Depending on whether someone is coming straight from their office, returning from an appointment or errand, the store where they picked up grocery items for dinner, the mall, the gym, or elsewhere - or if they are a visitor carrying a dessert or other items for a party they are attending - people may have a backpack, brief case, folders or envelopes from the office, gym bag or workout equipment, mail that they picked up at the street on the way in, fast food they stopped to get for the family, a soft drink or cup of coffee they are still drinking, a bottle of water, a cell phone, and possibly more.
What is needed is a place - a surface where people can set down what they are holding or carrying and free up their hands to open the door (or unlock it first if required). Some people have an informal location near the back door where their kids deposit all of their book bags and other items from school. They label such a place where things are dropped off as the "drop zone." It might be a shelf, cabinet, table, other piece of furniture or just the floor.
Used in reverse, this is a place where delivery people can leave or retrieve a package that is coming or going. It's where a neighbor can leave something when the person they are calling on isn't home.
Many people call this place where we can leave items at the front door (but it's also useful at other exterior doors as well) an "entry shelf" because it is a small shelf affixed to the wall near the doorway. However, this can be limiting in both its design and usefulness. Let's consider this as an "entry station" or "entrance station" instead to signify that it can be varied with multiple looks and personalities and that it can be personalized to the occupants of the home. It can be much more than just a shelf. It can be something hung on the wall - shelves, hooks, or racks - as a unit or detached and done separately.
The entry station can be a piece of furniture - a table, a bench, a chair, a cabinet, a desk, or anything else that can have a flat surface on it (among other surfaces or cubbies). A planting table is a great idea. Depending on what it is, people can sit on it, have a conversation there with a neighbor or visitor perhaps, talk on the phone, read a email or check their emails, or display plant or colorful glassware or other collectibles.
Consider going to a second-hand or thrift store or to an unfinished furniture outlet and purchasing some inexpensive tables, desks, dressers, or cabinets that can be painted or finished to withstand an outdoor environment and presenting this to our clients.
The entrance station is quite versatile and a great addition to any home.
Steve Hoffacker, CAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist-Master Instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555. Also check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.