They say never judge a book by its cover, so why judge a house by its front door? When it comes to our homes though, first impressions count: your front door is the first thing visitors see when they arrive at your home and the last thing they'll see when they leave.
Want to give your front door an upgrade? Here are four things to consider...
1. Material matters
Doors have traditionally been fashioned from wood, but modern models have expanded into composite materials and cheaper, more durable substitutes, like uPVC. So how do you choose?
"It's a question of horses for courses," says Jill McLintock, from windows and doors company, Everest (everest.co.uk). "uPVC doors are very thermally efficient, very secure and can be double and triple-glazed, but you're limited on appearance.
"Composite doors have the look of timber but demand less maintenance, and currently are the fastest growing market for entrance doors. Those seeking a traditional look tend to be very happy with timber doors, but it is a natural material and they require a bit more TLC."
Prices vary considerably too. "A hardwood timber door can cost well over £2,000 to replace, potentially up to £3,000," adds McLintock.
For those looking to cultivate a cutting-edge aesthetic, modern metal doors come with a whole host of benefits. Though far from cheap, Hormann UK (hormann.co.uk) build high strength aluminium 'ThermoCarbon' models, with heavy-duty sound insulation, sky-high energy efficiency, impressive impact resistance and anti-break-in security features.
2. Repair or replace?
Looking to change your door? If you're fortunate enough to own a house with a standard-size door, you can pick up a replacement off the rack, but more unusual varieties may require more treatment.
"You need your door to be secure," says McLinktock, "and if your door is more than 10-15-years old, it won't have more developed technology, like multi-point locks." Timber doors can warp slightly and no longer open and close properly over time, while obvious no-nos like broken glass panes require speedy attention.
Budget-depending, you may want to go bespoke, opening the door to a brave new world of possibilities. Oval-topped frames can lend a more modern look, studded models channel a quasi-medieval vibe, while mixing panels of varying depths helps create interest and contrast.
How adventurous you can be depends on the flexibility of your doorway too, of course.
If possible, repairing your existing door is generally the cheaper option. Most likely this will involve scraping away old paint, filling cracks and some gluing. You could do it yourself, but these tasks require a fair amount of finesse and are usually best left to a professional. After all, you don't want your home to end up door-less and vulnerable for any length of time.
3. Colour and kerb-appeal
Once you've settled on your door (be it old or new), you can set about making it the envy of your neighbourhood. A fresh coat of paint might be all it takes to rejuvenate your home's exterior.
Timber must be periodically repainted, composites don't need to be but can be, while even uPVC doors - which don't fare well with normal paint - can gain some gloss with the right preparation.
"The main thing is to consider your surroundings," says Sonia Pash, co-founder of interior design firm, Temza Design & Build (temza.co.uk).
"Don't choose colours in isolation. What colour is the balustrade, the fence, the house, the neighbour's house, the neighbour's door? Think what will look good together." (You just have to hope your neighbour doesn't repaint their porch turquoise a few hours later...)
On the other hand, your front-of-house should express the personality of its occupant too, so don't be afraid to rip up the rule book. Pash says 'statement' colours are increasingly popular, particularly among city-dwellers looking to stand out on identikit streets.
"They're still a little less common than safe options like black or grey," she says, "but bold doors look just charming, and I always encourage people to go colourful. Don't feel like it needs to relate to anything inside the house - it can absolutely be a one-off."
4. The finishing touches
There are various accoutrements that can help you get a handle on your look, and from doorknobs to number plates, they're mostly made of metal. "When it comes to ironmongery, choose quality over quantity," says Pash. "A badly carved lion head knocker that will start chipping in a year is just sad, so what you buy needs to be well-made."
The metallic letterbox is a time-honoured domestic staple, but canny homeowners should be on their toes. Unguarded letterboxes can be used by criminals to hook keys off nearby racks or tables, a process widely known as 'fishing'. Position you letterbox strategically, or put a 'fishing guard' on the back of the plate.
You want to ensure your metalwork is properly finished too, so that everything co-ordinates. "You can't buy new flat front door numbers in brass and keep your old chrome handle," says Pash. "It just looks bad - do everything or nothing."
Greenery by your door is good and if you have a path or driveway, why not line it with flowerbeds and shrubs?
Greenery on your door might be better yet. You've heard of the Christmas wreath, but the increasingly a la mode spring wreath - a circular bouquet of blossoming blooms - is delightfully seasonal.
A witty welcome mat is a must too, while attractive lanterns can add a final touch of brightness. "Don't forget the fanlight," finishes Pash. "It's a great place to put a sticker with your house number, much easier to spot than the small numbers on the front door."