The entry station is a great addition to any home that enables home safety right at the entrance. This universal design feature facilitates effective aging in place by appealing to all ages, heights, income levels, and physical abilities. Literally, everyone who comes to or exits the front door of a home can benefit from this solution.
It is such a strong idea for enhancing an entrance – and a potential focal point – that calling it an entry station or welcome station seems to be better terms for this concept. Regardless of what we call it, however, it is something that anyone can do, including homeowners themselves, but we, as aging in place professionals, should be leading the way in creating and installing them.
The idea is a simple one but very solid. All of us, upon arriving home from wherever we have been (by car, taxi, on foot, bicycle, Uber, Lyft, or otherwise dropped off at our home), have things that we are holding in our hands that interfere with our ability to have total access to unlocking and opening the door to our home. This is true whether it’s the front door, side door, back door, or garage access. Typically we try to balance what we are holding by holding them in one hand or the other or place them under our arm or between our knees to keep from dropping them as we locate the front door key or just reach for the door handle.
This idea works equally well on the inside as we are assembling all of the things we want to take with us (keys, lunch, drink, briefcase, folders, a jacket or sweater, umbrella, sacks or boxes of this or that, and more). Adults and children both benefit – as do visitors and guests.
While originally envisioned as a small shelf – less than two square feet in size – attached to the exterior wall of the home near the entry door handle but low enough as to not interfere with grasping and using that handle, it has many possibilities. It can be an attractive bench that mimics or complements the architectural style and design of the home (even with storage beneath the seat). It can be a table – planting tables work quite well because they provide a flat surface, often come with drawers or other lower storage areas, and frequently have shelves above the bench to display items important to the owners.
Cabinets and dressers work well also. They should be constructed of a weather-resistant material or at least painted to forestall weather deterioration. If they only last a few seasons due to weather, they can be replaced. They can be painted the same color as the exterior to suggest that it belongs on the porch or near the entry. or it can carry the trim paint to provide a suitable contrast.
As a branding idea, when we work with jobs of the size of scope that an appreciation (thank-you) gift of some type is appropriate or desired, an entrance station piece of furniture (cabinet, table, or bench) would be a great present. It is utilitarian for the client. It is universal design meaning that the client, their neighbors, friends, visitors, and even delivery people can use it to leave items for the owners or retrieve items placed there for them to have. It can be done in our corporate colors as an additional branding message or as something to match the client’s basic color scheme. Lastly, each time they see and use it, and each time a visitor to their home sees and comments on it, they will think of us and our relationship with them in creating effective aging in place solutions that allowed them to continue living in the home they love.
Pursuing the idea of home safety, when our clients know that they have a place outside their front door (or side door or whichever entrance they tend to use the most) where they can free up their hands with whatever they are bringing with them from the car, mailbox, or yard to be able to open the door unencumbered and safely, they won’t worry as much about how much they are carrying and how they are going to control it as they attempt to work with the door also.
This does not have to be just an exterior front door solution either. Placing something inside is a good idea. Putting tables, shelves, benches, or cabinets near other entrances to the home (on the exterior as well as interior) is a great idea as well. Anything we can do to provide function and safety for our clients – in an attractive way (“universal design”) is a great aging in place solution that we should offer (as part of our overall scope and include it in the contract price) or just include it because of the importance of it and the utility it provides – not to mention the long-term branding message.