Home & Garden

Entryway into individuality

A different accent color identifies each floor of lofts in Water Tower Place in the Cedar Rapids NewBo district. This homeowner appears to value simplicity, the calming presence of nature and a Japanese aesthetic. (Erin Owen)
A different accent color identifies each floor of lofts in Water Tower Place in the Cedar Rapids NewBo district. This homeowner appears to value simplicity, the calming presence of nature and a Japanese aesthetic. (Erin Owen)

How we decorate our home’s entry describes us

I  often find myself at strangers’ front doors. Though I am there on behalf of a political candidate or an election, it can be awkward. That may be why I take note of different home styles and details. I know that’s why I always note houses with cats.

If I’m being honest, I’m pretty much always looking at people’s homes on walks or in the car. It could be for ideas, inspiration and what’s in today. While I likely won’t meet these people, I can get a glimpse of who they are by the scene they set at their front doors.

There are people who like to entertain and make a good first impression. Expect to find items like furniture and a fanciful doormat. Others show their creativity with handmade wreaths and holiday decorations. Sports fans are the easiest to spot with Hawkeye or Cyclone colors, flags or decor in the garden. Tech people have Ring doorbells.

A seasonal doormat — now a green and black one with Halloween images — and wreath greet guests on my porch. Mind the cracks and the downward tilt of the porch. It’s due for replacement. Much like homes, people are an ever evolving work in progress.

I recently was invited inside Water Tower Place in the NewBo district. I was impressed by the lofts. The entry doors had cohesive features but allowed residents to personalize their entrances. On the sixth floor, each door is black with a sidelight and transom window above, and the inset wall around the doorway is painted red. A black farmhouse sconce illuminates the stainless steel channel identifying the unit number.

Owners distinguish their units with art and items surrounding their doors. Outside one was a side table with different vases holding flowers, another had black-and-white accents with a Japanese Zen motif and there were works by artists in wood and metal at two others.

Beyond the confines of a condo building, porches on houses in new developments are getting bigger but not necessarily used more. Unlike the porches of historical Victorian homes, which wrapped around the house and encouraged people to sit and even sleep outside, today’s porches are more for looks.

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Canvassing took me to the Bowman Hills area in Marion. The three-car garage homes had porches mostly protected from the elements and functioned as nooks to house patio tables and chairs, decorations and, for one house, rock race plaques from the Springville Extreme Quarry Run.

Distinguishing one home from another becomes important when homes resemble each other in size, shape and materials. We recognize a friend’s house, for example, by the wreath with a letter C or remember that it’s next to house with solar panels on the roof.

Then there are the houses that scream individuality. In September I was part of a group that painted the house at 200 Eighth Ave. SW, Cedar Rapids, with the colors of the Philadelphia pride flag. There is no mistaking that the developer, Gutschmidt Properties, values inclusiveness, diversity and support for the LGBTQIA community. This house says more with color than any porch scene could say.

The theme song from the show “Weeds” — “Little Boxes” by Malvina Reynolds — perfectly captures neighborhoods where house after house looks similar. “There’s a pink one and a green one / And a blue one and a yellow one / And they’re all made out of ticky tacky / And they all look just the same.”

Homes formed from slightly different cookie cutters can come at a price.

Their similarities don’t reflect the diversity of who we are. We are more than the box that people see, but if we don’t open our doors, how will they know for sure?

With Halloween nearing and the caucuses coming on the heels of the holidays, now is a great time to open your door to strangers and introduce yourself.

Erin Owen graduated from the interior design program at Kirkwood Community College. She has worked as a commercial and residential interior designer. Comments: erin.n.owen@gmail.com

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