Selecting Doors

by | Jul 9, 2021 | Designing, How-To

As the poet Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Be an opener of doors.” And if those doors happen to be works of art in their own right, so much the better!

It might be tempting to think doors are one aspect of your home where it’s safe to cut corners. But details make a big difference, and the doors you choose for your home, both inside and out, can make a major visual statement. A high-quality door should last a lifetime as well as add to your home’s appeal.

Photo by Heidi Long

Interior Doors

Interior doors need to be functional, whether to close off a formal dining room, keep a home office quiet, or ensure privacy in a bedroom. But they can also be a way to show off your home’s style. “It is really important to envision what style you are going for in your home,” says Daniel Schmidt Jr. of Timber Valley Millwork in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. “Doors will certainly help showcase your taste in design.”

You might want to choose a wood species that matches your home’s wood interior or something that offers a contrast. “The three most common species we use for the log and timber home industry are knotty pine, knotty cedar, and knotty alder,” says Schmidt, who notes that knotty alder in particular has become quite popular in recent years. “It has a beautiful reddish tint in the wood that helps provide a really rustic look.”

Doors can be factory manufactured, completely custom, or fall somewhere in between, depending on your budget and needs. “Hand-carved doors are our biggest sellers,” says Schmidt. “We send the panel to a local artist who then carves a design by hand onto the panel. Each panel is signed and dated—it truly is a piece of art.” When ordering a custom door it’s critical that you clearly communicate what you’re looking for to ensure you end up with a door that you’re happy with.

Don’t be afraid to get creative! A wrought-iron door lends romance to a wine cellar, while French doors add a light touch to a sunroom, kitchen, or studio. Reclaimed wood or barn-style doors are ideal for a home with rustic décor. And sliding doors of any style are a great solution for small spaces while adding visual interest.

Photo by Heidi Long

Exterior Doors

Your exterior doors are not just there to keep strangers out; they are there to welcome guests in! Features like weather resistance and security should certainly be kept in mind, but there’s no reason you can’t also choose a door that makes a statement about your home’s unique style.

Often that style is inspired by a place you’ve visited or a time gone by. “We were trying to invoke a historic and rustic feel,” says John Kjos, AIA, project manager for Ellis Nunn & Associates in Jackson, Wyoming, of a recent project. Kjos worked closely with his clients to replicate the historic design of the famous Madison ranger station in Yellowstone National Park, including the noteworthy and timeless entry doors with hand-forged metal accents.

Entry doors can be made of steel with an insulated core, fiberglass, or wood, often with decorative glass windows, or “lites.” Steel and fiberglass are valued for being highly energy efficient and low maintenance, designed to last a lifetime. Wood doors offer a sturdy, traditional look but will need some maintenance; just how much may depend on your climate.

Garage Doors

When selecting garage doors, you’ll want to make functionality a priority. There are many factors to consider, including panel design, insulation and safety. A garage can be a major source of energy leaks, so if you have an attached garage, be sure you choose doors that will help keep your home cozy, depending on your climate and how you’ll use the garage. If you are mechanically inclined and envision hours spent tinkering in the garage, invest in garage doors that are well insulated!


That doesn’t mean you have to forego style. Today you can order garage doors to complement any home style. One option is to “skin” solid garage doors with a wood layer that matches your home’s exterior design. You can purchase premanufactured garage doors in a variety of panel designs, with and without lites, based on your preference. Or, you can customize to suit your home’s unique look.

“On a lot of rustic homes we mimic a carriage door, which is the old style that hinged open on the left and right side,” says Kjos. A true carriage door is not practical for today’s needs, but a standard overhead garage door can be customized to have the same appeal. “Make sure the garage door installer uses springs that will accommodate the extra weight,” says Kjos. “You can skin it with cedar or reclaimed wood to get the look of a carriage door.”

The best things in life are worth waiting for, and quality doors are no exception. If you’re ordering a custom work of art, expect to wait even longer. “I would recommend shopping prices for doors months before you actually need the door,” says Schmidt. “This will give you adequate time to purchase the doors before they are needed to be installed.” Lead times can be a few weeks or as long as a few months, so be prepared—and patient.