Unsung icons: Front of house The importance of first impressions
COMEDIAN DAVID SMIEDT TAKES AN IRREVERENT, BUT APPRECIATIVE, LOOK AT THE CLASSIC THINGS THAT DEFINE YOU-BEAUT AUSSIE LIFE
WE’VE HEARD OF FEATURE WALLS, BUT WHAT MADNESS IS A feature DOOR?
‘picturesque bay windows’ to the soul, then the front door and its surrounds provide similar insight to a home. It starts off with the door itself, and these have been through a catalogue of fashions. There’s your bog-standard opaque variety, whose prime purpose seems to be preventing passers-by from seeing your nudie dash from the bathroom to the bedroom. Mission accomplished. But who could forget the leadlight craze that threw jewel tones down the hallway when the sun struck it just right? Or the technological leap which allowed you to perfectly match the shade of your timber door to that of your freshly painted walls? The minimalists could barely contain themselves. This correspondent is also old enough to recall the scandal when the first person on his street painted their door fire-engine red. We’ve heard of feature walls, but what madness is a feature door? Where will it end?
Before ‘the welcome mat’ became an excellent joke used by Kath & Kim, it added what your mum might call “pizzazz” to a doorway. Your entry-level candidate was purely functional. A rough greige rectangle of coir held together by wire. It was perfect for dislodging the mud from between the studs of football boots fresh from sports on Saturday morning and the veil of dust that clung to the RMs of country visitors who couldn’t figure out why you let your dog sleep inside. Long before the term ‘doormat’ was applied to people, you could upgrade with ones featuring floral motifs that echoed the garden’s star attractions, the always classy ‘welcome’ – note the fancy italic font – or the jokey variety; as in “bless this mess” or “you don’t have to be crazy to live here – but it helps!”
Add in a doorbell that eschewed the boring ‘bing-bong’ in favour of the opening bars of Moonlight Sonata and you quite literally had a world of entertainment at your feet. But turns out this was a mere prelude to the wonders that lay within. The first feature you noticed – mainly because it was at your eye level – was the hat stand. Which invariably creaked under the weight of lapsed interests and passing fashions: helmets from the brief flirtation with cycling gathered dust alongside those transparent plastic visors ladies wore in the 1970s playing tennis. Perhaps there might have been a tweed flat cap – purchased on a retro whim. Ditto, a lacquered rattan boater complete with black ribbon that was bought for a rural race carnival but then forgotten at home – where it’s stayed ever since. On the stand’s teak tendrils were also to be found sun-weathered baseball caps that saw time on the sidelines of countless seasons of Saturday morning sports, plus deeply unfashionable floppy varieties that provided unparalleled sun protection during a morning’s weeding
Beside the hat stand and affixed to the wall was a key board. No, millennials, not a keyboard – a key board, which translates to a piece of timber, often fashioned in a woodworking class, into which several hooks had been screwed, where you hung your bunch. Sometimes beveled edges were a decorative feature, as were daintily painted flowers. Or, for something faux rustic, the family’s name was burned into the timber with a blowtorch. Below this often sat one of two items: the first was a row of sturdy pegs on which hung obligation and responsibility jackets. That is, items donned out of necessity when on your way out the door to do something you didn’t really want to do, such as walk the dog you begged for at Christmas, attend your brother’s 8am-kick-off footy carnival or head to the servo because it was the only thing open and Nan wouldn’t have her tea without milk.
The other item was boot racks – essentially, a series of vertical timber rods where wellies were placed to dry off after a morning’s jumping in puddles. If there were kids in the house, you got to see a number of sizes, ranging from the adorably tiny up to “I can’t believe she takes a size nine already.” Practical purpose aside, they tugged at the heartstrings of the sentimental as they represented a passage of years and growth, a rubberised montage of fun times past. Even when their occupants had long since outgrown them, had doors of their own to decorate and couldn’t figure out why their parents were still displaying their old gumboots.