Jun 162014
 June 16, 2014  Exterior  Add comments

Front Door

I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point over the course of this past winter the front door to my building went from looking acceptable to looking downright shabby. The building is perched on a hill next to Boston Harbor, and it gets pretty windy in these parts – every winter the front door is battered with snow and ice, and years of this wintry abuse has taken its toll on the door’s paint job. It’s worn down to the primer coat in places, and the paint around the inset panels is chipped and peeling. The surrounding side lights and transom window aren’t in much better shape.

The front door provides visitors and passersby with their first impression of the building, so I think it’s important to keep it looking decent. And of course some regular maintenance will go a long way toward preventing costly repairs down the road. With this in mind, I volunteered to repair, repaint, and generally spruce up the front door and surrounding trim. Here’s what needs to be done:

  1. The transom window needs to be reglazed. I’ll remove all of the old, cracked and failing glazing putty from around each glass pane, prime the wood dividers, and apply new glazing putty. I have some glazing experience – I spot reglazed the salvaged french door I used between the dining room and living room last year – so hopefully this part goes smoothly.
  2. Scrape/strip all of the peeling paint from the door and trim. I did a quick lead paint test on the door and trim, and, interestingly, the test was negative. There’s only one or two coats of paint on the door and trim, which suggests that it was completely replaced within the past 20 or 30 years. But the fact that there’s no lead paint here means that I’m free to scrape off the peeling paint rather than use a wet stripping method, which will make my job much easier.
  3. Prime everything. I’ll use a shellac-based primer to spot prime any knots or stains. The new glazing putty will need to be primed with an oil-based primer, and I’ll use an all-purpose exterior primer for everything else.
  4. Caulk all of the joints and seams in the trim.
  5. The hinges on the door are really rusty, so I’ll remove them, prime them with Rustoleum rusty metal primer, and spray paint them black.
  6. Paint everything

The only thing left to decide is paint color. As long as I don’t choose anything too weird, my neighbors don’t have strong feelings about the front door color. The giant, sandstone portico surrounding the front door is painted a medium blue-gray. It matches the sills and lintels around the building’s windows, and I have no plans to repaint it. So I’d like to find a color that complements the portico. My first thought was to paint the door and trim a glossy, formal black, or a dark navy, but I couldn’t quite picture how it would look. So this past weekend Mara and I headed across the harbor to Boston’s South End for some inspiration.

Boston South End Row Houses

South End Union Park

The South End is the largest Victorian brick row house district in the country. It’s made up of block upon block of impeccably restored row houses that were built at around the same time as my building in the mid to late 19th century. And many of the row houses in the South End are built in a very similar style to my building, with bow fronts and some Greek Revival architectural elements. It seemed like a good place to check out a variety of different front door colors that might suit my building. So let’s check out some doors, shall we?
Turquoise DoorA brightly colored door like this turquoise door looks great with white trim, but I don’t think it would be right for my building.

ShuttersA lot of buildings in the South End have historical or replica shutters, which made me wish my building still had shutters. But that’s another (much more expensive) project for another time.

Wood Door

Blue and Red Doors

Green Door

Red Door

Unlike my building’s front door, most of the doors we saw were double doors without a lot of surrounding trim. This single red door with side lights and a transom was the most similar door we saw. The door and trim are painted different colors, which made me wonder if I should keep the door and trim different colors on my building as well. Also, I think we may need a planter of some sort by the front door for flowers and/or a little topiary thing.

Front Door 2

Seeing all of these nicely restored entranceways reinforced the fact that my front door is looking pretty crappy. But it also made me even more unsure of what color to paint the door.

East Boston Row House

Finally, here’s a photo of a row house just down the street from my building in East Boston, taken soon after it was built. This building is very similar to mine and was probably built at around the same time. Obviously, the photo is black and white, so it’s impossible to tell what colors were used, but it looks like the front door was painted a dark color, possibly black, which makes me think I should stick with a dark color for my front door. I’m currently leaning toward a dark navy door but I’m still not sure whether I should paint the surrounding trim a different color. So I’m officially soliciting opinions – what color should I paint my front door?

  21 Responses to “The Front Door is in Desperate Need of Fresh Paint”

  1. i would consider a dark blue gray (in the same color family as the stonework of the lintel and the foundation … a complimentary color – darker than the lintel but in the same family
    how about matching the tones of the bricks? like a deep burnt orange – or a red/orange that would compliment the brickwork?

    in both cases i would paint the white woodwork either a darker shade of the color of the lintel or black to tie in with the cast iron fence. then of course later i would paint that downspout black as well.

    such a nice door.

    (i live in a four unit building where the landlord refuses to take care of the front porch and front door or let me paint it. sigh)

  2. Navy would be a safe choice. Just be sure to pick a color that has the same tone – i.e. so that it’s a darker version of the stonework. No-one will get angry over a navy door.

    It could be ANY color, brick is considered a neutral, and the bluish gray of the stone goes with a lot of colors.

    That being said, I would go yellow :)

  3. Keep the trim white, it is a nice counter point to the blue sandstone and the brick. But here’s what you’re not going to like. I think a nice dark yellow would be GORGEOUS. With the blue and the brick? So lovely. Just the punch of color the facade needs!

  4. I agree with the leaning toward navy, however a deep mustard-y yellow could be nice (the unpainted wood door in your examples gives you an idea of what a lighter, yellowish color might look like). White or cream trim.
    In a classic example of project creep, painting the rusty iron fence on the left to match the lovely new black one on the right would make a big difference too.

    • I would love to paint that rusty fence! Unfortunately it’s not on our property – our fence on the right was recently painted, but the rusty one on the left belongs to the building next door.

  5. I would stick with white or cream trim to compliment both the grout color of the bricks and the cement steps and to contrast the blue/grey stone of the surround.

    I like the idea of either a navy or golden yellow but am leaning toward the yellow for a couple of reasons. It’s a cheerful, inviting color during the darker, wetter seasons. If you go forward with planters trailing leaves, or an evergreen bush, will stand out against the yellow rather than receding into the navy. Same goes for a Christmas wreath.

    It may not be historically accurate, but it would produce a warmer emotional response.

    • Wow lots of support for yellow! I hadn’t really considered it, but now I’ll have to take it under consideration.

  6. I like the red, white, & blue vibe going on. I would give the trim a fresh coat of white paint and then navy blue for the door. Classic.

  7. What about something like this? I apologize for the hasty photoshop work.


  8. I’ll add my voice to the chorus of yellow/mustard.

    I have an ochre-ish door with white trim immediately around it, against a dark bluish/greenish/grey siding. There’s a red-brick walkway and porch wall in front of the whole thing. I think it’s a fabulous colour combo. The yellow really lifts the other colours and the white keeps everything looking fresh and crisp. I have black hardware on the door, a black iron bench and planters – you could add black planters at your door. It’ll work.

    I used Benjamin Moore paint. The door colour is Millington Gold HC-13. The siding is Narrangasett Green HC-157. I’m in Canada, not sure if you have the same palette/names or numbers.

    • I looked at Millington Gold on the BM website,and that’s pretty much what I was thinking of (on my monitor anyway). Interestingly, it’s from their ‘Historical Collection’ which is “Inspired by the documented colors found in 18th- and 19th-century architecture”. How about that!?
      Too bad about the sad neighboring fence. Sigh.

  9. No red? I think a dark red would be nice. I like the yellow, too, but who’s going to keep that clean? With so many people in and out, I’m sure it will get scuffed up quickly.

  10. I’m liking yellow too. Navy would also be great especially if it’s high gloss. If you do navy I’m not sure about the gray trim, it might look dingy.

  11. I vote for that beautiful blue like the door you pictured with the red one. So soothing and nice to come home to!

  12. My vote is as follows (in order):

    1. Deep dark Navy
    2. Black
    3. Deep Red

    All in high gloss with with brass fixtures would be stunning. The darker tones are necessary due to it being a high traffic area (as mentioned previously) and the lighter colors, such as yellow, would show scuffs, etc.

  13. Oh good, other people are suggesting reds. I think a really dark brownish red like the “similar” door in your photo essay would look good. Or a dark, dark blue. Not sure Navy Blue – I’d pick one with more dusty undertones, so it’s a tint (darkened) of the stonework.

    Black like Old Town Home’s would be nice, too. The linked post is Alex’s tips on high gloss paint that you might find useful.

  14. Hmmm. I love mustard but would need visuals as I have no imagination. I would paint both the door and the trim Farrow and Ball’s “down pipe’ but it would be expensive! Such a lovely building and impressive entrance. What a great neighbour you are!

  15. Hi Dan,

    Come back for a visit at Apartment Therapy…..The door color would make a great question for the blog.

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