beating when you stand next to it, and it has some kind of heating device on it because you feel your face getting hotter. But then it's totally different when you bring her home, because then the door is all smiley, and kissy, and butterfly-stomachy.
The creaky, dusty, scary front door of the old abandoned farmhouse (the one that you break into because your friends dared you to) is the threshold from reality into a scary movie. You have to steel your 13-year-old nerves and tell yourself it's just a door and nothing is inside. But you're still thinking "What if...?"
Whenever you go to someone's house for the first time, you get a feeling when you walk through the door. It's the feeling that you are in their space now. They live there and you are in their world. Now of course that feeling wears off if you go to that person's house a lot. In fact, eventually you don't even knock anymore and just barge in and head straight for the fridge.
When you step through the shiny, black door into that big, intimidating conference room for that job interview, you go from "I've been looking for a new job for weeks now and I really need this because I'm running out of shit to sell on eBay" to "I am just what this company needs and I bring everything to the table and I'm a great team leader and yes I can start on Monday."
Every time you go back home to visit, you go through the kitchen door to your Mom's house, because only company uses the front door. And you know as soon as you open that door it will smell like cookies and coffee and old lace curtains and Pledge furniture cleaner and love and family and home.
I looked back at my floor plans and house designs and tried to figure out where the threshold was supposed to be. Nothing about the project was hinged on symmetry, so I recognized that the front door didn't need to be centered. In fact, the whole flow of the floor plan was right-to-left, and the japanese maple on the left side of the lot needed to be framed by a big picture window in the entry anyway, and obviously the front door was supposed to be on the right side of the foyer. Because when you walked through it you wanted to look to your left. That's where the light was coming from, and oh my look at that pretty tree, and is that...
A few days later, I tracked the professor down and asked him to stop by my desk and check out my project again. He looked at it for a while, started nodding his head, pointed at the front door and said "That's where the door wants to be."
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