A front door with sidelight proves the power of a first impression

DIYer Cass Smith gives her front door a refresh as the final step in an exterior renovation. 
Cass Smith looking out Andersen black residential entry door on white brick house
Cass Smith had already taken on some major exterior renovation projects. The inspiring DIYer behind Cass Makes Home had painted her exterior a creamy white and her garage door an inky black. She had widened her front steps and given them a facelift with a layer of warm red brick pavers. Everything was updated and polished, except the front door. It was a solid black door without a window or much ornamentation at all. The only light that shined into her entryway was through a small sidelight window. Cass decided a new front door with sidelight was what she needed to complete her exterior refresh and transform the entrance to her home. Keep reading to find out how she went about selecting the perfect door, right down to the last detail.
Before and after of Cass Smith's exterior with new Andersen residential entry door with glass
Where she is now (left) and where she started (right):
The new front door features lots of glass and sleek contemporary hardware for an updated look, while the grilles add a touch of tradition.

Where to begin picking out a new front door

Cass knew she wanted a door that blended “traditional and modern” styles. To figure out just the right door, she spent time on Pinterest searching for inspiration. As she was perusing, she kept the big picture in mind. How would her new front door work with her exterior color, accent color, brick walkway and landscaping?

Considering all these factors, she decided to stick with the existing color. A black door would keep her high-contrast color scheme going, but she also wanted an updated door style. “I knew that clean lines and a modern style was the way to go because we have a lot of traditional elements on the exterior of our house,” she said. With this as her starting point, she began digging into the details.
Exterior of Cass Smith of Cass Makes Home house featuring Andersen residential entry door

Door style

Cass chose a Straightline 181-style front door with a glass panel and a sidelight for an updated look that also brightened up her entryway. She mixed in traditional (grilles) and contemporary (hardware) elements to create the right look.

Did you know? Our front doors are handmade of wood. They can be painted, stained or clad in aluminum on the exterior (for weather resistance). They come in both single and double-door options and can be configured to swing outward or inward. Learn more about our front doors.


To match her home's traditional features and complement her windows, Cass chose to add grilles to her door’s glass panel. She selected a colonial grille pattern, which divides glass symmetrically into squares.

Did you know? Grilles are decorative patterns applied to the glass. They don’t actually disrupt the glass, which is better from an energy savings perspective, but they do add a touch of architectural interest. Grilles are available in various patterns (complementary to different architectural styles) and can be applied to the glass in a number of different ways (exterior and interior, interior only, etc.). Find out more about the grille options available on our windows and doors.


To achieve the perfect mix of traditional and modern, Cass balanced the decision to include grilles by opting for a contemporary door handle. She chose Modern FSB hardware, which features clean lines and a sleek matte finish of black anodized aluminum. And it’s not just nice to look at, this handle has a smart locking feature built into the handle — pull up to lock and push down to unlock!

Did you know? If you’re wondering what the difference is between traditional and contemporary hardware styles, here are some clues. Ridges, curves and textured details are more traditional characteristics, while sleek lines, right angles and minimal profiles are more contemporary characteristics. Bright brass (like Cass had on her old front door) and distressed bronze are two types of finishes that look great in a traditional setting, while matte stainless steel and black aluminum (like on Cass’ new front door) are finishes that lend a more modern look.


To brighten up her entryway, Cass selected a new sidelight to replace the existing one. Her old sidelight had tall top and bottom rails (the horizontal part of the window frame), which ended up blocking light. So when it came time to select the new one, Cass chose a sidelight with an ultra-narrow frame. “My entryway feels so fresh and inviting now,” she said. She also opted for a specified equal light grille pattern to mirror the grille pattern on the door.

Did you know? A sidelight is a tall, narrow window next to a window or a door that can be configured in all sorts of ways and in all sorts of styles. While it’s a great way to let in more natural light, it’s not the only way. If you don’t have space for a sidelight, consider a transom window, which sits above a door. Find out more about front doors with sidelights and transoms.
Before and after of Cass Smith's interior: Andersen residential entry door
The new sidelight (left) next to Cass’ front door starts at the floor and features an ultra-narrow frame to maximize the amount of natural light in her entryway.

Feeling inspired?

A front door refresh is a relatively simple project that adds long-lasting quality to your home, while also boosting curb appeal. As Cass put it, a new front door “has a huge impact on the look and feel of your home and its first impression.”

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