He said, she said: Builder-designer couple dishes on doors

by | Dec 06, 2016

When builder Wayne Atkins and his wife, Cherri, a residential designer, of Sterling Brook Custom Homes in Dallas, sit down to discuss the layout of a new home with clients, doors are an important part of the conversation. Specific to the Dallas market, Wayne and Cherri talk about how the door design fits into the overall design scheme and how selection should be practical and functional from the start – and where these two concepts overlap and interweave. “People are noticing interior doors much more today,” says Cherri. “They are paying more attention to features like clean lines and a simple design that repeats throughout the house.”

With expertise that transcends simple function and takes into account a door’s material make-up, performance, views through each door and flow, the builder-designer team lays the pros and cons on the table and attempts to guide the homeowners down the path that is best for their home. “We ask questions about their budget and then try to align that as closely as possible to their wish list,” Wayne says.

Door Performance — Once we establish the style of the front door, Wayne says his priority is to make sure the door performs well. “We are huge fans of fiberglass because you can get better performance and a more stable product that is better than wood or metal,” he said. “We guide our customers them based on what we feel will match their style, as an asset to the house.” As a versatile material, fiberglass can be stained or finished (insert link here) in any color or wood look, by the builder if it’s new construction or by the homeowner if they choose. They can even stain the exterior and paint the interior of the door.

Solid or Hollow Core 
— Most clients want the substance and feel of solid core doors, however when the budget has no wiggle room, costs can be saved with hollow core. “There’s not a huge difference to upgrade, maybe $60 per door, but if you have 24 doors this can add up,” says Wayne. It’s also possible to have a mix of solid and hollow core to save money. “They can choose the solid for doors that are more high profile and hollow for those not seen as much,”  notes Cherri.

Doors Dictate Flow — It may be having a designer for a wife… or that Wayne has just become super tuned into his customers’ needs, but he has a real eye for how doors and even furniture dictate the flow of a home and create movement from one room to another. He points out that you don’t want competing door swings in any area of the house. “Where a door is located determines how people are going to move, as does the furniture — so you need to look at how that layout affects the flow. It is much less expensive to figure that out on paper,” he says.”We don’t ever want to create something that we know has issues from the start. We ask things like. ‘What do I want visitors to see when they walk in the front door? (Right or left door swing determines what they will see.) Do the interior doors work with the layout and furniture? What views do we want to see out to the back patio?’ If the doors are done right, no one thinks about it. But if they’re done wrong, it’s difficult to go back and fix it.”

“Doorientation” — Whereas HOA’s mostly have restrictions on colors rather than style, Cherri notes the biggest restrictions she and Wayne find with front doors is the hot Texas climate and intense sun. “The door’s orientation is a big factor,” she says, which is why we’d recommend fiberglass over wood for full facing sun.”  Wayne says, “When a client wants a wood door, it’s our job to tell them the caveats of a South-West orientation — it will just deteriorate. That doesn’t mean we haven’t installed one, but maintenance will be an issue. North or East facing is not as much of an issue.”

Trending Door Styles — Door style depends on the homeowner’s personal taste, of course. “Some want all the doors to be ‘matchy-matchy’ In those cases, we start with the front; typically, fiberglass for looks and insulation, and then choose interior doors that match,” said Cherri. Or, clients want options, having all the same style doors except for a unique space like maybe a wine room or powder room door with a door that’s unique. “We’ve done The Masonite Riverside Style (insert link) for front doors and played with different types of glass–we love the simple design and clean lines,” said Cherri. Like Riverside®, Heritage® and West End Collections, these doors have more clean lines, with simple two-panel lumens. “For entry doors, we start with Masonite Door Styles(Insert door styles) and play with the size and construction — hollow or solid core.”She said the transitional, timeless style is desired — no heavy moldings or leaded glass. Even with Craftsman, the look is still a simplified version. “We always recommend going timeless with things like doors that are more permanent and use the dated stuff more as accessories.”

Bigger in Texas — Another big trend that is coming into its own is the bigger, wider door — not so much double doors, but 3 ft. 6 in. wide by 8 ft. tall. “It’s very high on the homeowner’s wish list,” they say. Wayne and Cherri are perplexed as to where this trend started, but Wayne notes, “it’s here.”

“There’s a thought that the 3 ft. 6 in. wide is more up to date. “There’s not a huge selection just yet, as it’s a trend that’s just taking off,” he adds. As for side lights (the glass panels that have flanked doors for years), Cherri thinks they are no longer desired. “The side lights with a single door pose a design challenge, as far as finding window treatments and shutters for them.  Clients have just been asking for a wider single door.”

Aging in Place  — Wider could be better in the long-term.  When choosing doors or design elements, Wayne says it’s best to look years ahead, because toddlers will get older and lifestyles will change. It makes more sense to design ahead of time for aging in place if the current residents plan to stay in a home or expect to have elderly parents move in. “To avoid the expense of modifications, some planning can influence designs from the start,” says Wayne.  Cherri says it’s also great for resale, because the next owner might be in the same position. “We spend more time on accessibility with clients who say ‘this is our last house’,” she explains. “One way would be making interior doorways wide enough for a wheelchair. This could save tens of thousands of dollars down the road.”

With 25 years of experience, Wayne and Cherri, as a team, cover all the bases with clients with their design recommendations. “We gently guide them through the entire process, but we go with their final decisions,” says Wayne. “They often just don’t know and end up thankful that we’ve enlightened them.”