Oh goodness! I didn’t mean to be away for quite this long! In fact, I started drafting this post on December 4, but life and then Advent and then we have multiple birthdays and my anniversary all at the beginning of January on the heels of Christmas. It has been a wonderful month, but it has kept my focus away from my series, and I’m so glad to be back and settling into more routine so I can write more!
This is the 4th in a series of reading, discussing and applying ideas from Thomas Howard’s book which is available under two different names: Splendor In the Ordinary and Hallowed Be This House. If you’re new to the series, start at the Index Post discussing The Household for more explanation and a trail of breadcrumbs to the other posts in the series. Each post contains an updated Action-Questions Printable for you to print and prayerfully consider in applying these ideas.
So, if you’re still reading along with me…let’s step into the Entryway.
Ordinary is Affirmed by setting it off
Every home has one. Or something of one. A place to walk through on the way in or out of a home. But I wonder if most of you will share this in common with me? We have a front door entryway through which we welcome guests, but also a much more commonly used entry which is found by entering through our garage and that ceremonial door swings into…wait for it…our big walk-in pantry & utility room area. This is the most commonly used entryway in our home so I found myself with a bit of a mixed response as I read along with this chapter. On the one hand, I nodded in agreement over the idea of having a place to welcome, to pause and recollect, a place that is fittingly beautiful. Certainly, our back door entry is practical – and fitting for the times my children come trekking in with mud up to the hip and rocks gathered lovingly in pockets – but it’s not exactly a place of recollection.
Still, entering in – whether through our utility area or through the front door – signals something. It signals that home is inward. It welcomes family, friend, and stranger – through either door.
I found this chapter a challenge. It challenged my own sense of space and how our entry space functions and communicates because I live a very practical life. I love pretty around and within, but practical matters and systems and routines tend to rule the day here. They matter. They must. They’re necessary if one is to continue treading and keeping one’s head above water.
Or must they?
Does so much practicality threaten to swallow up the splendor? Have I become so focused on practicality that the front entry is simply a useful place to stack clean clothes as they await transport to various rooms?
If, as Mr. Howard writes, “the ordinary in our homes is affirmed by setting it off now and again,” we will have to consider how to go about setting it off. Because what we do and how we love and the beauty we embrace in our homes is worthy. There are moments full of wonder within, and it’s worth setting off.
I don’t think this diminishes the function or necessity of the back door entry. The back door does have its place in a bustling home with mud outside its doors and little (and big!) feet that are mud magnets, but I found great inspiration in reconsidering the beauty and splendor within the front entry.
Because rooms do have functions. There is an order and sequence to the rooms in our home. Think of the rooms as reflecting and forming an ordered whole, much as the spectrum of colors in a rainbow follow an order. It would be jarring and dissonant for those colors to be rearranged. Red is always first in the rainbow, it doesn’t belong between green and blue. In the same way, the entry is always first. The other rooms follow. And clean laundry doesn’t belong here. (Even if it is a convenient drop off place on the way to the upstairs bedrooms.) Of course, practicality necessitates that we cut ourselves some slack. After all, it may be that the basket of clothes to go upstairs awaits pick up at the bottom of the stairs, which happens to be in, or near, the entryway. But as a rule, the entryway is the first step into your home. It is the physical space into which you invite another someone into your home and it should welcome, invite, refresh, and allow a person to pause for just a moment. It’s hard to imagine refreshment and welcome amidst tripping over laundry or dolls or whatever happens to have migrated into the entryway.
Pause and Preparation
It makes sense, after all, to pause here for a moment. Stepping across the threshold and coming into a home is significant. We exchange greetings here. Practical functions are exercised – those of assisting guests with bags and coats and things. But, what is significant is that this place, this entryway, signifies an entering into a unique home – your home – that extends and reciprocates love in all the different rooms and through countless acts of service throughout the day. All of that happens in the rooms just beyond, but I find it soothing almost to consider that the entryway can be a more recollected place when greeting guests. It has a place in the order of entering a home. It is the red in the rainbow. Because just like discordant rearranging of the colors of the rainbow, we can’t come in from the outside into, for example, the bathroom – it would be utterly displeasing and odd. It is the entryway that allows for a brief pause in order to prepare for crossing into the other rooms, and all the ordinary splendor within them.
What if your home doesn’t have an entryway as such? It must have a door, and so then, there must be space just inside that door that can serve as an entryway. Begin to envision that space, however small, as set aside. Are there practical things you can do to encourage that vision? Perhaps you have something beautiful that, if placed strategically, will also function in a measured way to signify that there is time to pause in the entering in and allow for a special greeting place.
A Place to Bid and Greet Farewell
Now for a reality check. I’m a southern girl. And southern girls are about hugging and smiling and welcoming…and…eating if I’m being honest. (More on that in a future post in the series, but I’m pretty sure we could solve most of the problems of the world with a casserole and a big hug because every time there is a crisis I have a compulsive drive to bring a casserole somewhere and that can’t be wrong, can it?)
I don’t want this post to begin to illuminate a vision of formality in welcoming and entering-in with all this talk of pausing and recollecting across the threshold. Because that formality isn’t the integral thing here – it’s the greeting and expression of love within an order (entryway) that is the real thing here. This greeting is an exercise of courtesy, and courtesy is not so old-fashioned as you might think, dear reader. It is actually a necessary ingredient in any cultured society. Courtesy, sincerely expressed, shows that I recognize you as an image of God – and therefore worthy. Period. In looking around at the sad societal affair we find ourselves in today I can’t help but wish there were more expressions rooted in courtesy. The simple act of seeing you – seeing each other – as worthy because we are each made in His image. Doesn’t all the talking and back-and-forth seeking a bridge to connect and repair damage come down to that not-so-old-fashioned idea our grandmothers pressed on us? Courtesy. Perhaps I’ve oversimplified it. I digress.
If courtesy is the motivating force behind our greeting, and generosity is the animating force, then we will naturally want to adorn the entrance with beautiful objects (beautiful doesn’t equal ornate; beautiful can be quite simple) because these convey the beauty within, and suggest the dignity imbued in the atmosphere of the home. And these beautiful objects that the guest’s eyes first track across also convey to your guest that the objects are placed there with careful consideration. You put them there for your guest – because each and every guest, without exception, was made in His image. Each and every guest that enters through your entryway is worthy. Consider that as you consider the furnishings and embellishments in your entryway.
Formal and ostentatiousness are not required in the entryway; beauty, generosity, and courtesy are.
An Awareness of Grace & Glory
When I consider these grand elements – generosity, courtesy, beauty – how can I not be affected? These aren’t lofty nor unreachable. I could argue that they are necessary, civilized, perhaps even cultural anchors.
The ornamentation and beautiful objects in an entryway should be chosen with consideration of the family economy. One very simple and well-considered object can lift a room and express beauty. I imagine the dwelling place of the Holy Family. Its furnishings were the simplest and most humble, yet they were enough for the King of Kings to enjoy. I imagine the Blessed Mother arranged everything with great consideration so that she could exercise hospitality and welcome. If your family economy necessitates the same frugality, know that you are in the best of company.
The placement of furniture and beautiful objects will signify the beauty within. All of it begins to weave space together. These rooms and spaces used to be empty containers, but rightly considered and appointed, they become a home. A home which contains all of the ordinary acts that take place within it. And all of those actions and expressions find their source and end in persons – each of us made in the image of God – which makes all of this ordinary stuff…holy. And it all begins in the entryway.
Edited to add: Look what Joanna Gaines is talking about in issue no. 6 of The Magnolia Journal!
Next week, I hope to be back with the next post in this series: the living room. Join me!
As you wait, perhaps you’d like to take a look at the action-questions printable. These questions spring from the ideas Mr. Howard shared, and my humble explorations, from the chapter on the entryway. Remember, these questions are for your consideration and perhaps confiding in your spouse. Some of them may prompt or invite action. If they aren’t a blessing, please ignore them!
Click on the image to download and print the printable.
Use the green PRINT button at the bottom of this post to print.