029: Welcome Home! Entrances and Entryways

Tips for designing and setting up a home entrance that is functional, safe, and germ-free!

029: Welcome Home! Entrances and Entryways
Good Fit Poor Fit

 
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[00:00:27] Rebecca: Hi everyone, it’s Rebecca and welcome to episode 29. We hope you’re all staying safe and healthy in this strange time, masked-up, and taking on the world as best you can.

[00:00:37] Given this strange time, the other day, when I was coming home from my weekly grocery run, I realized that over the past few months, I’ve developed a whole new routine for entering my house. Now there are dirty masks to wash and things to disinfect. In addition to the usual hanging of keys and unpacking of groceries.

[00:00:55] I realized that the setup of the entrance to my house is critical to my coming home process. So I can make sure all the sanitizing and unpacking can happen in an organized and streamlined way. In thinking about it further though, I realized that a well-designed entryway really is critical in every home, all the time.

[00:01:14] So on today’s episode, we’re going to be talking about designing and setting up home entrances. We’ll start outside and then work our way in, touching on what can be implemented in designing and building a home from scratch, but also what can be done in terms of setting up that space to make it a good fit for you and your family’s needs.

[00:01:32] We’ll also share some tips specifically related to COVID-19 and how you can make sure that you get everything into your house that you need, while leaving the germs out. I’ll start with a question for you, Sarah: when you’re working with designers and architects, what are the “must-have” features in a universally designed home entrance?

[00:01:51] Sarah: Yeah, so I’ll hit on a few major things, but definitely it’s important to have a pathway to the entrance, whether it’s the front door or even a side or garage door, that’s really wide, without cracks, gaps, and bumps and is well lit to eliminate any shadows so people can see their way into the home easily. A wide pathway is important for many reasons, not just mobility devices.

[00:02:15] Think about all the different types of things you bring in and out of your home. Furniture, groceries, trash, a stroller, and luggage, then to have room for two people to pass at the same time without having to jump into the shrubbery or landscaping is always a nice thing. I think having some contrast in color and different texture along the edges of the pathways is helpful as well.

[00:02:37] It assists people with vision loss to identify where the sidewalk edge may be. And talking about having things well lit, it’s essential to have lighting in the parking areas along the sidewalk and up to the front door as well as any side doors. Obviously, a gently sloping pathway without any steps up to the front porch and the door is essential too.

[00:03:01] Rebecca: That makes a lot of sense about having the contrasting colors and the good lighting to make sure that the pathway really sticks out. Also, the gentle slope is important for drainage to make sure the rainwater can flow away from the entrance. 

[00:03:15] Sarah: Right. You don’t want any of that water pooling up around the entrance causing more issues. Another thing that can assist with that is having a flat landing area right in front of the entrance door. And having that covered with a roof. This will also help with any type of weather, rain, wind, and snow. I really love it when I see homes with a big covered entrance or a porch.

[00:03:41] This makes the home really inviting and provides relief from the weather if you’re standing outside, waiting to get in. Or trying to keep things on your porch from getting wet, like packages or chairs and tables. It’s also a nice little transition for our eyes to go from inside to outside or vice versa.

[00:03:59] It gives them a chance to adjust between going from a really bright space to a darker space. Also in this landing area, right before getting into the home, it’s always helpful to have that space fairly wide, not just the size of the door.

[00:04:16] People that use mobility devices need room to turn around and also need room  on the side of the door that opens so they can pull forward at an angle, grab the door, swing the door open, and move out of the way so they can get inside. This is especially important if there’s a screen door that opens toward you.

[00:04:36] And again, this is not only for mobility devices, but if you’re pushing a stroller or a wheeled cart inside, it’s helpful for that too. I would like to emphasize again, the  concept of no steps. Even just a little step can be frustrating for some people. 

[00:04:53] Rebecca: Yes. One more time. No steps is an imperative for a universally designed home!

[00:04:59] One thing that also comes to mind when talking about porches is that you could potentially put a bench outside on a porch, which would be a great setup. It could be used for packages, setting things down while you open the door, or even sitting to take a break, if you’ve been carrying heavy groceries, or just got back from a walk or run. A small bench or even a sturdy table is a great addition outside any home entrance for a number of reasons, not just the ones I’ve mentioned. 

[00:05:26] Sarah: Yeah. It’s a really big convenience factor and it adds some character to the home too. I appreciate it. Especially with heavy packages that are delivered, that I don’t have to bend down and pick them up from the ground.

[00:05:39] It also helps people with bad knees or an aching back. I was just on a walk the other day  in my parents’ neighborhood and I saw quite a few benches in their neighborhood that were sitting right beside people’s front doors. And I was excited to see universal design implemented, even though they probably didn’t know they were making their lives easier.

[00:05:59] And in this day and age, as more people are having food from restaurants delivered to their home, having that delivery person put it down on a table or a bench is much more appealing than the ground or the floor. 

[00:06:11] Rebecca: That’s a great point. I had actually never thought of that with the food delivery.

[00:06:15] What I have considered though is that at this time, during the global pandemic, a bench or a table would be particularly helpful because it could act as a sanitizing station. So, I’m envisioning a table outside the door with a place to disinfect your hands, your mobility device or wheelchair. Anything else you may have brought out with you, like a cell phone. And the table could be equipped with hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, so that you could wipe everything down and make it sure you don’t bring any germs into the house with you. 

[00:06:48] This would also be a good place to leave a small bin for dirty masks. You could set this up so that you’d have a place to deposit your used dirty face masks outside the house. That way, every couple of days you could go out, grab the bin, and bring it inside to throw all those dirty masks right in the washing machine. This whole sanitizing station would be a great way to make use of a garage space or a porch during a pandemic. 

[00:07:13] Sarah: Yeah. That’s such a great idea. Isn’t it mind boggling now that this is another thing we have to remember these days? 

[00:07:20] Rebecca: Um, yeah, I would certainly say this is not the kind of design advice that I imagined I’d be giving in my career.

[00:07:28] Sarah: Yeah, exactly. Another thing that I wanted to mention about porches was the fact that I’ve seen a lot of people using them as a place to social distance. We live in a downtown area with old homes. And I love how some of these big porches have set up outdoor couches and they’ve set up tables for people to socially distance with friends.

[00:07:49] Oh, and of course the nice , relaxing porch swing. This could also be done at another entrance in the back too because, you know, we all have homes that are configured differently. But the concept still remains the same. And the value of that porch is great for additional outdoor living space. And it has definitely been something that people have been valuing in this pandemic to still connect with friends.

[00:08:13] Plus if it’s accessible, that’s a big benefit for friends and family to come over and visit. 

[00:08:19] Rebecca: That’s very true. I know that everyone is making the most out of their outdoor socializing spaces while it’s still relatively warm. So that pretty much covers the outside of the house, in terms of entryways. But, what do you think about the interior portion? It’s just as, if not more important, don’t you think?

[00:08:37] Sarah: Oh, for sure. Making sure that there’s enough floor space just on the inside of any entrance of the home is essential as well. Just like we were talking about having room for mobility devices, strollers, and arm room for bringing groceries on the outside of the house, it’s all going to come in eventually. So we need to provide that functionality on the inside as well. 

[00:09:03] We have a really narrow hallway right as we enter our apartment and we find that with a wheelchair, and sometimes a stroller, and other items in tow, we just need more room in that area. 

[00:09:15] Another similar feature to the inside like we talked about on the outside of the home is lighting. Making sure light switches are in an easy to reach location is helpful so you can just flip them on right as you’re coming through the door. Or your family could implement some smart technology so your phone or remote control does that work for you before you get out of your car. This could reduce the potential of a fall. 

[00:09:42] Rebecca: It certainly could. I can recall many an evening, coming home in the dark and almost tripping on a stray shoe or even a pet as I entered the dark hallway before my laundry room. So that lighting is really critical for everyone. 

[00:09:57] Sarah: Yes. I have seen a lot of people try and organize their shoes and things right by the front door, but it just always ends up in a pile and a big mess. So I know that a lot of people try to put a mud room or a laundry room right off their garage for this reason. So they’re not tracking in things from the outside either. 

[00:10:16] It’s also generally a good practice to have some sort of washing station at your entrance if possible, for times when it snows, or you come in wet or muddy, or maybe you’re working in the yard or garage, you need to wash your hands off when you come in.

[00:10:32] These days, many people are taking their clothes right off and throwing them in the washer right away when they’re coming home, because they want to take a quick shower before they interact with their family due to COVID. Having something like this in a home is definitely great for keeping things clean for a variety of the situations.

[00:10:51] So Rebecca, I just shared about some design features, but I know not everyone can just go and change these things in their home right now. You have talked in previous episodes about enjoying organizing things. So, what can you share with our listeners about doing some simple things at the entrance to help keep us all put together?

[00:11:12] Rebecca: Yes. Let me put on my organizer hat. Um, being the organizer I am, I think the setup of this space is just as important as the initial design. So putting features like a key hook or a small container for wallets can be really effective for keeping track of things. If there’s a space by the door, specifically designated for important objects, like keys and wallets, it’s much easier to form the habit of putting those items there in a predictable spot where you can know that they will be. And once this becomes a habit, it’s much harder to find yourself in that, “where did I put my keys?” panic. 

[00:11:48] Sarah: Yes, that is so true. This seems to me to be the best place to keep things as well. And if you can’t do that on a table or don’t have the wall space, there could be some sort of designated area in a hall closet or in a storage caddy on a door of the closet. There are lots of organization options out there. 

[00:12:08] Rebecca: Exactly. You can really get creative using the plethora of organization options that are out there. Or, truly a small Tupperware container or a bowl works pretty well, too, depending on your space. 

[00:12:20] Also, similar to the idea of having a table or bench outside, I think it’s also useful to have something like this inside the door, if possible as well, for all the same reasons. We all know what it feels like to just make it to the door with a ton of groceries, sure that we can’t make it one single second more without dropping them. And sometimes we do drop them, if you’re me. With a small table right inside though, you can plop those bags right down and not end up with groceries all over the floor, ideally.

[00:12:53] Sarah: Yes. I also tend to set things down  right next to the front door, on the inside as a reminder for me to take them out the next time I go. But, it just becomes really cluttered and blocked because like I said, we have a really narrow space right there.

[00:13:09] So I think if there’s room at the entrance of the home that a table or a bench would be dedicated for this reason to be there, this sort of thing would be very helpful. Unfortunately, poor Scott sometimes gets blocked from getting out of our home because there’s a trash bag in the way waiting at the door to go out. Oops. 

[00:13:28] Rebecca: Yeah, exactly. So that bench or table could be used, if it works, when you’re coming in or heading out. Just a nice place to put things so they don’t end up on the floor, tripping someone or blocking Scott from heading on his way.

[00:13:42] Sarah: Exactly. And of course, if there’s not room, you can always put this stuff on the outside of the door to sanitize if there isn’t a place inside. But this conversation actually reminded me of another conversation. I heard in a group that I’m a part of on Facebook. And they were asking if people were washing their wheelchair down when they came inside the house. 

[00:14:05] So to make this more relatable to everyone though, this concept could be brought in to include a wheelchair, a stroller, a walker, crutches, anything like that. But they were specifically talking about COVID and you can also just think about this in general, ways of not tracking additional dirt inside. 

[00:14:23] Some people had some sort of washing station, like we’ve been talking about, especially if they were out in the mud and snow. Some people actually really didn’t care, they just came in their house. And then other people use sanitizer or hand wipes on their hand rims. And some people were actually thinking of having an outside chair or an inside chair. And they would transfer from one chair to another when they were going to come into the house so they didn’t track things in like dirt or potentially the COVID virus.

[00:14:54] And then people also talked about putting up rugs on the outside of the door  and even in the interior hallway, so they could get stuff off of their wheels before they came inside fully. 

[00:15:05] So making sure there’s room for tasks like this in and around the entrance is something we definitely need to consider in different home designs. However, I know we can’t all go building new houses right now. And so temporary options are going to have to suffice. 

[00:15:21] Rebecca: Of course. And people, as you said, will naturally have different preferences and comfort levels. So figuring out what temporary options and “sanitizing plans”, if you will, fit best is the most important thing. 

[00:15:35] In talking about germ-related set up ideas though, I also think a bin of clean masks inside the door is a really great way to make sure you never forget one on your way out. 

[00:15:45] Sarah: Yes, this happens to me all the time. And so I actually just created a place on our wall with hooks so we can hang our clean masks on the wall. But I needed to find a place for my sanitizer.

[00:15:57] I am constantly on the hunt for my sanitizer bottle, those little mini ones, as it seems to rotate from different bags. So a little station would definitely be ideal for me to know, I’ve got what I need before I head out and then don’t have to come back inside again to find it. 

[00:16:14] Rebecca: Right. There’s nothing quite like going out in the middle of a pandemic, getting where you need to go, and not having a mask and not being able to go in, right? 

[00:16:23] Sarah: Yes.

[00:16:25] Rebecca: But actually, what you were saying with the sanitizer reminds me of another entryway tip that I use all the time. I leave notes by the door for things that I don’t want to forget. So when I moved into my first apartment, I put a post-it note on my front door that said, “keys, phone, ID” to remind myself to bring my apartment keys, my phone, and the ID that I would need to get back into my building.

[00:16:48] I never had to carry keys and a special ID card to get into my home before. So that note really saved me on a few occasions. And a little whiteboard works too and allows you even more flexibility in changing the reminders. So you could try this with your sanitizer bottle, Sarah. You know, I’m a big advocate of those whiteboards.

[00:17:07] Sarah: Yes. I think that’s a fantastic idea. 

[00:17:10] Rebecca: So in working on this episode, it’s become pretty clear that the entrance to our homes is a really important area to think about in both design and set up, global pandemic or not. Of course, the current situation has required many of us to rethink our coming and going routines.  

[00:17:27] But overall it seems that spacious, well-organized entries, where possible, seem to be the best option. 

[00:17:34] What germ-stopping hacks have you come up with? We’d love to hear about the setup that is a good fit for you at [email protected] 

[00:17:42] Thanks for joining us and we’ll talk to you again soon.

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