AS the influential architect and theoretician Christopher Alexander states in his book A Pattern Language: "Placing the main entrance is perhaps the single most important step you can take during the evolution of a building plan."
If the main entry of a home has been placed in a good location the various spaces of a home will naturally fall into place. But if the entry is placed poorly a layout will become confused and disjointed as rooms and spaces attempt to adjust to this improper entry point.
I believe the concept of entry is far more than just the passing though the threshold of a front door, but rather the transition from one state of mind to another, the feeling that you've entered a place of shelter and security.
Entry to a home begins, in a very real sense, at your first sight of a building. The building appears and you are given an immediate cue to the location of the front entrance as you make your approach. There must be no confusion.
Upon arriving at the edge of the property there should be some sense of a threshold between sidewalk and entry, a line that when stepped across feels like you've moved from the public realm of the street to the more private sphere of the home. This can be treated in a number of ways, from literally stepping through a gateway or arbor to simply changing a level or a surface under foot, but the feeling created should be that of arrival.
As you approach the house through this semi-public zone between building and street your thoughts should further transition to the more private ones associated with home. A step up or down, an altering of texture, light or smell, or a change in direction are all elements that will engage you and bring about this transition.
The physical entrance to the home, the separation space between inside and out, needs to be a symbol of both entry and shelter. It should be differentiated from the rest of the building and provide a place of protection from the elements.
Upon entering the home the entrant should be provided a place to hang their jacket and shed their shoes without being forced to be involved in the activities of another space within the house. This entry space can be treated as something grand or something humble but regardless needs to feel like a space from which you begin your entry into the more private areas of the home rather than feel like you've already arrived in them.
Entering a house involves a psychological shift as much as it does a physical one. It's a transition that affects our thoughts and emotions as we leave the public realm of the street and enter into the private, intimate world of the home. Next time you enter your home, think how you can improve the experience.
Kevin Vallely is a residential designer in North Vancouver. His website is www.vallely.ca.