Have you ever entered someone’s house at the formal front door and discovered that you were basically entering their living room? We’ve all seen this a few times and while it probably didn’t spoil the visit, our discomfort is felt at a subconscious level. These days I ask myself, ‘what were they (the designers) thinking?’ The answer is really simple, with cost and “fashion” as being the greatest determining factors in home purchases the issue here is more likely to be an entryway that has been compromised in one or more ways.
In his book A Pattern Language author Christopher Alexander speaks of several design patterns that consistently re-occur in housing designs around the globe. The patterns go to the heart of designing a home and can be used across cultures and across time. There are hundreds of simple patterns that many designers are simply not aware of. These designers today are compelled to design based on current trends and cost. And unfortunately placing form before function is common. Better we design for function first, and then infuse the design with our creative flare. Miss either of these and you’ll get “creepy house syndrome”.
Most of the elements that form the “entryway pattern” are really just common sense. To start with the simplest part, the size of the entry needs to be scaled to the size of the building. The foyer should be large enough to remove your jacket without hitting your host :o large enough to actually have a closet and small enough to feel welcoming. You may be surprised how often these simple “rules” are broken.
Also a privacy wall that separates visitors from the interior space is simply good design. And so is having a seat nearby for visitors to remove their boots. And so is a window so that hosts can view who is approaching. And so is a higher ceiling (than the rest of the house) to give visitors a feel that this is a “common space”. And so is placing a work of art in the entryway. Yes it’s more than “just decorating”, it’s a sign of welcoming and putting visitors at ease without compromising the residents' need for safety. As you can tell there are many elements to this “simple” pattern.
And today with attention to heat conservation many commercial buildings are routinely designing entryways with an airlock. These too can be used in homes to our advantage - not only to keep the inside warm air separate from the outside cold air but to emphasize that all important transition zone.
Next time you walk into someone's abode notice if these features exist. They all serve the dual purpose of preserving the security of the residents and exercising the option to welcome strangers.
Can’t end this without the following, the GeoStudio too has a “tiny” transition zone that visitors may notice. It is an option which, while it is small, is important to guests entering. All are welcome to check this out.
Gilles Leclair is the founder of GeoStudios. Somewhat eccentric, fairly environmentalist, politically aware, he believes the world should have more off-grid communities... many more.