The First Thing You See - Why Gate Design Is Important

The gate picks up elements of the house creating a unified look.

The gate picks up elements of the house creating a unified look.

As my car drives around the corner of a large house in Atherton, with an ivy encrusted wall surrounding the property, I look over to see what could only be compared to a door borrowed from Alcatraz, as a driveway gate. Cold, bland and freckled with rust, this barred monolith did nothing to inspire and everything to repel. Peering through the grill, I almost expected a prisoner to be dragging his tin cup slowly across the bars while cursing the guards name. However, behind this beastly barricade lies a beautiful English tutor-style mansion. Millions of dollars in beauty, and gate that looked like a couple hundred bucks. When designing, building and maintaining a beautiful property one might ask if this the first thing you want people to see? Probably not, as it is an overall detractor and missed opportunity to created something amazing as an entry and as a welcoming feature to the property.

It is important to consider a number of key aspects to your gate design including but no always limited to materials, design and surrounding.


What are the materials related holistically to the house? Not necessary the materials the make-up the house, but what is the vibe of the property. For example, if a house is a modern ecological. with the use of natural woods, fibers and stone, you probably would not want to use a picketed black iron gate because there is not just a lack of carry-over in appearance, but their is an outright disconnect. In this scenario, you might like to bring in the element of using a weathering steel that will create a beautiful rusted patina over time, helping create the integrated look of the natural materials in the house and property. Alternative to matching the property is accenting the materials with a punctuation mark that is clearly designed to bring attention to the gate similarly to a front door painted red on a house painted in a simple black and white motif.


Thinking about what the architecture of the gate looks like, it would certainly be more cohesive to match a house style with the gate. Introducing a mismatched style of home architecture and gate design may look out of place and cheap. Why cheap? Having a designated property style and introducing a different style gate (think classic farmhouse with medieval design) looks like you got a good deal on some steel instead of actually creating the gate as a natural extension of the property architecture. While introducing whimsy to interior decorations or using it as property adornments, it seems to rarely work on gates. That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with material, color or accents, but it is important to not go off the reservation with offbeat design that will only serve to confuse.


Your gate should be beautiful but also subtle to the surroundings. Sure the gate is the first thing people will see when they drive up to your property, but use the gate as an extended accent to the main house or the surroundings if the house can’t be seen from the gate. It should be an element, and not the main attraction. If the property has graceful lines and elements the most beautiful gate will also carry these elements. There are times when gates should be imposing and create '“protective drama”, but your house is not a prison or airport and as such. the gate should be securely functional, but designed to extend the visualscape of the nearby environment. This is equally important when considering nearby properties, even if your house is state-of-the-art modern in concrete and glass, your neighbor might have a more classical look. You are looking for balance on a visual plane. Considering the drive down the road and looking at your neighbors gates, it might make some sense to bring a balanced approach that reflects the look of the neighborhood with the look you desire to tie-in the design of your own property elements. Your neighbors will appreciate it and your gate won’t look weird or out of place.

Great gates come from a measured eye which understands the union of security and beauty to create a visual pleasing extension of your house, property and neighborhood.

Greg Holsen