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When Renee Young checked out a home for sale in a Windsor subdivision two years ago, it was the front door that first caught her eye.

Within a neighborhood of traditional family homes built in the mid-1980s, this two-story model, not unlike many in the subdivision, stood out because of one small yet significant difference. The original front door had been replaced with an all-glass door, really two panels of glass like a patio door, set within a simple wooden frame painted black. Above that is a glass arched window.

"It really does give the house a modern feel," said Young, who wound up buying the house, partly because of the curb appeal of the entry. The glass brings light into a dark foyer. But because it does just look in to a wall with a table, it doesn't feel like it compromises her privacy.

Real estate agents have long said that curb appeal helps sell a house, and that one of the simple, relatively inexpensive improvements you can make is to upgrade your front door. That can mean a complete replacement or something as easy and inexpensive as new paint. Red has long been considered a great color accent for a door, as well as deep blue.

It's the time of year when friends and family are invited to visit. We asked readers what kind of impression they'll get of the front door of their homes.

"The front door is your way of allowing people to enter your house, so you want to make it warm and inviting, something people feel comfortable coming through. And it's your break between the wall of your house and outside," said Walter Collins, a retired Sebastopol architect.

The custom entryway he designed for his standard, 30-year-old house in Sebastopol was like a facelift without invasive surgery.

When considering changing the door, make sure it relates to the architecture and scale of the house.

Collins didn't do anything ornate for his 2,300-square-foot home. But the door he designed is gracefully refined.

"It's contemporary but not off-the-wall contemporary, because the house wouldn't bear that up. I was trying to keep the same feeling of the house and yet make it sparkle and have a little snap to it," he explained.

The standard door is 6-feet 8-inches tall. He wanted to make a bigger statement. He contracted with Healdsburg Lumber to build a taller, 8-foot-tall entry door, then gave it the appearance of being even taller with a series of three vertical panels — two of Douglas fir like the rest of the door, bracketing a single pane of obscure glass with vertical lines. Sidelights on either side of the door feature the same vertically striped glass panes.

The glass panels bring in light, but because you can't see through the glass, privacy is maintained.

Douglas fir is a strong wood that, if properly maintained, will hold up for a long time, Collins said.

The type of wood is very important when choosing or commissioning a front door.

"One of the first priorities to consider is the exposure to sun and weather the entry gets," said Mike Pastryk, the founder of Liberty Valley Doors, which has been making custom doors since 1980.

A house oriented toward the north is more protected, so you can use softer woods like cherry and maple. But if you have a southern exposure where you will be hit with hard sun and direct rain, seek out a tougher wood such as mahogany, teak, or fir that have a greater resistance to decay.

"You want a door to hold up 20 to 30 years, not just three or four years," he stressed.

Homeowners don't necessarily have to be afraid of glass. It does hold up to weathering better than wood. And there are many kinds from which to choose, from leaded and beveled to stained and sand-blasted, with designs or frosting.

Josh Sack and Kathryn Yulish wanted a door that made an artistic statement at the entry to their art-filled Bodega Bay home. So they commissioned stained-glass artist Diane Bundy of Salmon Creek Studio to create a dramatic series of glass panels dominated by a figure of Neptune bearing his trident, perfect for their seaside location. The five pieces fit over the existing glass inside so they didn't even have to modify the door itself.

"Before it was just boring. Now people compliment it all the time," said Sack. At night, light from inside the house illuminates the ocean god. During the day, light pours through, bringing out the color from within.

You can reach Staff Writer Meg McConahey at meg.mcconahey@pressdemocrat.com or 521-5204.