Longleaf Stories

full circle in the hundred acre wood

There is a 96 inch by 96 inch hole in the front of our house that needs a front door; or, as the catalogs phrase it, an entry system. Buck and I have learned that “entry systems” are exponentially more expensive than “mere” doors.

We have searched and pondered, scoured web sites and catalogs, visited door sellers and spent hours on the phone.

We found a beautiful set of carved mahogany double doors with twin sidelights. They would have even passed Florida’s newest, more stringent post-2004 hurricane season wind code. And for $17,000 plus tax, shipping and installation, the manufacturer would have been delighted to sell them to us. Ha.

That was early on in the process. Now, we have the equivalent of a college degree in door buying, and have some advice: don’t fall in love with a look until you know the ballpark price. Go in with a sharp pencil in your hand, not stars in your eyes. Do you homework on the advantages and disadvantages of wood, fiberglass, clad, or steel. And finally, think philosophically about what you really want in a door. Is it privacy, economy, the illusion of security, impressing visitors, enhancing curb appeal for resale, aesthetic considerations, or utilitarian aspects such as low maintenance?

Last Sunday afternoon, Buck and I spent several hours with brooms and the shop vac. We stacked lumber, picked up debris, swept and vacuumed sawdust. By the time we were finished, my hands were stiff and sore, and I was hungry and just plain out of gas. We sat at the old glass top picnic table still sitting in it’s place in the former screened porch — now the future dining room. Despite warm temperatures, a north-south breeze was blowing in from the open hole where a front door will eventually go. It swept in and refreshed us while we ate hummus, pita toasts and a marinated veggie salad.

Almost simultaneously, sitting there in that vivifying breeze, we had a front door epiphany: eight foot black clad full glass in-swing French doors (no muntins) with hinged screen doors. Most new homes are built to be highly insulated and buttoned up tight. Living in the woods, we were able to design a house that’s both contemporary and old-fashioned. The dimensions, angles and window placements are turning out to be a dream for fresh air ventilation. The carport roof and covered breezeway will shade a good portion of the front of the house, diluting the summer sun considerably. Having screened doors in that air tunnel at the front will allow for more fresh air and less refrigeration.

This option also turned out to be by far the least expensive of any others we had examined: a happy bonus.

Best of all, I’ll be able to hear the night birds sing.

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