AMERICANS LIKE impressive entries. Before 1850, many homeowners favored Greek Revival "Gone With the Wind"-style front doors flanked by Ionic pilasters and topped by oval transoms. The mid-century Gothic Revival period popularized heavy, hand-carved Elizabethan doors with pointed arches. Pine was grained to imitate fine wood.
Then came highly decorated rococo doors, their Corinthian pilasters overflowing with fruits and flowers. Swags, cherubs, sunflowers, spindles and wrought-iron trim embellished panels and moldings. Statuary uplifted porticoes topped by pediments to deflect rain. With the invention of scroll saws, fretwork and gingerbread decoration became fashionable.
After the 1880s, art nouveau doors with windows of etched, beveled and Tiffany glass, often arch-shaped, were in vogue. Some homeowners preferred to acknowledge their frontier heritage with log doors, barn doors and massive hand-hewn portals from Mexico. By the turn of the century, thick, simple, golden-oak Mission-style front doors prevailed.
After World War I, city dwellers welcomed the livelier, wittier look of Art Deco entries--glass, inlaid or Oriental lacquer doors, doors with chrome geometric trim, even doors with portholes inspired by luxury liners.