Using Doors to Create a Sense of Place

Using Doors to Create a Sense of Place

One goal of design is often to create a sense of place. A sense of place encompasses the characteristics that make a locale special or unique, whether we’re talking about the lobby of a building or a whole city block. In an increasingly digital and virtual world, people long for a sense of physical belonging. 

In a commercial building, a sense of place is the accumulated effect of multiple touch points creating an overall “vibe.” Doors, an omnipresent feature in any built environment literally connect the different spaces within a building and so, they contribute significantly to a sense of place.

Why is a sense of Place Important?

Research presented at the Places and Technologies conference in Slovenia stated, “There is an undeniable link between the qualities of place and people’s relation to it, and their mental health, or well-being in general.” The paper goes on to describe how the “unique ecological, architectural, historic, or geographic features  contribute  to emotional  health,  satisfaction, and well-being of a local community.”

The concept applies to any location where human beings spend time, indoors or out. In a healthcare facility, for example, the way visitors experience the environment can directly affect their wellbeing. The hospitality industry has fully embraced the pursuit of a sense of place, so we will focus on it.

A Sense of Place in Hospitality

Hilton Hotel Project Masonite Architectural

Hospitality Net calls a sense of place a “branding imperative” in hospitality design. The design experts at Sherwin Williams add, “Hospitality design has always been about conjuring a sense of place. That’s even truer today, as cities everywhere are being reshaped by an eat local, shop local movement.”

When designing a hotel or resort, this concept is important to keep in mind. Hospitality companies wish to give their guests an immersive experience they will remember. Even large hotel chains are seeking to make each of their properties reflect the history and personality of their local communities

With interior doors needed for such a range of uses in a hospitality project, each one needs to be approached with the sense of place in mind.

Door Characteristics that Contribute to a Sense of Place


The material used for a door sets the tone for its aesthetic and performance considerations. Incredibly versatile, wood can create an ambience from rustic to sophisticated, from historic to modern. Lighter color wood doors and natural stains contribute to a more rustic, warm, or homey look. Exotic wood doors and high shine give a more classy appearance. There is also a lot of versatility to be found with different wood cuts and facing.

Laminates and other smooth door surfaces can create a modern or industrial feeling, or serve as a canvas for eye-popping colors and designs. Other unique touches, like router carved MDF or metal inlays, make for memorable visuals that make a strong impression on hotel guests.


The style of the doors further sets the tone for a hotel. A flush wood door conveys a different feeling than a stile and rail door. Door hardware, from simple to decorative, completes the look of a door that you want to achieve. Even security features play into the experience — think Disney’s “MagicBands” that allow visitors to scan in and out of their guestrooms, among numerous other functions.


A color palette sets the foundation for a whole design, supporting a hotel’s brand and also its sense of place. Interior doors can be specified in colors that make them blend seamlessly with their surroundings or “pop” for a dramatic look. Custom color options for wood doors make the possibilities endless.

Other Elements 

These are just a few of the ways in which doors contribute to a sense of place. They can also play a role in how a space is lit. For example, their placement or the gloss of their finish can reflect light around a space, while glass lites can facilitate the passage of light from one room to the next.

Even the size of a door makes an impression. For example, a larger door can add a sense of grandeur, or can be left open to create flow among ballrooms or banquet facilities. 

The doors you specify in a hospitality project will affect how guests and employees will experience that space for years to come. Chosen thoughtfully as part of an overall vision, they will indeed help to create a sense of place that makes that hotel or resort entirely unique.

Explore Masonite Architectural’s hospitality door options for your next project.