Back Entry – Part 2

  • Meg

    Hi There,

    First of all I managed to find some plans of entries that I liked. They are both from Sarah Susanka’s Not So Big House book. One has the entry storage off to the side, and the other is two entries which are two lanes each ending up at roughly the same place before transition into the rest of the home.

    I think the storage dimensions and plans shown today would be adequate to cope with two or perhaps three people, beyond that I think you need more storage. Both the plans had a laundry near by. I hope you’re going to do a room by room on the laundry. I spend at least as much time in the laundry as in the bathroom so if I had my way it would be a nice space in a nice part of the house.

    Back to the comments about getting doors open from yesterday. Are there any keyless entry systems that are suitable for residential use out there. It would be great to be able to use a proximity card type arrangement to enter.

    Again back to yesterday and the comments on fumes and cold climates. Sometimes it’s best if entries have an airlock, that is another door to transition into the house beyond the entry area.


  • Belle, Toronto

    Since moving to Canada, I have lived in Don Mills, Toronto. This was built in the early 50′s as a planned community with small bungalows and side-splits on large lots. They have single garages or car ports. I have never had a back entry here. The closest was a side door with a small landing and stairs going down the the basement and a couple of stairs going up to the main floor. With the garages being singles, once you put in the car, the lawn mower and the THREE garbage bins required by the city of Toronto there is not much room to pass around the car to take your groceries in around the back. When children were home, it required constant monitoring of the number of coats hanging in the closet at the front entrance and the shoes!!! It would have been such a luxury to have a well designed back entrance with a walk-in closet. However now its just the two of us its not an issue any more and I don’t think the back entrance would be used if we had one.

  • Brad W

    Meg, the problem with the two entry solution you attached above is the exterior elevation is very dificult to render in a pleasing fashion. Discussing floorplans is important but it is only part of the a well designed home.

    John, I realize this is semantics but I think back/rear entry is a misnomer for what we are discussing. These entry spaces are seldom at the back of a home. They usually connect the house with the attached garage in suburban location. And in an urban setting where there is likely no garage are more likely coincide with the front entry. I think we are talking about the main or family entry.

    Another point, in some cases how can you be sure how the home is going to be utilized? We have enough storage space in other areas of our home that we can and do park our cars in the garage and enter the house primarily from there. Others are not so organized and use the garage for storage. The front entry becomes the main family entrance. The entry design needs to be considered in context of the whole home, its size, its site, its exterior elevations and its potential use.

  • Brad W

    Belle, good point about the entry and how its design maybe affected by the age and ability of the owners. As we get older do we need larger entries? Probably not, but the extra space is always useful. What about if we are disabled? Design for the disabled or wheelchair access is a special subject. Rarely, are homes initially designed to properly handle the needs of a disabled person.

  • Ellen

    My husband much prefers a “family entry” from which you can go directly to the basement to carry wet/dirty stuff without crossing good floors.

  • Doug Roberts

    My ideal back entry would include the following features:

    1) A sheltered area outside the door (but not a garage) with a large mat where I could wipe off my shoes before going inside. This sheltered area would also have motion-activated lighting and a convenient spot for garbage and recycling bins, so that I could take the garbage and recycling out without having to put outdoor shoes on or getting wet or snowy.

    2) A well insulated and weatherstripped door that opened automatically on my command or whenever I approached it (think Star Trek).

    3) An interior space with:
    (a) lots of natural light;
    (b) room for 4 people, a dog and their stuff to comfortably load/unload;
    (c) a durable, non-slip and easy to clean floor, with a large washable mat and a baseboard vacuum door to sweep dirt into;
    (d) a bench to sit on while putting on or taking off shoes;
    (e) hooks for hats, purses, leashes, backpacks and coats that are currently being used;
    (f) a convenient but out-of-the-way spot for shoes that are currently being used (could be under the bench, and should include a mat in case the shoes are wet or snowy);
    (g) drawers, trays or baskets for keys, mail, cellphones, sunglasses, gloves, scarves, toques, caps, sunglasses, etc.;
    (h) a closet for other coats and shoes and general storage;
    (i) a mirror;
    (j) easy access to a powder room; and
    (k) easy access to the kitchen.

  • Paul C

    The attached image demonstrates the door swing alternative I suggested yesterday. If there is enough space, from my experience, it is worth considering. Also, centering the entry door on the garage space (between the vehicles) is also something worth considering. It frees up space in front of each vehicle.


  • Terri

    Whether we use the front or back entry primarily, it usually can never be too big as long as it is designed to be efficient and contains the components for storage that John has outlined (and others have added to). Even when the kids are gone, if a home has a well-designed entry, it will be used as intended. If you build it, they will use it! So, if we can account for all eventualities, we are doing our job as designers.

    I must say I enjoy reading all the different input into these design discussions. These details shape the everyday pattern of our lives and yet too often they’re not discussed so thoroughly when decisions to buy (and even design) our homes are made.

    John, I was a little disappointed that you didn’t complete a checklist for the ensuite bath we last discussed. Having these free-for-all discussions turned into point-by-point summaries offers us a clear, useful reference.

  • Mike Symons

    Hi John,

    I’ve found these lectures to be an excellent way of getting your message across in a simple yet very informative way. All while still maintaining an enjoyable experience for the audience.

    I work for the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association as a co-op student right now and I see great potential in utilizing this program. The only problem is I have no idea what that program is! Would you be so kind to tell me what program you are using to be able to draw on these images as I would love to utilize it on our current website.

    Please send me an e-mail or even just post it up as a comment, I’d really appreciate it.

    Thanks and Regards,


  • John Brown

    I have been trying to finish this post since 8:30 this morning!!! Too many other intrusions.

    Good point about the amount of storage being shown. I would agree that it is probably scaled for 2-3 people. If more space is needed the design principles remain the same, the room and associated closets, etc. would just get bigger.

    I agree with the problem of the title back/rear entry. However, I also have a concern about calling them main or family entry because this downplays the importance of the front entry and, extending further, the relationship of the house to the street.

    Ellen and Doug,
    Thank you for continuing the tradition of adding detail points to the room by room list. Your points are well taken.

    Thanks for the drawing. It makes your point very effectively. We will be looking more closely at these issues when we look at garages in a future room by room segment.

    My apologies. I got caught up in other things and have fallen behind on the room by room summaries. (We are trying to get the reading list feature ready for release on Friday). I will try to get them done in the next couple of days.

  • John Brown

    Thanks for the email. I am glad you are enjoying the site. I complete the exercises on a Tablet PC and do a video capture of the screen that is then edited in Final Cut Studio.

  • Cat

    Re: Paul’s door swinging the alternative way

    I thought it was “code” that exterior doors had to swing inward. Or is that just a security issue with the hinge pins being on the inside?

  • John Brown

    I believe that in most jurisdictions exterior doors can swing either way in a single family residential use. The norm is to have and in swing door so that the hinges are on the inside. However, it is now possible to get doors that have secure hinges that can be on the outside.