Lighting the way for home's front

Design Line

July 27, 2008|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Tribune Media Services

The front of our single-story, ranch-style home faces north on a fairly busy suburban street. We want as much light as possible to enter the foyer and a guest bathroom that's also situated in the front of the house. Privacy and safety are concerns, however, so how do you suggest we proceed?

Most of us have similar priorities in configuring the interiors of our homes. Some of these elements fall under the broad headings of safety, privacy, light and views.

One or two of these categories might seem at least potentially contradictory. It may seem difficult to ensure privacy and security while also allowing ample daylight to enter a space. But I can offer a couple of techniques for reconciling those apparent opposites.

The front door of any home serves both as a psychological and actual barrier to the outside world. My inclination is to make that function explicit by installing a door frame that at least looks heavy, combined with a panel of obscure glass shielded by a decorative metal panel.

This type of door, with the addition of interesting scrollwork, is often seen in Mediterranean architecture. I'm not sure, however, whether such a design can be successfully adapted to a suburban ranch house.

One possibility is to customize the metal work so that it takes on a modern look, which would include either opaque or art-glass inserts.

A simpler option is shown in the accompanying photograph taken from Home by Design, a Taunton Press book written by Sarah Susanka. Give some consideration to using glass brick as a panel sized to your front door as well as to the window of the guest bathroom. It would give you privacy as well as natural lighting. A panel of this sort also would provide as much protection as a conventional brick wall.

Glass brick also can be used for narrower sidelights on either side of the front door should you wish to use a door made of other material.

Rita St. Clair is a Baltimore-based interior designer. Readers with general interior-design questions can e-mail her at

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