Just one thing...a perfect door

A stylish front door sends a big message and offers a feel-good factor to you and all who approach your home. The good news is that it's a job you can do yourself over a single weekend
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Just one thing - front doors
House walls of London brick need a suitably strong colour choice on the front door for the best effect
Painting a jaded front door is the single most important thing you can do to improve your property's façade. A stylish entrance sends a big message and offers a feel-good factor to you and all who approach your home. And the really good news is that it's a job you can do yourself over a single weekend.

The toughest part is choosing the colour. You'll be facing your front door countless times, so above all, make it a personal choice, advises Farrow & Ball's director and colour expert, Sarah Cole. "Pick what feels right for you — but also consider the period of your property, the style and colour of neighbouring buildings, and whether you want to create a complementary or contrasting theme."

The dominant features around the door, such as the brickwork, paved areas and even plant colours already on your window sills, will affect your choice. "Your chosen front door colour should work with the house walls," says Cole. "Try stronger, deeper colours with brick and stone, such as Farrow & Ball's Green Smoke, or lighter colours with painted masonry, such as paler green Lichen. Earthy blues and greens will help create a sense of flow with nature."

Clever with shades

Go a shade or two darker than you would on the house interior, she adds. "You mostly see exterior colours in daylight, so they will generally appear a little lighter than they would indoors. If you are considering almost white Slipper Satin, for instance, go for deeper Off-White, or if you fancy French Gray, choose the slightly darker Pigeon."

Consider carefully, too, the paint finish. "For a classic, elegant look, use full gloss, which is especially effective in stronger colours such as deep reds, dark blues and black," says Cole. "Interestingly, exterior eggshell creates a relaxed feel in softer colours such as pale smoky greens and blues, but results in a more contemporary look with stronger colours." Painting the front door and frame different shades can result in a bitty effect, says Cole; keeping them in the same identical colour will make the most of the entrance.

Monochrome magic: a freshly white door makes a cool contrast to a black house façade
Monochrome magic: a freshly white door makes a cool contrast to a black house façade

Get glossy with railings

If you have railings either side of your door use paint to lift them. Instead of the ubiquitous black railings for your front garden boundary, try a dark purple gloss paint such as Farrow & Ball's Pelt and, if your front garden gets sun for even part of the day, plant a tall, hardy lavender such as Grosso so it pushes through the dark purple railings.

Hide the rubbish in an inexpensive wooden bin store and paint it the same colour as the front door and it becomes a smart, finished unit that doesn't stand out, but co-ordinates with front-of-house; alternatively, hide bins within a screen of heavy-duty trellis, cut to size, and painted to key with the front door.

You can also create visual interest by using different paint finishes of the identical colour. Cole suggests, for example, painting front door and window boxes the same shade, but using full gloss on the door, and exterior eggshell on the boxes. For the finishing touch invest in a great-looking door knocker and a decent doorbell that doesn't play tunes.

A pair of proper coach lamps give a warm glow on a winter night, and look good unlit during the day. For an imposing entrance, consider a curving overhead door canopy of zinc-galvanised steel. Add side panels of latticed metal trellis and you've got a porch, just pleading for a pair of climbing roses.

How to paint a front door

Make sure there is no rain forecast for 24 hours and that the outdoor temperature is between 10C and 30C. Avoid painting in extreme temperatures such as full sunshine. Exterior paint is best applied early in the day to allow drying before evening condensation. Lighting conditions tend to be best in the morning, too.

Green front door
A good paint finish deserves the best door furniture to make the most of your house entrance
You will need: quick-drying wood filler; a 750ml tin of exterior wood primer and undercoat; a 750ml tin of exterior eggshell or full gloss paint; a two-inch synthetic paint brush; a three-inch short-pile woven polyester roller (optional); 80-120 grit sandpaper; masking tape, and a screwdriver to remove door furniture.

The order of works...

1 Remove all door furniture, including the knocker, peephole and doorknob.

2 Prep the door: the surface needs to be sound, clean, dry and free from dirt and grease.

Presuming the door is already painted, first sand all over and fill any cracks, holes or open joins with quick-drying wood filler. When dry, sand the filled areas and the surface again until smooth. Wash with warm water and allow to dry.

If you have a new bare wood door, sand the door all over and wipe clean. Patch-prime any resinous knots with wood knot and resin-blocking primer.

Mask the door, covering the glass and post box with tape to protect them from paint.

3 Apply exterior wood primer and undercoat — make sure the door is open when painting. Apply one coat of primer and undercoat, one section of the door at a time.

If you have a panelled door, paint the beading of the panels first before returning to paint each flat panel. Consider using a three-inch roller to paint the flat panels (it will be much easier), rolling with the grain of the wood, working from the top panels down to the lowest.

Once the panels have been completed, paint the rails (horizontal parts of the frame) and lastly the stiles (vertical parts) with brush or roller. Allow four hours for the undercoat to dry, keeping the door open, then you will be ready to apply the first top coat.

wisteria and purple front door
© Marianne Majerus
The daring colour choice of this front door brings out the cool lavender-blue of the wisteria
4 Apply one coat of eggshell or full gloss, using the same sequence as for the primer and undercoat. Allow four hours for the first coat to dry, then follow with a second coat.

The paint will be touch-dry in two to four hours, but allow overnight for it to harden before replacing the door furniture. Now you are done.

Front of house sourcebook

* Door furniture: Joseph Giles (0845 074 0440; josephgiles.com).

* Coach lamps and wall lanterns at Christopher Wray (020 7751 8701; www.christopherwray.com).

* Paints: all Farrow & Ball's 132 colours are available as exterior finishes. Call 01202 876141 for technical advice (www.farrow-ball.com).

* Farrow & Ball is searching for the best exterior door done in its paints, whether it's a front door, or the door to a shed, garage or summerhouse. Submit your photos from now until April 12, 2012 — there's £5,000 in prizes to be won, plus Hunter wellies. For details, visit www.farrow-ball.com.

* Canopies, porches and planters of zinc-galvanised solid steel: Garden Requisites (01225 851577; www.garden-requisites.co.uk).

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