© 2005 Door & Access Systems
Publish Date: Winter 2005
Author: Michael Walsh
Michael Walsh, a veteran home-improvement columnist, wrote the following story in the fall of 2005 for the Universal Press Syndicate (UPS), the world’s largest independent newspaper syndicate.
UPS distributed this story to about 200 newspapers worldwide, including many of the most popular newspapers in America. UPS also syndicates and distributes other popular newspaper features such as Ann Coulter, Dear Abby, Doonesbury, Roger Ebert, Dr. James Dobson, Garfield, and many more.
Point: Thanks to this story, our industry’s gospel message gained significant momentum. At no cost to our industry, thousands of potential garage door buyers are now aware of the positive role of the garage door in determining a home’s curb appeal.
With the permission of the Universal Press Syndicate, we reprint the story here for your use in educating your staff and your customers.
Uplifting Looks for Garage Doors
By Michael Walsh
© Universal Press Syndicate
Conventional wisdom holds that having an attractive front door is the best way to ensure that your home makes a good first impression. But if you really want to boost curb appeal, it might be smarter to forget about the front door and gussy up the garage door instead.
After all, for houses with attached, street-facing garages, the garage door is certainly a much more prominent feature than the front door by virtue of size alone. In fact, it’s not at all unusual for a garage door or doors to comprise 30 to 40 percent of a home’s façade. No matter how architecturally dazzling your home’s exterior, any element that makes up at least a third of its front elevation is not going to go unnoticed.
Unfortunately, a great many homeowners, home builders, and architects seem oblivious to that fact. They spend gobs of money to create what look like mini-mansions and junior embassies and then spoil the effect with woefully generic-looking garage doors.
The “Real” Front Door
On top of that, for almost half of us, the garage door is our home’s “real” front door. A national consumer survey commissioned late last year by Amarr Garage Doors found that 45 percent of Americans with garages use the garage door as their primary point of entry into the house. In effect, these aren’t so much houses with attached garages as drive-in houses—with “front” doors that are eight to 20 feet wide.
Inevitably, doors that big command attention. Whether the impression created is positive or negative depends on the style of door. Luckily, design variations have expanded in recent years to give style-conscious homeowners more choices.
A Stylish Statement
In the traditional realm, one of the newest styles is a throwback to the horse-and-buggy era of more than a century ago. They are patterned after the hinged, swinging doors on rural stables or urban carriage houses.
Carriage-house doors are available in wood, usually the most expensive to buy and maintain, as well as less-expensive steel, vinyl, aluminum, and high-density polyethylene. Even though they roll or lift up like most garage doors, some carriage-house doors sport fool-the-eye strap hinges and handles reminiscent of the Colonial era. Others have arched tops or rows of divided-light windows at the top.
In addition to having more architectural character than conventional garage doors, carriage-house doors make one large door look like two smaller ones, reducing the apparent massiveness and creating a scale than can fit better with the proportions of a house.
The Secret of Singles
Another way to achieve the effect with both traditional and contemporary styles is to choose two 1-car doors instead of a typical 2-car door when designing a house or even a detached garage. Rather than an overpowering door 18 feet wide, you can have two 8-foot doors with a column—usually sheathed in house-matching siding or brick—between them.
You can use the same strategy for 3-car garages, which are becoming increasingly popular. Three smaller doors can look more suited to the scale of a house than one huge door. Or you can combine a two-car door separated with a column from a one-car door for a more custom look.
Small windows, or even a big one, along the top of a garage door can go a long way toward breaking up its massive size. An added benefit is that windows, whether clear or translucent, can allow daylight to reach deep into a too-dark garage.
Color and pattern can also help. Solid color garage doors are not the only options these days.
Typical doors with raised or recessed panels now often come in two-color combinations, with the rails and stiles that frame the panels painted a different color than the panels themselves. Some garage door companies offer custom coloring so you can perfectly match the colors of the garage door to the siding or trim on the outside of your house.
Or you can paint an existing garage door yourself, using two or more compatible colors. In either case, it’s probably best to choose subtle, neutral hues.
Finally, a word about garage etiquette. Your house—and your neighborhood—will look better if you open the garage door only when you arrive and depart. A chronically open garage door creates an unattractive black hole in the front of your stylish—and expensive—house.
It also creates an eyesore for your neighbors across the street who are entitled to a better view. Plus, an open garage door is the equivalent of an open-air market for thieves who, having a clear view of the contents of your garage, may come back later to help themselves.
Besides, what sense does it make to invest in an attractive and architecturally important garage door that will improve your home’s curb appeal if it can’t be seen?
Five Questions for Michael Walsh
DAS: Where did you get the idea for this story?
Walsh: I got the idea from looking at the garage doors in my own neighborhood (in northwest Indiana). The homes around here are somewhat upscale, and the new homes are large homes with three-car garages.
Right now, I’m looking at two garage doors that don’t contribute anything to the look of the home. Even on the new homes, the garage doors look completely suburban. They have no character to them; they’re very generic.
DAS: So, you were motivated by your concern for curb appeal in your own neighborhood?
Walsh: Absolutely. When something consumes such a large part of the front of the house, it should not be generic; it should be special. It should improve the looks of the house, not detract from it.
I think people are so accustomed to garage doors that they don’t see them any more. But if you walk out to your curb and turn around, the garage door is the first thing you see.
I knew there were better products out there, such as those new carriage doors. So, that’s why I wrote the story.
DAS: What are your credentials for writing about home improvement?
Walsh: I’ve been writing about home-related subjects as a syndicated newspaper columnist for the Universal Press Syndicate for 20 years. I am also a contributor to Better Homes & Gardens magazines and the author of a book on Tudor houses. I’ve written for House Beautiful, Metropolitan Home, Home magazine, and several others.
Before that, I was editor of the Home section of the Chicago Sun-Times. Before that, I was associate editor at Metropolitan Home magazine.
DAS: Do you have any hands-on experience with home remodeling?
Walsh: I’ve remodeled four of my own houses from top to bottom. So, I know a bit about construction and design.
DAS: I have to ask … have you personally upgraded your garage door?
Walsh: (Laughs) Actually, I don’t have a garage. I guess you could say I have garage envy.