Is Your Front Door In The Wrong Place?

Entrance door
Roof Glazing

Finding Your Front Door

How many times have you visited an old house and had to look really hard to find out where the front door is? As Architects working on listed buildings we come across this all the time. We often go to the “wrong door” and the owner shows us the real door they use every day. Why is that?

 

Most listed buildings date back to the days of travel on foot or by horse and so the main entrance to a house was usually the shortest and most direct route from road to door from a small lane or footpath. Since then a major social change has happened through the introduction of the motor car and wider roads. Sometimes the road has moved from the original footpath or track and we have had to find space to park cars and that is often at the side or rear and so we have moved the main entrance door to suit.

House Plan Evolution

 

In addition to the changes resulting from the car, houses have had extensions added plans over time to reflect social change and the wealth of the owners. It’s fascinating to track the changes to house plans over the centuries that result in the front door being in the wrong place.

 

A “Simple” Infill Extension

 

When we were briefed by the client on this project to replace an existing small flat roof extension with one slightly larger, our initial concern was to maximise the floor area of the extension within the very strict Greenbelt rules. However that proved much easier than dealing with the design of the extension in relation to the setting of the listed building.

 

In our work on listed buildings we take a contemporary approach to help ensure that the new and old are clearly delineated. This is usually welcomed by planning officers, however in this case our initial designs were rejected by the listed buildings officer because they concealed more of the original rear elevation of the building than the existing extension, despite the old extension's inferior design.

 

We solved that problem by introducing a glass roof about 1.2m wide where the extension abuts the original building. That creates a view from inside of the original elevation at first floor that had previously been concealed and we argued successfully that this new feature enhanced the setting of the listed building.

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