Gates, doors, and entryways play a large role in the way that humans organize meaning. Consider that prayers, linguistic expressions, and literary expressions heavily lean on the symbolism of doorways.
The Power of Entrances (Architecture’s Way to Make a First Impression)
A beautiful entrance can literally frame the stance of a home, garden, or barn towards the outside world. I have been thinking a lot about doors lately and want to take this opportunity to share images of some of my favorite entrances…from the very large to the very small, from those above my doorstep to those much farther afoot.
The Gateways of Japan
Last year, I had the incredible opportunity to travel around Japan, viewing some of the largest and the oldest timber frame structures in the world. The craftsmanship was astounding and inspiring!
In the next photos, you can see a couple of entrance gates and I will start this reflection with these large doorways. The first massive entrance is a Torii gate, which signifies that you are entering a sacred space. The second is the entrance to a temple. Leaving the profane behind, and entering the sacred, is a theme signified in many religions.
While in Japan, I also got to view many garden gates- and these really spoke to me!
That gateway represents a remarkable invitation to enter nature!
Green Mountain Gateways and Gazebos
Speaking of spaces for reflection, the next photo is of a timber frame gazebo that Green Mountain Timber Frames founder Dan McKeen built a few years ago.
Not unlike the garden pictured above, the goal for the pavilion was to create a space of invitation- invitation to reflect and take in the view of the Vermont Green Mountains. Careful thought went into the layout and proportions of the entrances to this space.
The significance of doorways is often noted when we take that first photo of our new home, or of our children standing in front of the doorway as they leave for a first day of school.
We also put prayer scrolls, flags, and wise sayings on or over our doorways. The significance of stepping over a threshold is noted in so many literary and experiential texts.
Home Sweet Home
The next photo shows my partner and I standing in front of an 1820s corn crib that we have dismantled and will be re-erecting as our own cabin retreat in the woods.
A Timber Frame Porch for a Home in the Mountains
The Green Mountain Timber Frames crew recently built a timber frame porch as an addition to a barn home. The porch is 44-feet long, and I love the way the dormer frames the entrance to this lovely space. The steps leading through garden and grass to an off-center door present a beautiful entrance.
Here are a couple more shots of the timber frame porch:
We have come across beautiful barn doors as we do restoration work, and the granary that we are currently restoring at our shop is no exception. Note the beautiful hand forged hinges in the following photos.
We will be putting this building back up with a bell tower and have been carefully thinking about the best way to craft the new entrance, with the original hinges, into the space that will be a small chapel.
Here is our latest sketch of the entry and windows:
Here is a photo of a grist mill that I recently drove past. I love the doorway on this building!
I have had opportunities to construct a few doors that serve as the entrance to restored barn homes. I have always found it incredibly meaningful to handcraft the “gateway” into a home centered around a barn that we have restored. This next door was built out of maple, and a local artist crafted the bullseye glass.
In this photo and the next, you can see “hidden” doors that lead to outdoor closets on the right-hand side of the doorway.
Significance can also be found in the materials used for an entrance. When I built a timber frame sugar house on my family’s farm, we had to cut down a plum tree that had lived on the barn site. Out of respect for the tree, I used a branch of the plum to frame the top of the door opening.
Last week, we delivered two doors that will be installed as the entrance to a large timber frame that we recently constructed. Each door is 48-inches wide, so when both swung open on their strap hinges, the opening will be 8 feet. Significantly, the cherry boards that create the interior panels of the two doors are from a tree that was removed from the spot where the barn now lives.
First, the barn:
And here is one of the custom barn doors ready for delivery:
Now, since who doesn’t like a little potty talk, I better throw in a photo of one my favorite outhouse doors!
Good Things Come in All Sizes
Here at Green Mountain Timber Frames, we have also been fortunate to think about very small entrances. Some kinds of birds have long been considered healthy and happy to have around and in New England barns. For example, swallow doors were sometimes put in the peak of barns to encourage nesting inside. The benefit to the farmers and animals, aside from getting to watch the beautiful acrobats fly all about, was that the feathered friends helped to keep the population of flies in check.
Here is a photo of one of my favorite vintage barns.
Note the mini doors up in the siding:
We replicated this concept in a restored barn that we erected. Along with our client, we designed the opening and nesting box inside for a kestrel, which is a beautiful little raptor that has been struggling in Vermont. It took a few years, but a pair did eventually move in! You can read more about this restored barn.
Here is the barn:
And here is one of its residents!
We also just finished taking down a wonderful little 14 x 22 barn. This structure was first used as a corn crib and later converted to a trappers cabin. Up at the gable peak is a cute little bird door, complete with a landing pad!
To end this meandering blog on entrances, I want to show you two beautiful natural doorways that I just encountered while backpacking in the Superstition Mountains in Arizona.
Judging by the beauty of this woven grass, I think it is possible that animals also value the aesthetic of a gorgeous entrance. Here is a bird’s nest, well-protected in the branches of a Jumping Cholla cactus:
And for someone with a bit of arachnophobia, I had to do some steady breathing to really take in the beauty of this spider hole! From my reading since the trip, it seems that some spiders will weave grass around their entrance to channel rain away. But given the beauty of this construction, I am personally tempted to think that they may care about the aesthetic as well.
What do you think?
Do you love little barn doors, antiques and all things quaint?
Take a gander at our barns for sale!