1. Life & Culture

Add some fun with a splash of color on front doors

Robin and Stacy Bennett wear their personalities on their Gator-orange front door. "It's who we are. We're just fun-loving people," says Robin, 49.

Their home in Tampa's mid-century Forest Hills neighborhood screams traditional. A ranch-style cinderblock built in 1964, it got a bright new makeover several years ago, when Stacy painted it pale yellow with a soft green trim.

"I like the yellow; I like the green, but our house is not glamorous," says Robin, an interior decorator. "I told Stacy, 'We need to do something different with the front door.' "

Like orange. Because he's a University of Florida Gator.

"He looked at me like I was crazy," she says.

A couple of decades ago, bold red front doors — a pop of color that matched nothing else on the house — were all the rage. That trend has faded a bit but remains very much alive, perhaps because of its ancient roots. Red doors are symbols of welcome, proclamations that the mortgage is paid off, and good feng shui.

But for some serious individualists, red is just too popular to make a statement.

Red doors became a springboard for contrasting entryways painted orange — and turquoise, purple, yellow, blue. Really, just about any color on the fun and funky palette, says Alexander Reale, owner of 39-year-old Tropical Painting Co. in St. Petersburg.

Pinterest and other photo-sharing social networks have helped popularize the color-statement front door, but it's not a brand-new trend.

As a second-generation home painter from Boston, Reale knows the history. "In the old days, you painted the house white and the shutters and front door black," he says. "People got their hands dirty and black doors hid the dirt."

Eventually, the nonconformists got bold. They opted for gray, blue, even (gasp!) white front doors, he says.

Different regions have different tastes. New Mexico is known for its vibrant blue front doors. Here in the sunny Tampa Bay area, Reale says yellow is a favorite choice.

Serious about having a fun front door? Here are some tips for making your statement with confidence:

Pick the color you love ­— there are no wrong choices.

"All colors can work, no matter!" Reale says.

Take note of any trim around the door and accents. You might consider making them a neutral color, or match the color to the rest of the trim on your home.

If you prefer some guidance, Sensational Color by Kate Smith, a free ebook available at, suggests pleasing combinations, from roof to facade to contrasting front door.

Nervous? Go halfway.

If you're feeling Tangerine Yellow or Spring Green, but worry about what the neighbors, your spouse or your in-laws will say, just dip in a toe.

Try graining the door — adding a wood-grain texture — and choose a traditional color, such as brown or white, as the base. Use your high-energy contrasting color for the grain element, Reale suggests.

"You can have a white door with faux color wood grain in blue, green, red" — whatever you choose, he says.

For graining instructions, visit Substitute the demure grain color suggestions for the hue of your longing.

Never believe that your architectural style can't rock your true hue.

Take a driving tour of Tampa Bay's older neighborhoods and you'll likely see more front door colors than you ever imagined possible — funny how they stand out once you're looking for them.

From the eclectic beach homes to the Victorians, bungalows and "shotgun" Cracker homes, imagination prevails. And it works.

So what if you live in a standard-issue concrete block ranch-style home? Or a split-level in the 1960s Northern tradition?

Not to worry, Reale says. "The entry door is the focal point of the house," he says. You don't have to have an old home to make your front door the star.

Robin Bennett says it takes a little courage to paint your heart on your front door — especially if your house is a good old Florida ranch-style block. "At first when we did it, the neighbors were like, 'Wow,' " she says. "Now everyone's used to it.

"It's the Gators! Hello! I love it!"

Contact Penny Carnathan at