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Colonial front door mega guide to decorating ideas

A colonial front door is a style of door that has been popular in America for decades. Originally, these doors were used on the homes of wealthy colonists as they wanted to make their homes look more like English or Dutch. 

Over time, this design was adopted by other people and became a staple in American architecture. Nowadays, you can find many different styles of colonial front doors all over the country! In this mega guide, you’ll find an extraordinary collection of ideas and products to help decorate your own iconic entryway.

The History of Colonial Style Homes

A colonial house is one of the most popular architectural styles in America, developed after our country was born. The first colonists to arrive from England brought with them their traditions and vernacular houses that were built using a design originating on the British Isles.

There are a variety of colonial style homes that are influenced by the region of the United States as well as the immigrants who settled here.

Colonial homes are one of the oldest architectural styles in the US and lend themselves to a very traditional and formal aesthetic. They were very popular between 1600 and 1800 so large cities along the East Coast may come to mind when you think of these rectangular shaped homes.

You will find some colonial homes are made of brick, some have shutters or columns or dormer windows.  Other homes with in the same colonial category have stucco or clay tile roofs, while still others have diamond shaped windows or grand staircases.

This almost sounds as if we are describing a variety of styles so how do you know a home is a colonial?  One thing they all have in common is symmetry.  One side of the house is a mirror image of the other.

It features symmetrical facades with white trim around windows and doors, projecting central pediments supported by Doric or Ionic columns for porches or verandas (the latter are usually found only along rear elevations), and cornices beneath gables punctuated by chimneys at each end. These homes always had large front gardens as well.

To fit into the colonial style category, houses usually contain these features:

  • Simple and rectangular shape
  • Side gables
  • Hipped roof with two chimneys (one on each side) or one in the middle
  • Usually two stories though some are one and a half stories
  • Porticos embellished with columns or decorative molding
  • Front door opens to a formal foyer
  • Large staircase usually made of wood
  • Interior is also symmetrical

Colonial style homes became popular again during World War I when people were in need of a nostalgic reminder that life was still worth living. This style is referred to as Colonial Revival.

What Kind of Door Does a Colonial House Need?

When choosing a front door for your colonial style house, attention needs to be paid not only to the style of the door, but the materials the door is made of.  Keeping with the tradition of your style will ensure that your front door accentuates your home and not distracts from it.

Traditional colonial homes and all of the subtypes mentioned above were constructed with wood doors.  Modern building materials may be more durable, but most likely will not complete the aesthetic you are wishing to achieve.

When positioning the door it is important to remember the balance colonial style homes demand.  The front door should be in the center of the house and accented with a portico or decorative surround of some kind.

A traditional Colonial front door features four panels in a symmetrical design. The door is notched at the top and bottom and are usually decorated with carved moldings or other embellishments to reflect its colonial style.

A colonial front door may consist of four pieces: two outer planks (one left side one right), an inner plank for support behind the hardware system (often called a jamb) and another piece placed between the jambs to hold up the hinges on either end of this board called a header strip.

If your front entry feels dark, consider topping your door with a transom window or including vertical sidelights. Many Colonial Revival doors feature sidelights. The sidelight is a thin window panel on either side of the main entrance door. The sidelights cover up all but about an inch or two from the top, and allows light into your home.

Fine Home Building has great information on this topic.  Here is a quote, but be sure to visit their website for more detailed information.

“Most early colonials and Capes (as well as Georgian- and federal-style houses) had solid-wood doors without glass. To accommodate wood movement, the doors had four or six raised panels. Sticking—the treatment of the rails and stiles at the points where they meet the panel—usually required a simple shape, such as an ogee, quarter-round, or quarter-bead, that could be cut with hand tools.

Doors on colonial-style houses can be combined with a pair of sidelites arranged symmetrically on each side of the door. Above-the-door transoms and fanlights also were stylistically appropriate ways to bring light to the entry hall.

They can be rectangular, semicircular, or semielliptical, and can be combined with sidelites. The size of the panes in the transom and sidelites should be proportionate to those of the windows in the rest of the house.

A traditional colonial front door can have a decorative surround consisting of pilasters with an entablature, pediment, or arch. The trim can be flat, vertical boards, with a thicker and/or taller head trim that might sport a cornice cap. Porticoes and similar porch-like additions were not introduced until colonial-revival periods.”

A Colonial front door can be painted solid colors like white or black, but they also have many detailing styles that make them look very attractive! Some popular colonial door designs include raised panel, half-panel, full lite, and open porch.

The Colonial front door color can be contrasting but all of the trim, including the sidelights should be in white.

Colonial Front Door Styles

For a traditional colonial front door, you want solid wood with panels.  The most common colors for these doors are black, white, deep blue, and red.  Originally, the door did not include a window, but more modern colonial style homes are showing a bit more flexibility. 

Windows are becoming more common in new colonial style builds.  These windows are usually small and near the top of the door.

Another feature that we have not discussed yet is a double door.  These produce a grand entrance into the foyer which is an important aspect of this design and beautiful wood lends itself to the colonial front door. 

Let’s look at some specific examples of doors to help you choose what you like and what you want to avoid.

Spanish Colonial Front Door

As mentioned earlier, Spanish colonial features a light colored stucco exterior along with low hanging red tiled roofs made of clay. The doors are made of solid wood with an arch and cast iron hinges.

Check out these beautiful doors from De Mejico.

Traditional Colonial Front Door

Houzz has some great examples of the traditional colonial front door. Remember these were made of solid wood.

These photos came from a round-up of colonial style homes at Better Homes and Gardens. There are a lot more beautiful photos in the article so be sure to check it out!

Dutch Colonial Front Door

Dutch doors are fun for two reasons. First, they came from the Netherlands in the 1700’s so installing one automatically brings a touch of history to your home. Secondly, they are unique. Why not have a door that you can half open and half close?

Originally, these doors were designed to open the top half to allow fresh air and sunshine into the home while keeping the animals outside and small children inside.

If you need to get your door from a big box store, don’t underestimate Home Depot. They have a couple of lovely dutch colonial front doors to choose from.

You can get them solid with no widow or with a window on the top half.

Colonial Front Door with Sidelights

Sidelights are wonderful as they bring more light into the foyer. They also add more interest and detail to the outside of your home. I found these lovely colonial front doors with sidelights at Doors and More.

While the style of your door should remain consistent with the style of your home, you can see that your options are endless! This beautiful and timeless style of home lends itself to tradition, family, elegance or simplicity (whichever you choose) and an overall familiarity across the country.

What kind of wreath should I use on a Colonial front door?

Traditional or modern wreaths are both good options for a Colonial front door. You also need to think about the size of your door and what you would like it to look like. Many Colonial houses have double front doors, which is the type of entrance we have on our house.

I usually buy double wreaths in the standard size, but sometimes they’re a little bit too small for what I want to do with them and that’s when it pays off to get one on the larger side of “standard.”

Another tip: Measure your door height before purchasing anything so the decoration hangs at eye level.

I’ve jotted down a few of the options for you that go well with a Colonial front door:

  • A traditional wreath that is decorated with berries, ribbons, and pinecones will give it a old Colonial vibe. You can also use live wreaths made from twigs, leaves or berries.
  • Even modern wreaths with ribbon loops or feathers will work for a Colonial front door.
  • A hydrangea wreath for a Southern colonial front door is a great choice.
  • Wreaths with any number of flowers combined together are also popular options. One thing to keep in mind is color palette: Light colors like white will go better on the Colonial style that is painted black.

This Yellow Forsythia Door Wreath, shown above, will really pop on a black Colonial front door. 

This 24-inch wreath is made of high-quality faux forsythia flowers. The hidden beauty of this wreath is that it transitions from spring and on to summer seamlessly so that it is an ideal decoration for your front door.

Each wreath is placed in a sturdy kraft box with plastic locks, the box also can be used for storage. For best longevity, keep out of direct sunlight and rain.

Related: We have more summer and winter wreaths to explore!

The Wreath Depot Aurora Winter Wreath, above, is handcrafted on a natural base with faux green holly and evergreen, natural pine cones, and faux large and small red berries. Enjoy a natural appearing wreath without the hassle of having to replace a fresh wreath each season.

This beautiful wreath measures 22 inches across diagonal when displayed outside. Hang the wreath under cover to avoid any rain damage or discoloration.

Protect your gorgeous wreath when the season is over with the included Wreath Depot storage gift box.

Front Door Decor for Colonial Style Homes

Covered porches are the perfect place to relax and enjoy a cup of tea on those cool, rainy days. Many covered porch designs offer space for sitting as well as tables or countertops that can hold refreshments like iced coffee or lemonade.

If you’re looking for an inexpensive way to add some charm to your colonial home’s front door, consider adding outdoor furniture in the style of planters with flowers at either end of the steps leading up from the sidewalk.

Outdoor dining sets also work nicely when placed under these types of structures.

And don’t forget about lighting! It is important not only because it adds safety but also because nighttime is often our favorite time to spend outdoors.

Colonial Front Door Lighting Options

The Emliviar Outdoor Wall Lantern is a perfect way to illuminate your Colonial front door.

Weather resistant and suitable for wet locations, this outdoor wall sconce features sturdy aluminum construction and a clear bevel glass shade. The open bottom allows for easy bulb replacement. The light is hard-wired, and includes all mounting hardware.

  • Comes in small and medium sizes. 
  • Requires 1 x E26 base bulb (Max.100W), NOT included.
  • Compatible with LED bulb, Incandescent or CFL bulb (not included). 
  • ETL Listed with a one-year warranty.

The Large Colonial Outdoor Post Light by Luxury Lighting features an elegant round design with an ornate black silk finish.

It measures 23 inches high x 12.5 inches wide with a 3 inch diameter pole that is made of solid brass for long-lasting use. The top of the fixture features a glass shade that helps disperse light evenly throughout your yard, porch, or patio area.

The Cambridge Outdoor Post Light is a replica of the original lanterns used for streetlights in the late 19th century. The light design comes in other front door light styles, including:

Doormats to Go with Your Colonial Front Door

For most Colonial style homes, such as Federal, Georgian, or British, choose a traditional design, such as a monogrammed front door mat or a mat with intricate iron-like scrolling.

If you’re a fan of HGTV, you may have seen the Coco Mats ‘N More front door mat featured in the magazine. Their coir door mats are beautiful but also highly effective at keeping dirt out of your house.

Coir doormats are thick, but it is not the thickness that is important. The more important consideration is that the fibers be tightly woven. Coco Mats are known for the density of their mats.

Their front door mats are made in the USA – in Washington and Georgia.

The wrought iron design of this rubber scrollwork doormat is beautiful but substantial. In other words, it stays in place and is durable. The mat can withstand extreme temperatures and is anti-slip.

For a Cape Cod style house, we recommend a Colonial front door with a nautical vibe. The Wicked Good Lobster doormat, pictured below, can withstand any kind of weather – sun, salt, snow, and rain. Makes sense, though! After all, it is made out of ropes used by fishermen to tether lobster traps!

The mats are specifically woven so that they trap dirt but not water, so they never get soggy. To clean, just hose off! They come in a variety of colors.

Like coir fiber doormats, the lobster rope doormat does have a high profile, about 1 inch. If you’re worried about door clearance or a tripping hazard, you might before a low profile outdoor rug or front door mat.

Colonial Style Outdoor Furniture for Porch or Patio

Adding colonial period furniture to your porch or patio will help you create a more inviting space. We’ve found great pieces that are both beautiful and functional, so they’re worth the investment!

Wicker and other colonial style furniture is a natural fit for your porch to complement your colonial front door. They typically come in sets which makes it easy to find coordinating pieces that will complete the look of your space. You can also mix these types of furnishings with wood pieces if you want an eclectic feel.

Wicker furniture, which is made from rattan materials, has an inherent association with colonial style design because many regions in Asia and Africa, where rattan mainly originated from, had a high level of productivity for this type of plant. Natural materials like bamboo, banana leafs, reeds, palm leaves and sticks are also widely used to construct rattan.

Cane back chairs were also commonly used in colonial times. These types of chairs are reminiscent of the Charleston chair, which is typical to use on a porch or garden setting.

Cane backed outdoor furniture will create a comfortable seating area while also adding an element that gives off vintage charm.

We selected 5 of our favorite quality sets and pieces to get your started with your colonial style outdoor furniture.

This Wicker Deep Seating Sofa Conversation Set with Coffee Table is made using a powder-coated metal frame that is rust-proof, durable and not easy to break. The premium PE rattan wicker provides high tensile strength that is water resistant and fade resistant. UV protection ensures long life.

This outdoor furniture set features deep and wide seats with 4-inch thick sponge-padded cushions that stand up to frequent use. The cushions don’t slide around or leave indentions from sitting.

The N&V Wicker Bistro Set comes with a table and two chairs with cushions. It’s an ideal choice for a conversation set for small outdoor spaces. The set features a durable hand woven rattan frame and sturdy legs that are powder coated for rust resistance.

It needs to be assembled, but it is very easy and only takes about one hour to complete, according to the manufacturer.

The Main Types of Colonial Style Homes

Colonial style homes have a range of architectural looks. In the following sections, we give you a summary of the major design types to help you determine the best decor to match the style of your Colonial front door.

Let’s break the colonial style down a bit more.  We are going to take a look at British Colonial, Spanish Colonial, German Colonial, French Colonial, Colonial Revival, Dutch Colonial, and Georgian.  These subtypes have unique features and each contains elements that are worth exploring.

What is British Colonial Style?

The traditional American colonial house featured characteristics of British homes. The houses are two to three stories, but never just one story.

These were the original homes the first settlers built as they came to America so the northeast is full of them. You will find many of these homes had diamond shaped windows.

Made of wood, stone, or brick, the houses are most often rectangular in shape, often with steep rooflines. The original houses had central chimneys. 

The design is symmetrical and the British Colonial front door front door is always front and center. Around the door are decorative elements, such as transoms and sidelights.   

The architectural characteristics of the typical British colonial house include porches, columned entrances and high ceilings.

The interiors of British colonial homes have a lot of character. That includes fireplaces, high ceilings, and large windows that let in lots of natural light.

What is Dutch Colonial style?

One common style for the Colonial era was Dutch Colonial Revival architecture, which has its roots in New York State’s Hudson Valley Region. The homes were built with an asymmetrical exterior featuring a gabled roof with two or more dormers to let light into every room.

This home style typically features double-hung windows, shutters, and decorative carved ornamentation along less formal porches known as stoops. The traditional Dutch Colonial front door is split horizontally. The top part can open while the bottom of the door stays closed.

In early times, this helped keep the barnyard animals out of the house.

The porch usually runs across all levels like those seen at Mount Pleasant Mansion Museum. Floors are often raised off ground level using brick piers so they don’t flood when it rains.

Dutch Colonial Revival architecture was popular in North America from the 1870s to 1940.

What is German Colonial style?

These homes were originally built into a hillside.  They were built this way to ensure a good cold storage and to keep the home warm in the winter and cool in the summer.  They were made of stone.

They are found primarily in the northeast states and have arches above the windows and front door.  They continue with the theme of symmetry found in all Colonial style homes.

What is a Federal style home?

The federal style home is a classic colonial-era house with an emphasis on symmetry and order. The architectural elements of the Federalist era are found in these homes, but there’s more to them than that.

This iconic American architecture has some specific features including: symmetrical facades, balanced proportions, fanlights over doors or windows (to allow for light), pediments above doorways, shutters at windows, and “Federal” columns which might be made of brick rather than stone like their Georgian counterparts.

“The Federal style is also known as the Adam style, after the Adam brothers, British architects who developed this style in England,” according to the Pennsylvania Architectural Field Guide. “It is really a refinement of the Georgian style, which was popular in the years preceding the Federal style.”

The most distinguishing exterior of this house is its red brick with white paint. Unlike homes in the Victorian era that typically used dark colors, these homes have wood trim painted white.

A Federal Colonial front door is usually accompanied by a transom in a fanlight pattern and sidelights.

What is Spanish Colonial style?

Because immigrants coming from Spain sought out climates similar to those they were accustomed to you will find these homes primarily in Florida, California, and Southwestern states.

They built their homes in a style familiar to them with the resources their areas provided. Enter adobe (a material made of clay and straw), stucco on both exterior and interior walls, and clay for the roof.

Wrought iron accents, arched windows and doorways, wooden beams, and a courtyard are classic Spanish Colonial elements.

The one thing we love about Spanish Colonial style is the stained windows with wrought iron details.

Spanish colonial homes often have yellow, terracotta, or light-colored stucco and roof tiles in earthy tones of browns, oranges and tans. The doors are usually painted a bright white with wrought iron handles which make them stand out against the red clay walls.

Glass doors covered by a “screen” of intricate wrought iron is now a common look for a Spanish Colonial front door.

What is French Colonial style?

The term “French colonial” refers to architecture from France’s former colonies that combine elements of Neoclassical designs with those found throughout Africa, Asia and South America.

These beautiful homes are built in the southern US where warm weather allows for unique features.  My favorite feature is that they are built with no interior hallway, rather each room is entered through a pair of double doors off of a porch. 

In the United States, French Colonial style is often seen in the old homes in New Orleans.

The American French Colonial home style is distinguishable from the English colonial home because it’s less symmetrical and more asymmetric.

It also has a much less formal look than its counterpart, with wider eaves that often project out in places giving it an informal feel.

A full-length veranda often flows from a French Colonial front door. “Sometimes, this area is called as porch or gallery,” according to an article by Architectures Style. “Every room has access to this gallery and a beaded soffit covers these sidewalks.”

What is Cape Cod style?

The Cape Cod style house is a Colonial-era home that was popularized in post-war America. The design comes from the Massachusetts peninsula called Cape Cod, which has no major rivers or natural lakes nearby.

Cape Cod style houses were constructed on low ground to keep homes above seasonal floodwaters that would come with rainstorms every year.

Wooden frame and clapboard siding, high brick foundations, steep rooflines with chimneys on the end normally characterize these colonial houses. It’s also common to find such modern additions as dormer windows.

The Colonial front door on a Cape Cod is symmetrically designed in the center of the house with sidelights on each side. Transoms are not typical on a Cape Cod home.

What is Georgian Colonial style?

Having originated from the four British kings George 1 to George IV (1714-1830) Georgian Colonial have a few unique features.  This style usually has wings, meaning each side of the home (remember symmetry) contains a smaller portion of the home that has a lower roof line than the main part of the home.

These houses are known for their spacious layouts and large family rooms.  They are built with brick or stone, usually red, tan, or white.   They often have columns on either side of the front door as well as a decorative crown above it.

Georgian colonial homes are distinguishable by their rows of symmetrical windows on either side of centered door, with a hip roof that sometimes features dormers.

Georgian Colonial style homes are characterized by three elements: symmetry, an emphasis on rectangular forms and classical ornamentation – a preference for stylized animal figures.

Georgian Colonials were typically built of brick with white trim around a Colonial front door and windows to create contrast. The use of wood was usually limited in favor of plaster walls that could be painted over without presenting too much maintenance burden.

Doorways in the Georgian style (1710–1780, locally to ca. 1830) are typically bold and imposing, with a single or double raised-panel door flanked by substantial pilasters (engaged columns), topped by either a (horizontal) entablature or a pediment.

The other important characteristics of Georgian colonial houses include a central hall leading into two rooms on either side as well as fanlight doorways and transoms above each window that would admit natural light but exclude heat from the sun during summer months.

Planters!

Interested in planters to display around your Colonial front door?
Check out our article on 30 Colonial pots, urns, and planters!

What is Colonial Revival style?

These homes continue with the symmetry but lean more toward a Georgian style.  They became popular during the late 1800’s and was influenced by the Industrial Revolution.

Features of the Colonial Revival style include elaborate columns and porches as well as decorative shutters and bay windows.

Conclusion

There are many ways to decorate your colonial front door, but the most important thing is that you’re comfortable with what you choose. So take some time and think about which style of decoration will work best for how you use your home’s exterior space.

Given your interest in a Colonial front door, you might also enjoy these articles:

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