Adding a gate was not an open-and-shut case for John and Rebecca Hudson.
The Atlanta couple, who live in historic Grant Park, wanted a gate to echo the period of their 1912 house and reflect their newfound interest in a garden.
The Hudsons thought they would have to go to Charleston, S.C., known for its elegant ironwork, to find a skilled tradesman for the job.
But on a visit to the Atlanta Botanical Garden, the Hudsons discovered a craftsman closer to home: Andrew T. Crawford of Atlanta-based Andrew T. Crawford Ironworks.
After a meeting to discuss the project, Crawford designed and made a front-entry gate of forged and fabricated steel. He added decorative details, including a bird, butterfly and snail.
“I like how it provides a visual separation between our house and garden and the street,” said John, a math teacher at Decatur High School. “Rebecca likes to say she feels blessed by the gate every time she passes through it. It lightens her day.”
Open or closed, gates are outdoor doorways. They welcome family and friends to your house or garden. They separate one outside area from another. Or keep children and pets in (or out).
“A gate has a job to do,” said Rick Spitzmiller of Atlanta-based Spitzmiller and Norris, a residential design firm, “but it can add character to your exterior design as long as its style and materials are appropriate and harmonious.”
While an attractive gate can add curb appeal, gates (and fencing) are in demand as American homeowners continue to add outdoor living spaces for entertaining and recreation, according to a 2013 survey by the American Society of Landscape Architects.
Whether you opt for wrought-iron or classic white pickets, there is a kaleidoscope of details, including your budget, to consider when choosing a gate. For help, consider these tips from Spitzmiller, houzz.com and the American Fence Association, a trade group.
- Function: Some gates are imposing and impenetrable, but many are designed to contain, deter and invite. Gates can add privacy or personality. They also can make a first impression or be a practical way to divide or transition from one area to another. Some gates are designed to stand open. Others don’t move and are framed (to add interest) and to look operable. Decide what you want a gate to do.
- Materials. Gates can be made from wood (cedar or pressure-treated pine), iron, composite wood, PVC lumber, ornamental aluminum, vinyl, color-coated chain link, and steel (stainless and weathered). A gate’s function, however, may influence the materials. For privacy, opt for a wooden gate. For security, a wrought iron with open views may work.
“The durability of the materials is important,” Spitzmiller said. “Choose the best material you can afford.”
- Style. A gate should blend with the architectural style, exterior construction materials and the size of the home if it is in a high-profile location. Or a gate can be a focal point of an area. A gate’s design can be simple or ornate, large or small, open or solid — wood or wrought iron. In some cases, a flea-market find, such as a weathered door, works as a gate.
- Size. While the typical size of the garden gate is around 3-4 feet wide, the function of the gate often affects its size and style. A side-yard gate may require a wider opening so you can move a lawn mower or the garbage cans from the back to the front yard. The height of the gate depends on how prominent you want it to be: An entry gate might be taller or shorter than the fence it intersects; a side gate could be the same height as the fence, according to bhg.com.
- Hardware. Use quality, heavy-duty hardware, especially if gates are in high-traffic areas. Durable and attractive gate handles, hinges, knobs and latches will increase the appeal and lifetime of a gate. If the gate is to keep small children and pets in, add a self-locking latch.
- Color. Picket fences don’t have to be white. To blur boundaries, paint your gate (and fence) a shade or two darker than your home. Moss or Charleston Green (can look black), dusty blues and grays are other options.
- Features. Lighting, windows, slatted tops, finials or ornamental tops can customize a gate. Other features to consider include a pergola, an arbor with climbing roses and a low, peek-a-boo window for pets. Also popular are gates outfitted with locks that are opened by keys or keypad and automated entry systems, especially for driveway gates.