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Have you ever driven around in a neighborhood and noticed all of the red doors on houses? Maybe you were looking for a new home to live in or you were just driving around for the fun of it.
Regardless of the reason, the number of homes with red doors stood out to you and you wondered whether there was something more to it other than aesthetics – some kind of meaning.
Houses with red doors do have special meaning, and the color can refer to one of five things:
- A sign of good luck
- A home is protected
- A home is paid for
- A home is safe
Painting your front door red can add curb appeal to your home, but it can also have a variety of meanings, depending on the culture you live in and the time period the door was originally painted.
Let’s explore all of the meanings in more detail to see what the deal is with the red door significance.
1. A Red Door Means “Welcome”
In Feng Shui, a house with a red door signifies that people are welcome.
Feng shui – which is literally translated as “wind water” in English – is a practice from ancient China where practitioners believe that things can be arranged in different patterns and different colors can be used to harmonize people with their environment. The use of red on the front door of a home is one of many methods that are used in the ancient practice to create harmony.
A red door house was also used as a signal to weary travelers in early America. Traveling in those days wasn’t easy. Traveling by horse and buggy isn’t exactly the same as spending a few hours on the interstate in a sedan. The red door signified that the home welcomed tired travelers. It was a place where they could get some rest and spend the night.
A red door is meant to be inviting. It tells people who approach that the people who live in the home are friendly to visitors and welcome them. This is the reason why so many doormats are red – to welcome people into the home.
When you think about it, doesn’t a house with a red door look inviting? I don’t know about you, but I think that front doors that are white or brown don’t convey the same sense of warmth. They just don’t resonate “welcome” to me. Red, on the other hand, is a warm color. Not only that, but I think red doors improve the overall looks of most homes.
2. A Red Door Means “Good Luck”
In Chinese tradition, red is considered a lucky color. To celebrate the Chinese New Year, many doors are painted red (or are repainted if the existing paint has faded).
The Chinese also believe that the color red wards away evil. Because of this, red is a very popular color in China and it is very common at family celebrations, festivals, and other events.
Red isn’t the only color in Chinese culture that has significant meaning. Black, green, white, and yellow also have meaning, too.
Red is also considered a “good luck” color in other cultures, too. Red wedding dresses, for example, are common in China, India, Pakistan, and Vietnam.
3. A Red Door Means “Protection”
This, in my opinion, is the more interesting red door symbolism. The idea behind a red door indicating that a home is protected comes from the Old Testament. It’s a meaning derived from Christianity.
In the Book of Exodus, God helps the Israelites escape from Egyptian slavery by inflicting a series of ten plagues on the Egyptians. The tenth plague involved the death of all of the firstborn of every household and livestock.
However, God gave the Israelites a way to protect their homes and families from this plague. The Israelites were instructed to put the blood of a slaughtered lamb or young goat on their doorposts. When judgment was executed on the Egyptians, the blood on the doorposts served as a sign for that house to be passed over and the residents spared.
Many churches today have their doors painted red as a symbol of God’s protection. It’s one of those things that most people don’t realize or pay any attention to, but the symbolism is definitely there.
A church with a red door also symbolizes the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the cross. Many of the cathedrals that were built during the Middle Ages, for example, are filled with symbolism. Red was painted on the north, south, and east doors of these cathedrals, making the sign of the cross.
A theory as to why many protestant church doors are painted red, especially Lutheran churches, is because the church that Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses to – Wittenburg Cathedral in Wittenburg, Germany – were red. The red doors symbolize that a church is a church of the Reformation.
The next time you see a church with a red front door, you’ll know what it symbolizes and you will be reminded of its Biblical references.
4. A Red Door Means a “Home Is Paid For”
The fourth most common meaning of a red door is that it signifies that a home is completely paid for. There is no mortgage on it. This is a tradition that originated in Scotland. Painting a door red was a Scot’s way of telling everyone that the family home was owned outright and that no debt was owed on it.
But, why the color red? Why not blue, green, yellow, or something else?
The reason why people painted their doors red is because in those days red was the most expensive color of paint you could buy. Because you no longer had to spend money on a mortgage, you now had some free money to indulge in other things – like pricey paint.
Although these days there is no difference in price in different colors of paint (unless you buy a different brand or type), many still like to paint their front doors red after they make their last mortgage payment. It’s a way of celebrating.
The word “mortgage,” by the way, originates from French law and literally means “death contract.” I think most will agree that getting rid of a “death contract” is a good enough reason to celebrate.
5. A Red Door Means “Safety”
Another important meaning of a red front door is that a home is safe.
This meaning came about during the time of the Underground Railroad when it was necessary to have a way to signal that a home was safe for those escaping slavery. These homes would provide lodging and meals to those seeking refuge in the north as well as hide and protect them from those who would turn them in.
The Underground Railroad operated from the early to mid-19th century. Various routes led African-American slaves to free states in the north and to Canada. Although it’s impossible to know exactly how many escaped to freedom through the Underground Railroad, estimates put the number at 100,000 by 1850.
Not Just for Looks
Did you realize there were so many different meanings for a house with a red door? It can be a welcome to weary travelers, a sign of good luck, a sign that a house is protected, a sign that a house is paid for, and a signal that a home is safe.
One thing that you’ve probably noticed is that all of the red door meanings are positive. None of them are bad. A red door is pretty much universally accepted around the world as a good thing.
This means if you are thinking about painting your door red, you don’t have to worry about offending people from another culture or conveying a negative meaning to people who visit your home.
It’s all good.
In addition to having many positive meanings, red doors also add significant curb appeal to homes. You can take an otherwise ordinary home and paint the door red, and suddenly it looks better. It stands out. It doesn’t look as dreary as the white or brown door it replaced.
Painting your front door red is an easy project that can make a very big difference in your home’s appearance. It’s a project that can be completed in a day, and all it takes is a little bit of inexpensive paint and a paintbrush. With just a little bit of effort, you can make a change to your home that will last for many years.
Albert Einstein’s Red Front Door
There is one last red door meaning that I want to mention that is specific to one person. It’s a nice, humorous way to end this article. I’m referring to the red door on the home of Albert Einstein.
Why did a man with such an incredible mind paint his door red?
To remind him where he lived. Einstein apparently had trouble remembering which house was his and had his front door painted red to help him differentiate his home from all of the others.