Step 1 – Front / Back Entry

Step 1 – Front / Back Entry (PDF)
Step 1 – Front / Back Entry (Page 1)
Step 1 – Front / Back Entry (Page 2)
Step 1 – Front / Back Entry (Page 3)

  • John Brown

    Note To Readers

    Please review the attached excerpt from our upcoming book and provide comments, suggestions, criticisms, etc.
    The number of pages and basic format are fixed. The audience is non-professional. The goal is to help people learn how to use the Checklist to evaluate houses.

    Some issues to consider are:
    1. Is the introductory paragraph clearly stated?
    2. Are the rules of thumb the best ones (remember we can only have up to four for each side).
    3. Are the rules of thumb clearly worded?
    4. Are the common pitfall categories correct?
    5. Have we missed any critical common pitfalls?
    6. Are the diagram sufficiently clear examples of the common pitfalls?
    7. Is the wording of the common pitfalls clear?
    8. Am I missing something overall?
    9. Is the section clear and helpful?
    10. Is there anything else that would help someone make the determination of whether this particular part of this particular house is fast or slow?

    Thank you for your help.

    John Brown

  • Grace

    I would make a few changes in the initial paragraphs, maintaining approximately the same space. I think a “nutritional” aspect is missing in the discussion of entries, i.e. beauty. Beauty is a component of livability essential to the human spirit. In entries, it comes in the form of brief glimpses into the interior, glimpses that also serve to entice a person into the home. So here is how I would revise the opening paragraphs (additions are in caps; deletions or explanations are within brackets):

    In most fast houses an entry is only a door. While doors provide security and weather protection, an entry is much more than just a physical boundary between inside and out. A front entry is a space of transition. It is where we greet our guests, take their coats, and introduce them to the rest of the house. Like other rooms, the design of the front entry should be in proportion to the rest of the house. [I have eliminated "appropriate and" I know what you mean, but you don’t spell it out anywhere and it may not be necessary here, unless you want a dissertation on "taste." haha!] IDEALLY, THE ENTRANCE DRAWS ONE INTO THE HOME BY PROVIDING A BRIEF GLIMPSE INTO SOME PART OF THE INTERIOR. [eliminate but] Every home, no matter how
    small or OF what type, needs SPACE FOR A front entry. It is the WELCOMING handshake of the house.

    The back entry is typically one of the most utilized spaces in a home. While the front entrance primarily serves guests, the back entry is where the daily business of coming to and from home really occurs. Like the front, the back entry is also a space and not just a door. However the focus of this space is very utilitarian. It is a staging area for groceries, school backpacks, sports equipment, and whatever else you might use in day to day life. Like the
    loading dock of a commercial building the back entry of your home should accommodate both temporary storage needs as well as long term storage without compromising the flow of daily traffic. At the same time it should be able to easily accommodate several people
    simultaneously. [eliminate last sentence and replace with:] AND, LIKE THE FRONT ENTRY, IT SHOULD PROVIDE A WELCOMING VIEW INTO THE HOME.

    On Rules of Thumb, there is space to add:

    The front entry does not open
    directly into a principal living space, BUT PROVIDES A GLIMPSE OF THE INTERIOR.

    On Environmental Footprint:

    In a cold climate, the [front] entrIES
    provide[s] weather separation.

    In a cold climate, the entries
    provide weather separation.

    I also strongly suggest that you eliminate the page on closets (some of the illustrations could confuse a reader because they do meet the first of the criteria, that of not opening directly into the living space). Instead, I would have illustrations of good entries (and each will have a closet, so your closet point will be made. And you also have it on your checklist).

    In fact, I would have a page of positive images throughout the sections. They will reinforce your concepts.

  • David P


    Overall I think the section on Front Entries is clear and concise. I would agree with Grace that the section could use a couple of positive examples to contrast for the reader the differences between fast and slow home design.

    I also found the commentary section a little confusing. For me it felt as if it was simply dropped into the middle of the section, but the link to the overall issue of the entry was not strong enough.

    Otherwise the section showed good examples of what not to look for in a slow home. The introduction is very good and the rules of thumb are helpful too.

  • BradW


    In the rules of thumb the words sufficiently and appropriately are used. These words are sufficiently and appropriately vague. The meaning needs to be quantified. For example, you state, “The front entry has a sufficiently sized closet within close proximity.” What is sufficiently sized, how close? Another example, you state, “The back entry is appropriately
    scaled to the size of the house.” What is appropriately scaled? An architect might know but who else would?

    I realize the rules of thumb are guidelines but somewhere specifics to be addressed. Perhaps the answer is showing examples of well designed and proportioned entries including dimensions.

    Finally, I think the front entry and the back entry each deserve a separate section. It is confusing putting them together. When I first read the rules of thumb I thought you had duplicate entries but only after a second glance did I realize you where referring to the front entry in some and the back entry in others.

    PS. Doesn’t the back entry require a closet…

  • John Brown

    Thanks for both the specific suggestion regarding the text and the general observations about the closets. Insightful and helpful all round.

    I couldn’t think of a better post to kick off this whole experiment.

    The issue of showing good examples is something we really wrestled with. There are so many different variations of what a good entry. We didn’t want to have people think that the one or ones we showed were the only way of doing things.

    The next chapter is called Practice Makes Perfect and includes case study examples of how to analyze three different houses – they range from bad to good. There will also be online projects to practice on through the website. Do you think that they would be enough for good examples?

  • John Brown

    Thanks for the observation about the commentary. Very helpful. I assume you mean the closet inset right?

    Do you think that the additional parts of the book that I described in my response to Grace would be sufficient for good examples of entries?

  • John Brown

    A very interesting observation about having them as separate sections. We actually started out with 20 steps or sections and the feedback we got was that it was too cumbersome and people just stopped 3/4 of the way through the analysis. We forced things into 12 sections (which coincidentally has a nice relationship to 12 step programs) because that seemed to be the maximium we could have.

    However I really take your point. Perhaps we need to hold that observation for a few days and see how the rest of the sections pan out.

    I also really appreciate your comments on specificity. It is hard not to be a little vague when the book is meant to help people looking at really small condo’s as well as those looking at really big houses. I take your point however that this generality can end up saying nothing.

    Do you think that, as I described to Grace, a series of case study examples would suffice or do we need more specific hard examples of good design in each section – the answer to that might also need to wait a couple of days until you see more of the book.

    A big thanks for the oversight of the back entry closet. That is a bit embarrassing.

  • Li-Na

    Hello everyone!

    To start of, I have a question for you, John.

    How does this checklist fit into the rest of the book? How do you envision readers using the checklist? Is this something that will be at the end of the book that people can detach and bring along with them when they visit houses they are thinking of purchasing? Do you assume that people have already read the rest of the book and are just bringing the checklist along to remind themselves of what you’ve covered in greater detail in the rest of the book?

    If you’ve already answered these questions somewhere, I do apologise, please point me to the spot where the answers are and I will dutifully slink off and read them. ;-)

    For now, I’m assuming that the checklist comes towards the end of your book and folks are mostly bringing the checklist along as a reminder of your key points.

    Here are my initial thoughts:
    1) Give the commentary (i.e. “Where have all the closets gone?” in today’s PDF) section a name. From what you said in the video, John, it *sounds* like the the commentary may show up in some of the other room checklists, but may not necessarily be in every single one.

    I think where it is currently located is a bit abrupt. It feels like it is suddenly dropped in the middle and I didn’t quite know what to make of it at first. I do think that the way it is currently laid out (on a separate page with a box around it) is a good start as this makes it stand out as “something you may want to think about”, but I suggest you go further by giving this commentary an actual name. Perhaps something like “John’s pet peeve”? ;-) I was being facetious about the title itself, but I hope you get what I’m trying to say. :-)

    2) Have a couple of good examples. I think I mean this mainly for the commentary section. I’m undecided on whether the Common Pitfalls have to be illustrated with good examples, although i’m leaning towards no as you are trying to highlight the pitfalls here and there is the space limitation to consider.

    Apart from that, I think it is quite clear and easy to read, which is great for a checklist. Going back to my questions on how you envision folks using this checklist, have you thought about providing a few blank spots/pages where they can make notes on the houses they are viewing?

    I hope I have said something that you find useful. I’m coming at this with my web usability/editing glasses on!

    John, thanks also for having the foresight to start on the room checklists first, as I was anticipating “Context” to be much harder to start with as well!

  • Li-Na

    To clarify my point #1 above. If you were to name the commentary section “John’s pet peeve” (for example), each time there was a commentary on a room, you would also title it “John’s pet peeve”. This consistency would make the commentary section more easily identifiable and I think would help readers immediately know what to expect.

  • Elizabeth

    John, I’m finding the jpeg/pdf formats pretty unwieldy. Any chance I could submit an MSWord file? (moments later) Guess not, it’s looking for an image.

    As to the issue that’s arisen about providing examples:

    I think the section needs instances of good and even passable design (i.e. Bad, OK and Good). Illustrating an entrance without a closet doesn’t add enough. Showing a good, proportional entranceway gives people “what to look for” info. I don’t think you can show several instances of poor design without at least one demonstration of good design and I think it needs to be in context. Otherwise what will stick in readers’ heads? This section is a detailed discussion of Fast and Slow, so I think Slow examples need to be represented here, as well as in the other areas of the book that you’ve alluded to.

    Other comments on their way.

  • Elizabeth

    In para1, removed APPROPRIATENESS. This whole section is a description of appropriateness, so this doesn’t add enough here.

    The back entry is typically one of the most utilized spaces in a home. While the front
    entrance primarily serves guests, the back entry is OFTEN where the daily business of coming to and
    from home really occurs. [Using "However" makes me think we're back on fast housing or poor design. I'd rework and shrink this sentence to:] THE FOCUS OF THE BACK ENTRY SPACE IS UTILITY. It is a staging area for groceries, school
    backpacks, sports equipment,….

    Under Livability
    The front entry has a sufficiently
    sized closet CLOSE BY.[Delete: WITHIN CLOSE PROXIMITY. This phrase sounds like it's specific and prescriptive but it really isn't, so just use common language]

    Under Environmental Footprint
    Move “In a cold climate…” up with the other front entry items.

    Under Where have all the closets gone?
    “At some point in recent history the fast housing industry appears to have decided that…”
    The tone here is a little snooty, even though Fast Housing is the bad guy!
    Suggestion: In recent history, the fast housing industry has virtually eliminated entry closets, although the need to store coats and boots has not gone away.

    Under Fast House common pitfalls
    When a front entry becomes the size
    of a small room people feel the need
    to add furniture even when it is [delete CLEARLY]
    unnecessary. In this [delete PARTICULAR]situation,…

    While this little mat of tile may keep muddy
    boots off the carpet it does little to
    create a space of transition. Notice
    how the door is immediately adjacent
    to the principal window in the living
    room …[Yes, I notice, but what is the significance of it?]

    I’d eliminate the numbers on the examples unless you refer to them by number in other parts of the book. Just to keep the look as clean as possible.

  • Jabari


    I appreciated this first checklist, even though I too had some issues with “appropriately scaled” and “sufficient;” those words left me wanting a quantitative measure. OTOH, perhaps you discuss in greater detail your thoughts on size and scale elsewhere in the book. If so, maybe you could refer to that earlier discussion at this point in the text.

    My larger concern, though, was with the very idea of an assumed front/back entry distinction. What if a home under consideration by the reader doesn’t have separate front and back entries? How is this section to be used in those instances? It wasn’t entirely clear to me how a non-design-trained reader was supposed to use this checklist in a single-entry context–unless you intend that the front and back entry points should just be “mashed up,” or you mean that a “slow” home must have two separate entrances. By my count, I think a better approach would be to start with the notion of a single entrance, and then to further refine the discussion to those instances in which there are indeed additional entrances with separable uses.

    I’m not sure why you treated “John’s pet peeve” the way that you did. “A place to put your and your guests’ stuff” seems pretty important to me. Calling it out and separating it from the common pitfalls suggests that it’s a dispensable “nice to have.”

    Finally, I saw that you included the notion of climate protection in your discussion, but limited to the inside of the house. Does the transition into the house begin at the front door, or at the threshold? Should there be any discussion about protection from the rain/snow/wind when you’re standing outside? How about lighting, security, and visibility from the street? What about sightlines from the entry? Does it matter if one can see directly into “private” parts of the home (e.g., a hallway separating the family bath from bedrooms, or the stack of dirty dishes in the kitchen sink, or the pile of soiled clothes in front of the washing machine) from the entry?

    Other than that, the text was an easy read and stayed accessible by avoiding designer-y jargon. Indeed, the lack of lavishly photographed “architecture porn” type pictures gave the text a quiet authority.

  • jjim x

    Hi John

    I also think there should be good examples of front and back entries. Unfortunately well designed back entries depend on the home-owners circumstances. The back entry needs of a couple with three sports-playing teen-age boys will be very different from a single professional.

    Pages 94 and 95: I think there should be only one or two examples for “Where have all the closets gone?” and it could go under “Common pitfalls.”

    Also snappyier titles for common pitfalls: “Front entry is directly into a principal living room” could become “Front entry dumping ground” and “Front entry is too large and needs to be furnished” could become “Lost in space”
    Consise, vivid names will help the reader remember the pitfall when they are looking at houses for example.


  • Jane

    John, I love the format and the comments regarding what is wrong, however the section is fairly negative in perception. The negative sections – where have the closets gone, and fast house pitfalls needs to be balanced with a couple of examples of slow home designs.
    Could I suggest 3 fast home examples and 3 slow home examples in the third component of this section? Or slightly more commentary (2 pages) in the where have the closets gone section with the following section (2 pages) be slow home examples.
    I would love to use this book as the basis to talk to home designers and show them that my ideas are not crazy rantings of a non-professional, but based in good science.

  • John Brown

    Good questions about asking about the “location” of the checklist. It is in chapter 3 of the book.

    Chapter One is an introduction. It discusses the whole idea of the question “What’s Wrong With This House?
    Chapter Two discusses fast houses and the industry that produces them.
    Chapter Three introduces the idea of a slow home and the slow home philosophy. It also introduces the Slow Home checklist as a kind of residential version of the nutrition list for food.
    The section we are collectively editing is a guide or supplement for using the checklist. The Checklist can either be filled out with paper and pen or there will be a website version. We ultimately hope to make it an app for iphones and blackberries.

    Chapter 4 is a series of three case studies that show you how to use the checklist. There will also be a series of online workbooks and exercises on the website for further practice.

    In any event, the sections we are looking at right now are a guide to using the Checklist. I think this means it needs to be a little “short and snappy” rather than completely conclusive.

    The rules of thumb will probably show up as pop up windows on the website and phone app.

    I hope that helps clarify things for everybody.

    Thanks for the suggestions about the text and layout.

  • John Brown


    Many thanks for the really detailed edit of the text. That is really useful.

    Can you expand a bit about what you mean when you suggest limiting the number of examples and numbering them? I am not sure I understand.

  • John Brown

    The issue of what to do for single entry houses is a great one. It points out, in a crystal clear way, one of the biggest challenges that we faced in writing this book. How to make it work for so many different kinds of situations without it becoming a 500 page encyclopaedia.

    With that said, some kind of comment about whether you “need” two entries and what to do if you only have one is a very very good suggestions. Thanks.

  • John Brown


    A good suggestion about the names. To tell you the truth we haven’t really spent that much time thinking about them – other than trying to get the right ones. I like the idea of working on names that are more compelling and catchy without being silly.

  • John Brown

    Your suggestion of balancing common pitfall with examples from slow homes seems to be a common theme that we need to incorporate into all of these sections.

  • Murray


    Hello All,

    I think the overall format is working very well, and I am assuming it is similar for each of the seven room-specific sections of the check-list.

    The written introduction followed by appropriate illustrations makes perfect sense. I agree, however, with the others when they ask you to consider providing illustrations of slow home solutions – this can be a type of “parallel-thinking” method of simultaneously pointing out the pitfalls. Both slow and fast examples would better help to re-iterate your written introduction/argument.

    I have made specific comments on my submitted jpegs.

    In addition:

    Do you see the “Rules of Thumb” as a type of mini checklist for the homebuyer to use? The tick boxes may be construed in this manner, and this is OK. However, if this was not the intention of the “Rules of Thumb” index-file cards then a different style of bullet point should be considered. (John, to follow up with your food and cooking analogies – the overall style of these cards bring to mind the category dividers from a recipe box.)

    I read the pitfalls as some type of priority list, thus I made comments on how they might be reordered. I am not convinced about the large foyer pitfall and would rather see another back entry example in its place. To re-iterate my jpeg comments I think an entry (front or back) not in close proximity to the kitchen is a pitfall that should be considered for your list.

    John, I hope this process does not become too unwieldy and that you are able to distill the all the information. Possibly they contributors, especially when they write (as opposed to submitting images), could organize and title their comments “Text editing”, “Design Concerns”, “Content Issues”, etc. This may help you to place all the contributions into their appropriate categories for ease of access at a later date rather than trying to take it all in “on the hoof”.

    Best wishes.

  • John Brown

    Thank you for all of the work you have done on this. It is very comprehensive.

    I had not thought about the recipe card analogy – but I like it very much.

    In terms of the process – the results so far are exceeding my expectations. It will take some time for us to work our way through all of the comments and suggestions in the coming days.

    However, your suggestion of starting each post with a header is a really good one that will make our lives easier and also make it easier for everyone to follow the evolving conversation.

  • Sandra

    Good morning:
    I haven’t read the other comments yet but I do want to comment on “scale” and weather separation. To me, “front entry scaled appropriately in relation to the house size” is difficult to judge. But if the entry is just plain too small for a house, any house, would be obvious to the average person. The opposite is true for too large an entry. You probably can’t get into explaining appropriate scale to the average reader – this is not the format.
    Weather separation – you don’t show a diagram of what that looks like. Does that mean a porch or covered area outside the house?? Or is weather separation something inside the house?

  • Katie

    I’ve been lurking around the site for months now and working on the design projects on my own, but this project lured me out of the woodwork.

    My main comment is that the middle “Where have the closets gone” section isn’t very clear. As someone who isn’t a home design expert I could use better captions under the pictures. Most of the times when I’m reading a book/article I jump to the pictures and read the captions to get context before I even read the text. I can’t be the only person that does that, right?

  • Doug Roberts

    Suggested wording for first paragraph:

    “In most fast houses an entry is only a door. While doors provide security and weather protection, an entry is much more than just a physical boundary between inside and out. A front entry is a space of transition. It is where we greet our guests, take their coats, and introduce them to the rest of the house. Every home, no matter how small or what type, needs a good front entry. It is the handshake of the house.”

    I deleted the following passage from the first paragraph as I felt that it did not really add anything useful:

    “Like other rooms, the design of the front entry should
    be appropriate and in proportion to the rest of the house. But e”

    Suggested wording for second paragraph (added words in all caps):

    “THE BACK ENTRY OF A HOUSE REFERS TO THE ENTRY USED MOST OFTEN BY THE RESIDENTS OF THE HOUSE, WHICH CAN BE AT THE BACK, THE SIDE OR THE FRONT OF THE HOUSE, AND CAN EVEN BE THE SAME AS THE FRONT ENTRY. The back entry is typically one of the most utilized spaces in a home and is where the daily business of coming to and from home really occurs. The focus of this space is very utilitarian. It is a staging area for groceries, school backpacks, sports equipment, and whatever else you might use in day to day life. Like the loading dock of a commercial building the back entry of your home should accommodate both temporary storage needs as well as long term storage without compromising the flow of daily traffic. At the same time it should be able to easily accommodate several people simultaneously. One of the hallmarks of an inadequately designed back entry is a lineup of people in the garage waiting for space to clear in the back entry.”

    Unless you have explained earlier in the book what is meant by a “back entry”, I feel that a brief explanation here would be helpful, since the term “back entry” can be misleading in some cases. I have also deleted the following passages from the second paragraph as I felt they were unnecessarily repetitive:

    “While the front entrance primarily serves guests, the back entry”
    “Like the front, the back entry is also a space and not just a door. However t”

    I feel that your Rules of Thumb are also unnecessarily repetitive. Given that you are limiting yourself to 4 bullet points under each heading, why say so many things twice? My suggested Rules of Thumb would be as follows:

    • The entry does not open
    directly into a principal living space.
    • The entry is large enough to
    accommodate multiple people.
    • The entry has a closet or other storage
    for coats, shoes and other items within
    close proximity.
    • The entry does not compete
    with other uses, such as
    circulation space or laundry.

    Environmental footprint:
    • The front entry is clearly visible
    to guests and visitors.
    • The entry is appropriately
    scaled to the size of the house.
    • The entry does not limit
    access to natural light into the
    principal rooms.
    • In a cold climate, the entry
    provides weather separation.

    Although the lack of entry closets is irritating and far too common, I don’t feel that you need to devote an entire page to it. It would be sufficient to deal with it as one of your common pitfall examples.

    Finally, I agree with others who have recommended that you include one or more examples of a well-designed entry (maybe one example of a good front entry and one example of a good back entry). I understand your concern about readers becoming too focused on what might be simply one example of a good entry, but I think the benefits would outweigh the risks. After all, the objective should be for readers to be able to identify both good and bad designs, not just bad designs.

  • jim baer



    the first “review” has been fun. i went with your redline technique. i am an architect after all.

    i initially thought that each section needed good examples. but your single section with case studies might do the trick. i am also concerned that some people will look for the specific examples and not make the leap to more general solutions.

    i guess i did not understand that the “where did the closest go” was a commentary. in spite of its graphic difference. unless there are more in other sections, i think this should be included in the common pitfalls category.

    i concur with the idea that the back / family entry could use a separate section. given its importance to daily life it should get the same or even more design consideration than the front / guest entry. and maybe non-garage family entrances should be looked at.

  • John Brown

    Thank you for the suggestion about scale and weather separation. I understand your point. We will attempt to clarify without expanding the text too much.

  • John Brown

    That is a really good observation. I actually do the same thing and I hadn’t realized that the captions were so “obtuse”.

  • John Brown

    As usual, your comments are thoughtful and insightful. Thanks for the detailed text edit. The need to rethink the front closet page is becoming very clear.

  • Elizabeth

    John, just to (try to!) clarify re: numbering of examples. Each example has a number and a heading: 1. Front entry is directly into principal living room

    Are the numbers necessary? They might be if:
    - they are referred to elsewhere in the book. (i.e. “See Common Pitfalls Example 1 in the Entry section”)
    - they are important to prioritizing the examples. If this is the reason for numbering, then it’s not really clear. If the priority is important, then list the numbers and headings first to establish priority, then break out the examples afterward. i.e.

    1. Front Entry enters…
    2. Front Entry problem2…

    1. Front entry enters…

    2. Front entry problem2…

    The point being just to eliminate non-essentials wherever possible. Small suggestion, big explanation. :-)

    I don’t suggest limiting the examples, just adding some Slow examples, too.

  • John Brown

    I am glad you enjoyed the review – I know that I am getting a tremendous amount from the day. The volume of quality comments is a bit overhwhelming – like trying to take a drink from a fire hose.

    We will go through your red lined comments in detail. Thanks for being so specific.

    I also appreciate your observation about whether people will “make the leap” between the specific good example and the more general principles involved.

    I think that this is something that the slow home group might want to have a more general discussion about after we have gone through some more of the segments. Perhaps we should devote one day to these more overarching questions, strategies, etc.

    What do others think?

  • John Brown

    Thanks for the explanation. I have a much clearer understanding of what you are suggesting. Good idea!

  • Christopher Jones

    I’ve been lurking on this site for a few months.

    I have several comments:

    1. Even though I hate them, the split foyer/split entry is a typical form of new residential construction on Prince Edward Island and many northern states. A good example of this type front entry might be a plus.

    2. A discussion of the exterior aspects of entry: porch, door hood, stoop, etc. should be incuded.

    3. I think the missing closet critique may include too many examples.


    Christopher-Burnham Jones

  • John Brown

    A good suggestion to include some commentary about the outside porch part of the front entry. The split level entry is also a good idea. Thanks.

  • Grace

    John–instead of four examples of ‘where have all the closets gone,’ would you consider having two examples, each paired with a simple redo that includes a closet?

    p.s. love the title ‘where have all the closets gone.’ I once gave a rather feminist talk, a part of which was titled ‘where have all the nice girls gone . . . long time passing’ (not here, I let my audience know!)

  • John Brown

    I am glad that someone got the pop song reference to that section (before it disappears altogether from the book).

    I like the idea of including a reno plan but am also worried that it moves the book into “design” rather than “analysis”. I was thinking that could be the subject of a second book.

  • Peg

    I tried to follow Murray’s example and provide my comments on the page layouts, but am not technically adept enough to manage it. So As per his excellent idea above, here are my suggestions for


    I think the language overall needs to be plainer and simpler so that more people will be able to understand and use it.

    About the front/back entry issue, I was wondering If you treated ‘The Entry’ as the space under discussion, and focus first on the common aspects of both front and back entries, you could then move on to specifics about the back entry and address the issue of single entry homes. Something like:



    In most fast houses THE entry HAS BEEN REDUCED TO A SIMPLE DOORWAY OPENING INTO A MAIN LIVING SPACE. While THIS provides security and weather protection, THAT’S ALL IT DOES. AN ENTRY SHOULD much more than A physical BOUNDARY between inside and out. IT IS where we greet our guests, TAKE OFF OUR COATS, AND LEAVE THE WORLD BEHIND.

    THE design of AN entry should FIT WITH the rest of the house IN STYLE AND SIZE, AND SHOULD HAVE ENOUGH STORAGE SPACE and ROOM TO MOVE. Every home, no matter how small or OF what type DESERVES A PROPER ENTRY. It is the handshake of the house.

    IF THERE ARE TWO ENTRIES IN A HOME, The back is OFTEN one of the most USED spaces IN THE WHOLE HOUSE. While WE GREET guests AT THE FRONT, the back is where the daily business of coming to and from home really occurs, IT IS WHERE WE BRING IN THE GROCERIES, TAKE OFF BOOTS AND COATS, AND STORE BACKPACKS AND SPORTS EQUIPMENT. The back entry NEEDS TO BE a space RATHER THAN JUST a door, BECAUSE IT IS SUCH A HARDWORKING area – like the loading dock of a commercial building. IT should HAVE ROOM FOR temporary AND long term storage AND EASE the flow of daily traffic, WITH ENOUGH SPACE FOR several people AT THE SAME TIME. One of the hallmarks of a POORLY designed back entry is a line of people in the garage waiting for space to clear in the back entry.


    In the Rules of Thumb section, you could then consolidate and reduce repetition:


    Slow Home: rules of thumb


    THE ENTRY does not open directly into a MAIN living space.



    Environmental Footprint

    The ENTRY FITS the size and style of the house.

    The front entry ALLOWS natural light INTO the living spaces.

    In cold climates, the entry PROTECTS living spaces from the weather.


  • Ruth Hasell

    Hi John,

    I am so looking forward to being able to have your book in my bag of tricks once it is complete. I think it will be a very useful tool to use with my residential clients.

    You are getting some great feedback, so my comments are in addition to many of the thoughts already expressed.

    1. Could the discussion of entries touch on public / private transition spaces – porches, stoops, etc?

    2. I like that the Rules of Thumb are trying to keep us mindful of ‘Environmental Footprint’. However, might this particular category (Front/ Back Entry) be illustrating that some areas of the house will have more livability issues and fewer environmental ones? Is it a little forced to have 4 for each when one could use more ‘Livability’ and fewer ‘Environmental’ rules?

    3. The illustrations are very instructive, but could this chapter benefit from some ‘do’s’ as well as ‘don’ts’? I live and practice in Orange County, California (predominantly populated with Cookie Cutter houses), where my clients will be very familiar with the pitfall examples, but will be hard pressed to find any good ‘slow’ examples.

    4. I am originally from Canada, and lived in Thunder Bay for a couple of years. As other people have pointed out, a good entry for Thunder Bay, Ontario will necessarily be different than one for Orange County, California. Is there someplace to remind us of how context (climatic, cultural, neighborhood) can influence requirements?


  • Terri

    John, I can’t add much as there have been so many great comments and suggestions so far. I see what you mean about drinking from a fire hose.

    I might reiterate what others have said, but I make a few new points as well.

    Suggested text changes to Introduction:
    PARAGRAPH 1: The word “appropriate” too vague–either drop altogether or change to “consistent” or something inferring style (as this seems to be what is meant by the word choice).
    PAR 2: The word “utilize” is one of those overused and often misused words. I think you actually mean “used” here. Utilize means to make practical use of something that might not actually be used in that way, as in a secondary use, whereas a back entry IS by its very nature a practically used space, not a space that becomes used that way (do you see this distinction?).

    Rules of Thumb index:
    As noted by a couple of others, front and back entries can have the same needs, so list the four rules common to both. Include a point about sightlines from the welcoming entry not including private functions (toilet, washing machine, dishes).

    Maybe “sufficiently sized” means anything of 3ft and wider, because two feet is more often a broom or linen closet?

    Layout Suggestions:
    Remove the Where Have All the Closets Gone? page–too much space is used by these examples without providing useful information. Instead this page could include examples of good entries, either parallel to a bad example or afterwards.

    Finally, a punctuation note:
    In the Common Pitfalls examples, the period of a sentence should follow the label (A or B in a black bullet). Otherwise these labels sort of “float” between sentences. They occur at the end of #4, middle of #5 and first sentence of #6.

    Also, long-term storage and day-to-day life use hyphens.

  • Annette Eason C.S.B.A.

    Wow! Amazing comments.
    I agree, positive examples are necessary. People want to know what works.
    How about being less specific and approach entries with out the initial differentiation between front and back? Because all entries share some functions and needs, those could be combined into one point (as in the Rules of Thumb) limiting the redundancy and expanding the possibilities in a limited space.
    Also, think about expanding the concept of closets to adequate and appropriate storage. That would be more inclusive of different life styles and climates and put to rest the warm climate, cold climate closet debate. (Note: I have a closet in my entry,Venice,CA)
    I would love to see just a little more personality come through.

  • John Brown

    Thank you for the comments on language. Our goal is to make the text as simple and straightforward as possible. This helps us reach that goal.

  • John Brown

    Thunder Bay to Orange County – quite a switch.

    The second section in the Checklist is devoted to orientation and there is an inset box that talks about the effect of climate (hot or cold) on design issues). With that said the suggestion of adding a small reference to it in the entry section is a good one. I also like the idea of talking about transition spaces – we had it in an earlier draft but removed it for reasons that seemed good at the time.

    The question of balancing livability and environmental footprint is also one that we continue to wrestle with. We wanted to avoid reducing the environmental discussion down to only two or three parts of the design. At the same time I take your point that it doesn’t have to be symmetrical. Perhaps this is a discussion that we can all have at a larger level when we have gone through all of the 12 sections and can overview all of the rules of thumb as a whole.

  • John Brown

    I have been looking forward to seeing your professional edits. They are much appreciated.

  • John Brown

    The idea of not differentiating between front and back entries right away is a fresh thought and something that we will seriously consider.

    I appreciate the idea of letting a little more personality come through – but am a little unsure of how to do so in such a restricted type of writing. Perhaps it has something to do with the idea of “snappier” titles for the common pitfalls and good slow examples. I think the narrative chapters that precede this section on the Checklist are more appropriately expressive.

  • Tom Elder

    Hi, John

    Great web site, it is how I start my day, eating my breakfast and watching the latest episode of Slow Home. Also what a great team of contributors. One of my favourite engineering tools, is a brainstorming session at the kick off of a design project with a varied, cross functional team. Our past experiences forms our impressions on how products should be use. We all have different experiences which makes us look at things differently.

    Ok, I have been a bit of a wall flower by not voicing my opinion earlier, particularly on home entrances. To me the entrance to my “Home” begins at the property line.

    Driveways are for cars! Sidewalks are for people! The sidewalk for the home should begin at the public street side walk. It should not just come off the mid point of the driveway, or the end of the driveway closest to the house. This forces pedestrian traffic walking to your house to walk down the driveway. If you have a double wide driveway it should be wide enough so that you can open the car doors and walk out between the cars without rubbing all the winter grime off the cars with your winter coat.

    The sidewalk leading up to the house should be wider than a single width. A previous house I owned the sidewalk was wide enough to allow 4 people to walk up, side by side. My current house is a single person width staircase forcing a hierarchy to the arriving guest. A wider sidewalk / entrance is more welcoming. There should be an overhang, to protect arriving guess from the rain.

    The front entrance, for most narrow lot houses being built in around the Toronto area, the front entrance does 90% of the work. Your groceries, home reno supplies, furniture, lifestyle activities all come through this door. Is it accessible and big enough for your lifestyle? In a previous apartment I had to have a piece of furniture return to the store because a narrow hallway leading to the front entrance, did not allow for the piece to be swung into the doorway.

    The light switch for the entrance should not be, behind the door! This forces the first person in to half shut the door on the second person to turn the light on.

    The entrance closet should be more than 24″ deep. I do not like, to have to stuff, my winter coat or armoured motorcycle jacket sleeves in the closet just before closing the bi fold door every time.

    The floor level inside the house should be at the same level as the sidewalk outside the house. There is a 8.25″ difference at my house. Good way to meet politians coming to the door forcing them to look up to you, but not a good way to greet your family, friends, and neighbours by looking down on them.

    Your illustrations show common pitfalls of fast houses, but how about some examples of good design. For example, how about a illustration showing a good design for the last item in the Slow home rules of thumb, on weather separation ……………. I am interested, on what that looks like.

    Benchmarking is another one of my favourite engineering tools. In my industry, automotive, I can go out a rent a particular vehicle model and live with it for a few days, to find the good and bad features. I can not very easily do this benchmarking exercise with houses before buying one (go in live in several examples for a few days). Just saying I enjoy your “What’s wrong with your house” series and I will buy this book when it comes out.

    Cheers, Tom

  • John Brown

    Good to hear from you. You make an excellent point about the idea of both the entry (and the home) extending beyond the four walls of the house. I wonder where / how to bring this into the book? Perhaps in this section or perhaps expanding it to a more general discussion of site concerns in one of the sections devoted to considering the house as a whole.

    Thanks for the food for thought….

  • Jim Argeropoulos

    Alas, my lack of editing skills shows through. My only comment is that the second sentance in the discussion of rear entries felt awkward.
    In what’s wrong with this house series we’ve frequently mentioned that the rear entry should have close proximitry to the kitchen for unloading groceries. I don’t see any comment on that point.
    I hope I have more to contribute before this is all done.
    BTW: I also associated the Rules of Thumb with recipe cards.

  • Anonymous

    Here is a suggestion for editing. you could use for example, google docs or some other online collaboration tool that would allow each contributor’s suggestions to be viewed inline with the text itself. not everyone would be familiar with this tool but it might be worth a try.

  • Tim G.

    A couple of approach suggestions:

    I know diagrams and illustrations are the trend these days for “innovative” books, however i find the first to paragraphs the most helpful and insightful of the 5 pages. I’d like to see more of this in teh book i.e. approaching more of a 1:1 ratio of text to diagrams or at least 1:2. (currently it is 1:5)

    Also for the diagrams, I’d prefer an annotation approach with arrows indicating the problem/interest area rather than “A” and “B” reference labels which makes it difficult to read and interpret the comments.

  • Tim G.

    Tom Elder’s comments are interesting, there is likely an “extended” checklist which could be very helpful. This could potentially be via an online (perhaps community contributed) if there is not space to include it in the printed book. But there is likely a 50 item checklist for each area of the house. It would be great to have these compiled somewhere and organized in conjunction with the book.

  • John Brown

    It is good to have an “approach” discussion in addition to the “content” one. Thank you for initiating it.

    The first three chapters of the book are almost all text – narrative discussions about the very idea of asking the question of What’s Wrong With This House, the character of fast houses and the fast housing industry, and the philosophy behind slow homes and the slow home movement. One of the limitations of starting this collaborative edit project in the middle of the book is that this early context is absent. On the other hand, it is this more hands on skll based portion that I think is really important because it augments the theorizing with some practical skills that anyone can use.

    With all of that said, however, I will bear in mind the suggestion of balancing the text and the diagrams. Your comment about the usefulness of the “A” and “B” reference label are important for us to know about.

  • Leo

    I agree with those that feel the front and rear entry attributes are too similar to warrant separate discussion. I also think that the entry does not start at the inside of the door. I think that what’s on the outside of the door is also very important. Is there a covered area in front of the door to protect you from the environment while you hunt for your keys? Is it well lit and easily accessible?

  • Steve

    So very many good suggestions here. Wow! I’ll just add one general comment, that this section might be more helpful with a little stronger focus on accommodating entry ‘functions’ rather than on entry ‘features’.

    If “form follows function,” then the design of a particular entry should facilitate its specific function(s). This may – or may NOT – include greeting one or many guest(s), undressing muddy kids, moving groceries from the garage, storing coats or surfboards, sitting to put on shoes, quick access to the pool or BBQ, airlock for heating or cooling, etc. Some entries provide access from the public street or to the private yard, but others are to the garage, pool, garden, deck, or balcony. Some are for the residents only, while others are for guests, clients, or pets. The form of each entry will vary with its particular functions.

    The text, on the other hand, treats all entries as being one of just two kinds – “front” or “back.” I know what that typically means, but it might be more helpful to provide more generalized rules of thumb based on function. For example: “Consider how this particular entry is to be used. Does it provide sufficient space for this movement, sufficient furniture for this activity, and sufficient storage for this use? Would the use of this entry for its particular function(s) interfere with the use of any connected spaces?” Etc.

    In this way “slow home” design is more about being mindful of the actual use of the space and not just a checklist of features thoughtlessly assembled. I fear these “rules of thumb” tend to the features checklist side of things and may not address function. It seems to me that at least two of the pitfall examples (2 & 5) might be appropriate designs, depending on their particular purpose.

  • James Scott

    Good morning John – I tend to disagree with the addition of “good examples” to compliment the bad. What my family’s requirements are (hockey, hockey, more hockey) compared to my two single mature neighbours will undoubtedly be quite different. I think the process should focus on getting the reader to realize that their requirements are quite distinctive and that the cookie cutter mindset of today’s builder may not be as suitable as first thought. Actually we all know that this applies to the occupation of both a new or older home.

    More emphasis on developing the process to evaluate our needs and surveying the available stock should be the priority. We really don’t want to put our opinions on where people should live, but we do want to provide the information and the tools to make an informed comparisons and choices.

  • John Brown

    Sometimes no news is good news….Thank you for reviewing the section.

  • John Brown

    You make an excellent point about the idea of focusing on function rather than features. I am not sure how this would pan out over the course of all of the different sections but it is an important observation that we need to keep in mind. Thanks.

  • John Brown

    I appreciate the alternative point of view regarding the examples. We have tried to cover the “process piece” you suggest in the other parts of the book. I will be interested in your comments about those chapters at some point in the future.

    This is one of those times when parachuting into the middle of something can have its limitations.

  • Matt

    John, I commend you on your efforts, it is a monumental undertaking to condense these ideas for a slow home. You have a difficult task to determine the right amount of information to present without being superficial, vague or pendantic. A couple thoughts to consider:

    1 – While your website readers and design professionals are comfortable looking a plan views and translating them into 3-D spaces in their imaginations, about 50% of the population is unable to do so. Pictures/drawings of spaces would not only help these people but also better illustrate some of the points you want to make. For example, show how coats and backpacks get piled up near doors without closets (instead of showing four floor plans of houses with no closets), Issues of scale and proportion that you discuss sometimes are better shown in by pictures and illustrations than plan views.

    2 – Use of repetition to connect your rules of thumb to the examples. Just like in architecture where shapes are repeated to connect areas together, writers do the same thing with words and phrases. Use wording to better link the rules and examples together, don’t force the reader to guess. EG Reword the title of step 1 example #2 to parallel Environmental bullet #1. “Front entry is not appropriately scaled to the size of the house.” This type of problem is found in many examples in both Step 1 and 2.

    3 – Consider adding brief explanation to your some of your rules of thumb where the text has no discussion or to summarize the text’s discussion with a memorable emotion/image. EG “In a cold climate, the front entry provides weather separation because nobody enjoys having the warmth of home blasted away by someone’s arrival.” People learn and remember things better if they get a brief explanation. While the text sometimes does this, in other cases the reader is left to guess why there is this rule-of-thumb. Properly done this will enforce the rule with an image or emotion that the reader will not forget. (I think it is this emotional context that separates the slow home from the fast food home. We want closets to conviently and properly store coats. We want natural light in every room because the sun lifts our spirits, energy and enthusiasm.)

  • Terri

    I think Matt makes some excellent suggestions, too. His point about visualizing is good–lots of people do have trouble with translating a plan into a 3D space. And his idea of repitition is also very true, as well as making a concrete example of a Rule of Thumb.

    How will you process all this information now? Wow, what a lot to consider.

  • John Brown

    Those are 3 great suggestions.

    We wrestled a lot with the idea of 3d representations. In the end we decided to try not to use them because it is almost impossible to avoid getting caught up in the “style debate” with an image and this is not what I think Slow Homes are about. We really wanted the book to be relevant for people who like all styles of home because the principles of slow home are about the design underlying the surface of the house. With that said, you bring up an excellent point about the limitations of such an approach.

    BTW, I really like your suggestion about repeating the ideas and expanding the explanation of the rules of thumb.

    A question (for everyone):

    Do you think that making each rule of thumb two sentences instead of one (on average) would make them too long and unwieldy? We had wanted to be able to fit them all on two pages so that they were a handy reference but maybe that is not a good idea.

  • John Brown


    I always say that you can never have too much of a good thing.

    The comments over the past two days have been thoughtful and very beneficial. You are right, however, that it is going to take some time to figure out how to process all of this feedback.

  • Matt

    RE:Expanding rules of thumb. To further flesh-out my thoughts, I would expand the rules selectively. In some cases, the reason for the rules are self evident. In others, several rules centered on a common theme, such as wasted space – due to oversized rooms, awkward wall angles and poor door/opening placement. A common theme problem could be delt with once such as “Wasted space due to poor design is expensive not only to build, but also to maintain i.e. heat/cool, decorate and clean.” Finally, there are rules that need help for the uninitiated. I do not think each rule needs more explanation, maybe 25-33% of them.

  • John Brown

    Thanks for the clarification – the idea of selectively clarifying certain “rules” is a strong one. The challenge is to be able to address the various levels of interest and expertise in an appropriate way.

  • Catalina

    This probably too late, but I thought I would add it anyways. I also haven’t read all the comments so someone else may have mentioned this. However, I thought that the points you provided were clear and concise. I was hoping that there might be an example of a home that had met all of the criteria for the front and back entry. thanks