Before anyone ever gets inside the home – whether it is their home that they are entering, they are visiting a friend’s home, or someone is coming to see them (whether that person is known to them or not) – there are a minimum of three things that can be done to improve and enhance the appearance, access, safety, and functionality of any home.
Some owners and renters may be able to handle these items themselves. Some may require the assistance of others such as family members or contractors. For those with physical or mobility challenges, the work will most likely need to be by someone else, such as an aging-in-place professional like us.
The entrance of the home seems to have been generally neglected over the years – designed to be attractive in some cases but not created as part of an overall access plan for the entire home.
Essentially, we are talking about the design concept and focus of “visitability.” This creates a uniform path for entry and access in any dwelling, and for the most part, is absent from homes. Homes are designed and created for many reasons, but universal access to them and comfort for the person arriving at and entering the home (occupant or visitor) has not been a point of emphasis.
The three items that can and should be a central design feature for any home – and ones that we can focus on creating and providing – are (1) a covered entry that protects people from the elements as they are standing at the front door, (2) an entry station of some type (some people refer to this as a “drop zone”) where people can rest or set down what they are carrying before opening the entry door, and (3) a wide enough area to stand where the door can open without interfering with where they are.
Of course, an easy to navigate pathway to the front door and one that minimizes or eliminates the number of steps someone has to climb is important also, but that can’t be easily achieved in some homes based on the historical nature or architectural design of the neighborhood.
Also, a wide entry door is important, but significant construction might be required to achieve this.
Sufficient lighting to illuminate steps and pathways and eliminate shadows and hidden elements also is an important concept that needs to be incorporated into any long-term, comprehensive design plan.
The three items enumerated, however, are reasonable objectives for most any home.
A covered entry is more than the traditional two-foot overhand – much more. It is high and wide enough to shelter people beneath from rain, snow, sleet, or other precipitation – active or just dripping – but not so high and open on the sides as to allow the moisture to be blown or driven in by the wind. The precipitation is not just a falling phenomenon but one that can come from the sides or at an angle.
When people are standing on the entry porch or stoop waiting for the door to open for them (or to open it themselves), there should be plenty of room to stand to the side of the opening door (at least two-feet) – still under the cover of a roof or awning – without endangering themselves or interfering with the action of the door. This applies regardless of any mobility assistance that someone might be using.
Lastly, is a shelf or piece of furniture (table, bench, or chair) that is near the front door where people can sit, unload their hands or arms before opening the door or going inside, or generally use as they are outside.
Nearly any home – new or existing, or any age – can have these three items incorporated into a redesign.