James Swan: Making an Entrance

June 26, 2012

“Which painting in the National Gallery would I save if there was a fire? The one nearest the door of course.†–George Bernard Shaw

Photos courtesy of James Swan

The simplicity of Mr. Shaw’s logic is sweet. The path of least resistance is, during a time of crisis, always a good option. Panic can best be averted and a good result realized by moving quickly between the two closest points. And in this case one point is the nearest door, which we hope will shield us from unwanted flames.

Doors can do that: protect and shield. They can also hide, separate and tease. Doors swing, slam and close in our faces; they latch, lock and creak on their hinges. They are flung wide when the world is our oyster and cracked fearfully when we’re uncertain what may lurk beyond. Teamed up with opening windows they can turn our life on its ear and send us in directions we never imagined. Major players in the game of life, doors can still stand modestly by, framing moments with stable, solid perspective. To this decorator, it seems that a modicum of care would be appropriate when choosing these, our partners in the domestic landscape; alas, this is not always the case.

If asked for my short list of things I hate, hovering near the top is the pitiful sight of dinged, chipped and dirty entry doors. Shameful, bordering on scandalous, is the condition of some doors I’ve come across in my travels. It’s one thing for the soil of the season to be splashed across a freshly painted face, another thing entirely for the muddied accumulation of years to be blatantly ignored. Neither your social standing nor your net worth need dictate the condition of your door of entry. A bucket of warm, soapy water works wonders. And just imagine the magic to be found in some spackle, sandpaper and a snappy coat of paint! While in many situations the crusty accumulations of time can warm my decorating heart, when it comes to entrances, unless that accumulation coats the door to a centuries-old castle, farmhouse or country estate, there’s little excuse.

I hope you enjoy this picture album, from a recent trip to England and Wales, of entry doors in all shapes, sizes, ages and conditions. Then be inspired to check out your own door and honestly gauge its standing in the pantheon of style and grace.

–James Swan

James Swan is an interior designer at Carter & Company in Boston, and author of 101 Things I Hate About Your House.