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Column: In Laguna Beach, every door (and mind) is meant to be opened

The alluring red door of Laguna.
(Photo by Dave Hansen)

There are several reasons the red door speaks to people.

But first, let me explain the context.

Every day I watch people walk by the red door from my second-floor home office in Laguna Beach. And every day I see people stop.

Invariably, they do the double-take. One minute they’re briskly walking down the sidewalk, perhaps eager to get to the beach, museum or cafe. And the next minute they’re stopping in their tracks.

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If they’re with someone, they make the other person stop too and share the moment. Their arms gesture excitedly. They point and marvel, as if they are analyzing a painting. Often, they pull out their smartphones and take a photo of themselves in front of the door at 261 Aster St.

At first I didn’t think much of it. OK, it’s a nice, colorful door. People are easy to please.

But then I realized that the door was more than paint and wood. It had to be. There were reasons it captured people’s attention.

For one thing, the shape is unusual, concave at the top, which makes it soft and alluring. Doors are rarely curved. They are rectangular, hard and boring, made for keeping things out.

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This door, however, is more inviting. While decorative, it is still purposeful and strong.

The archway above it is made of river rocks, but not those hallow, half-built fake ones. It arcs in a swooping convex, mirroring the door.

The effect makes it seem like some kind of whimsical Renaissance gateway, a portal to something festive, if not magically better. Beyond it is a mystery because of a large hedge, blocking insight into the otherness.

The rocks brace the sides of the door, planting the entire structure into the earth, as if it always was and always will be.

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The permanence is comforting.

In an age when cookie-cutter houses have desperate, bolt-on facades and pointless lawns, this entryway has meaning. It’s purposeful, proud and timeless.

Because it is so poised, it doesn’t need extraneous landscaping. Its only flourish is a single, startling red rose to one side.

The flower’s redness seems eternal, matching the illustrious color of the door as if they share some anthropomorphic connection.

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This simplicity of design — the graceful curves, the juxtaposition of wood and rock, the delightful contrast — is what draws people in.

Art does that.

And people can’t help themselves.

The power to literally stop people in their tracks comes from unexpected simple beauty. Whether man-made or natural, elegant design always wins hearts.

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The fact that people want to take a picture of themselves in front of someone else’s random door is testament to that.

They want to remember it. They want to be next to it, touch it, absorb its power.

If you think about it relative to great art, it’s not unusual. There are countless dissertations on art and emotion, from psychological impacts to biological changes.

For example, the most common reaction to fine art in museums, especially sculptures, is touch, according to museum officials. People instinctively want to touch things for a deeper connection.

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Uncluttered, classical design with symmetrical curves and strong lines has always resonated with people. Any architect will tell you the same thing.

The key is to create the object, whatever it is, with authenticity, understatement but with a splash of personality. When you do that, you get the red door, which exudes humility and fun.

All of this fits with the culture of Laguna, which at its best freely offers these character-driven, private moments of engagement.

By its nature, independent and quirky, it’s a red door that automatically invites you in.

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By definition, because you believe in “what if,” you are already on the party list so wear a hat and enter.

You are, after all, in Laguna Beach, where every door is meant to be opened.

DAVID HANSEN is a writer and Laguna Beach resident. He can be reached at hansen.dave@gmail.com.


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