Historical Looks and Yesterday’s Trends Are Reheated in Entry Doors

By Drew Vass

Two years ago, some entry door manufacturers were busy beefing up their design teams and creative facilities, to keep up with the latest trends. In the midst of a pandemic, it isn’t surprising to find that many of the same concepts immerging prior to COVID-19 are still hanging around, albeit with a few minor twists.

For the most part, manufacturers say they’ve been focused on paring down SKU’s and keeping up with demand. When it comes to designing and selecting styles, “Mostly we just followed the customer requests,” says Brad Schmidt, regional sales manager for Woodgrain Doors.

Leveling the Playing Field

When it comes to wood doors, manufacturers spent recent years searching for ways to compete with fiberglass, by making their products more durable and energy efficient. In the meantime, popularity among fiberglass products continues to grow, says Dalvin Green, manager of national accounts for Jeld-Wen, mainly due to maintenance and durability benefits, he says. But wood has made a stronghold in certain markets and regions, Schmidt adds. “Up in the northern parts, we don’t sell any exterior wood, mostly due to the [weather] extremes,” he says. “In the south, we sell a lot of exterior wood doors—mostly fir and mahogany.”

States that trend toward wood doors include Texas, Alabama, Tennessee, the Carolina’s, and Georgia, Schmidt says, where there’s a desire for historical accuracy. Now, many of those historical elements are merging with the trend for modern designs.

No sooner did the market turn to narrow site lines, smooth finishes, and more modern and contemporary looks for entry doors, than the industry began blending those elements with traditional styles. Those changes result in more exterior doors with paneled designs, making it difficult to tell some entry doors from interior doors.

“We want everything we have on the inside of a home to have the ability to match an exterior door,” says Carol Kelly, director of sales for Masonite’s Rocky Mountain region. “In some cases, that’s a Craftsman style, or something that will transition.”

At the same time, some exterior doors have found their way into interior spaces, says Lou Trottier, regional sales manager for Simpson Door Co.

“We’re doing a lot of Dutch style doors lately,” Trottier says. “It seems to be a current trend or fad. And that’s not just in exteriors, but interiors, like in kids’ bedrooms and such.”

Consumer-Driven Creativity

Trottier and others suggest that, in some cases, consumers drive trends by spotting designs and dreaming up how they can put them to use. In this way, designers and consumers have driven new combinations, leading to a mashup between modern and traditional aesthetics. With the latest paneled designs, for instance, “With nice clean lines, many of these styles look modern but fit right in with the farmhouse look and other historical or more traditional styles,” Green says.

For this reason, sorting products isn’t as simple as it used to be, as designers look to mix and match styles. Therma-Tru just finished reorganizing its collections to follow this trend, says Garrett Booher, who handles retail sales in Florida.

“Where I’m from in Florida, some of the most popular doors going right now are the more modern looking designs, but with simulated divided glass that’s more traditional,” he says. In order to accomplish those looks, manufacturers have introduced more doors with simulated divided lites, by applying grills to the outside of glass, using double-sided tape. Not only is this method less expensive to produce than true divided lites, but by using monolithic insulating glass units (IGUs), it’s also more energy efficient. In the end, “A lot of my customers don’t know it isn’t a divided lite until I tell them,” Booher says.

Some companies add a false spacer system to provide a visual break in the airspace between lites, reinforcing the look of true divided lites. Even at closeup range, it’s nearly impossible to tell.

Modern Flashbacks

The move to larger glass and divided lites might sound modern, but in many ways it’s actually a return to historical trends, says Michael Tull, sales representative, south region, for Plastpro. “Some older doors were ¾-lite, with raised panel at the bottom and the [glass] lite on top,” Tull says. “We make a door like that and it’s one of the more popular we have. But 10 years ago, you couldn’t get anyone to do it. It’s come back and it’s strong.”

The move to larger glass lites also follows a period in which taller ceilings led to bigger doors. Now, that combination has given some materials an advantage, some suggest. For instance, as wood doors incorporate more glass, a lack of thermal performance in wood becomes less of an obstacle. As more glass is added, the cost of surrounding materials also goes down. In an 8-foot-tall prototype produced by GlassCraft, for instance, fiberglass becomes more affordable than steel, says Brent Ziebold, national sales manager. Meanwhile, “This is a prototype,” he says about the nearly all-glass entry door. “But it’s also an example of where we’re headed next year.”

Where solid materials remain in play, entry doors have followed many of the same trends set by windows and interior doors. For instance, when it comes to colors and finishes, more entry doors now feature bright pallets, a trend that started several years ago in interior doors. As a result, these days, Green says Jeld-Wen sells more doors with “color pops,” which homeowners use to make a statement. They’re also leaning to the same dark colors that now appear in windows, but with matte finishes. “Doors aren’t all shiny or glossy anymore,” he says.

Why all the mixing and matching? “What’s the main reason you have a door?” Green asks. “First it’s  for security. Beyond that, people are looking to make a statement.”

Especially as they’ve spent more time at home.

Drew Vass is the editor of [DWM] magazine.
dvass@glass.com

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DWM Magazine

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