First Impressions: Choosing a Front Door for Your Philly Home

Your front door says a lot about you.  It is the first impression your home or business makes – before it even opens. Looking to sell soon or want to make upgrades to your home? Start with your front door. You can choose from various materials, styles, and colors to brighten up your entryway and give your home instant curb appeal. If you want a front door that reflects your personal style or one that goes viral on Instagram, here are tips to keep in mind. 

Front Door Materials

Depending on the architectural style of your house and your budget, start by choosing your exterior door’s composition: wood, fiberglass, and steel. 

Wood is a classic choice, especially when the property is from the Federal or Victorian Era. However, wood swells in rain, snow, and humidity, making the door more difficult to close. It also scratches more easily and tends to be pricey. Fiberglass offers a wood-like appearance with low maintenance and can last 15-20 years without repair.  

A brightly-colored "Hollywood" style front door and unique wood and glass geometric door.
A pair of Philadelphia homes with a “Hollywood” style door and unique wood and glass geometric door.

Steel doors are generally less expensive than wood or fiberglass. They look best on contemporary properties. But not all steel doors are alike. Again, avoid big box stores where the steel doors are too thin. Another consideration?  Steel heats up to the touch in summer and freezes in winter. 

Custom Made Doors

If you are seeking a unique, one-of-a-kind, metal door, talk to Ken Schapira owner of North Standard Fabrication and Construction, LLC. We recently profiled Ken in a blog post, which you can read here. He is the “maven” behind some of the coolest doors in town, including at Kensington Yards. Using a plasma cutting machine, he will work with you to sculpt the door of your dreams out of metal, steel, or copper.

North Standard Fabrication: Custom Steel Transom
North Standard Fabrication: Custom Steel Transom

Master woodworker Ron Yeager is skilled at creating historic door replicas in his Germantown studio. We like the one he made for a Delancey Street townhouse in solid mahogany with a natural finish and brass hardware. The spider web transom window has an insulated glass panel. Meanwhile, a solid brass door bottom sweep keeps out drafts.

Yeager Woodworking: Round Top Front Door with Spider Web Transom
Yeager Woodworking: Round Top Entry Door with Spider Web Transom

Another local source of custom doors is Doyle Design, featured in Apartment Therapy Magazine. They provide creative design and manufacturing of architectural woodwork, from museum quality restoration to hand-on installation, as seen in their Victorian Style double-door.

Doyle Design: Double Door With Transom
Doyle Design: Double Door With Transom

Want to go Hollywood? Check out the reclaimed and vintage doors at Philadelphia Salvage. They specialize in hard-to-find star doors and will restore and install them too. This is where interior designers go for one-of-a-kind antiques and décor. They also do custom orders.

"Hollywood" Door: Painted front door with etched star detail.
“Hollywood” Door: Painted door with etched star detail.


Choose an exterior primer and paint designed for your door type. More importantly, select a color that coordinates with your home’s architectural design.  Or a color that pops!  

A pair of doors in East Kensington.
A pair of brightly-colored Philadelphia row home doors adorned with decorative wreaths.

If you are looking for historic paint colors, consider Old Village Paint, a Philadelphia company that has been in the same family since 1816. Their colors are made with natural earth pigments and echo the palette of our City’s Colonial, Federal and Victorian architecture. Choose from Rittenhouse Red, Society Hill Blue, Philadelphia Brownstone, Colonial White and other authentic 18th Century colors. 

They also have a collection Couleurs de Provence that calls to mind a field of lavender in Southern France or the green meadows of a Monet. Old Village Paint is sold exclusively at Killian Hardware in Chestnut Hill and New York Painters Supply in Ardmore. Color cards and paints may also be purchased online. For a wider color selection, try Benjamin Moore. Besides traditional shades, they offer contemporary colors. Their online Color Guide allows you to upload a photo of your front door and try out five colors. Plus, they have a DIY video on How To Paint a Front Door. You’ll find Benjamin Moore Paints at Ace Hardware stores throughout the City.


A change of hardware can instantly heighten front door drama. Replace the knocker, door handle, and locks to give it an updated look. While you will find an extensive collection at Lowe’s or HomeDepot, check out Antique Brass Door Knockers on Etsy. These British made, solid brass, front door accessories come in the whimsical shape of Bees, Dragon Flies, Bats, Foxes. For a more contemporary look, we like Baldwin hardware at Independent Hardware at 410 S. Front Street.

The Wow Factor

After you install a new front door, take time to add the accessories that express your personal style. 

If space allows, consider matching ceramic planters on either side of your door filled with something leafy and green. Close at Hand, an urban garden scaping company located in East Kensington, provides container and window box gardening.  They will do it for you, whether you need a show-stopping display or just a simple statement.

Think about siding-mounted lights to add a dramatic glow and the illusion of gas lamps.  Lowe’s has over 6,000 outdoor wall lights. We especially like their brass carriage lights. Over 170 of those.

Tile House Numbers made by Karen Singer Tileworks.
Karen Singer Tileworks: House Numbers

Make it easy for friends to find you. Contact Karen Singer Tileworks for hand-crafted, ceramic house numbers to hang on or beside your door. It also makes a thoughtful gift for a new homeowner.

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