Beth Pearson, author of The Coorie Home

RESEARCH has established a clear link between the quality of your environment and your mental health and where better to start than your front door? Something as simple as giving it a fresh coat of paint can benefit your physical and mental health.

A study led by academics from the University of Glasgow revealed how the front door can represent both the security and the personality of your home. For example, painting your front door translates your approach to interior style to the outside of your home. And when that front door is visible to passers-by it can communicate many things to those who choose to look.

The hanging of a wreath can symbolise a celebration of Christmas; a bower of orange flowers a Sikh wedding. It’s a delight to see a neighbourly symbiosis when a cluster of houses coordinates the colour schemes of their front doors.

As well as the more traditional doormat, many homes in Scotland have Georgian boot scrapers to remove mud from your footwear before entering the home. This almost ritualistic removal of the earth speaks of the deep connection Scottish homes have always had to the land.

Northern Irish illustrator Alison Soye, who stays in Edinburgh, is known for her fascination with beautiful front doors. As we wandered through a wee back street between Bonnington and Broughton, she explained what intrigues her about them and what she has become aware of through her art and her photography.

What intrigues you about front doors?

How people "dress them" in different ways – painting their doors, adding beautiful door numbers and quirky gates. I also love how the doors are often adapted to seasons and events – for example, Christmas and autumn wreaths, Halloween decorations and even balloons for birthdays. I feel that in a lot of areas in Scotland people take pride in their front doors, as it's their one way to make an impression on their home.

What do you think you can learn about a person from their front door?

I think you can learn a lot about a person's creative mind by how their front door looks. For instance, they might have a really bright, colourful paint colour if they have a loud personality. A traditional doorway might show a person appreciates the history and heritage of their country. An uncared-for doorway, and peeling paint, might show that a person perhaps cannot afford or doesn't have the time to maintain it. Or perhaps it is just not a priority. You can sometimes see the opposite of this in the pride lots of retired people take in maintaining immaculate doorways and front gardens.

What have you learned about Edinburgh and Scotland from studying and photographing doors?

I have learned how traditional and historical Edinburgh and Scotland might have looked as many of the doors have been so well preserved. I have also learned how buildings and doorways are very important in establishing a sense of pride in homes, businesses and historical, national buildings.

How do you think someone could at a low cost improve their front door?

Paint. Natural seasonal wreaths – holly, ivy, pine cones for Christmas; red and orange leaves and acorns for autumn; fresh green leaves for spring or summer.

Simply keeping the front door clean and clear of bins or debris can also make a big difference.

From closes to traditional blackhouses, Beth traces the development of the Scottish home.


If you are planning on building your own home – or simply renting or buying a property – take a compass with you. The following rule of thumb was taken from the indigenous blackhouses that were still being built into the 19th century.

The positioning of the blackhouse was vital; it made a significant contribution to the warmth of the interior. Its rounded, narrow gable end faced the prevailing wind, and any openings, such as the door, were placed on the south-facing side towards the sun. You might prefer to swap things round, though, so your outside space, whether front garden, back yard or balcony, is the area that catches the sun's rare rays.

These blackhouse stipulations are echoed in the Gaelic proverb.

"An iar's an ear, an dachaigh as 'fhearr – cul ri gaoith, 's aghaidh ri grein."

"East to west, the house that's best – back to the wind and face to the sun."


Up until 1700, in the older Scottish tongue, coorie or ecurie referred to the Royal Stables. This evolved into the concept we might recognise today: to stoop or crouch for protection, to nestle, to embrace. Similarly, another prominent Scottish term evolved to become central to many living situations: close.

A "close" was originally an enclosed space adjoining a house. Off the Royal Mile in Edinburgh are many fascinating closes that give a glimpse of what it would have been like in the medieval city. Situated within the former town walls, they intentionally gave inhabitants protection and peace of mind, as they are framed with tall buildings and not well known to those who don't live there.

Many of these closes have evocative names that speak of their former uses such as Fleshmarket Close and World's End Close. The meaning of the word "close" later shifted to signify a central area which farm houses and buildings communed around. Nowadays, we think of it as a narrow alley or the communal stairwell of a block of tenement flats.

In industrialised cities in Scotland, there are a huge range of closes. A "wally close", for example, was a sign of social superiority, as this meant the communal inside space was tiled with beautiful pale ceramics. The argument for tiling the stair was that it made upkeep and cleaning easier.

While poorer tenement blocks had simple gloss paint adorning the walls – with darker paint below and paler above; again, the darker paint was there to disguise the scuff of boot-and hand-prints.

This is how a "close" is defined in the Tenements (Scotland) Act 2004:

i. Be within a tenement building; ii. Include a stair or landing and iii. Constitute common access to two or more flats.


A tenement close is such a unique space. In every one I walk into – whether it's in Glasgow or Aberdeen – I am captivated by the unique tiling or paintwork. The other fascinating element of a close is how each resident chooses to utilise the space surrounding their front door. Whether it be a doormat with a welcoming slogan or a little note for the delivery man, a row of flowerpots on the banister or a hand-painted tile with a flat number, I find this personalisation speaks to the very human need to claim and personalise our space, even when it is temporary.

I love reading the different names listed next to the buzzers, then repeated up the stairwell. It's a great expression of how diverse many Scottish communities are. It also tells of intimate histories, of families settled and dispersed. A Czech friend of mine enjoyed showing me the old nameplate fixed next to the buzzers in a Leith tenement printed with the name of her husband's great-grandfather; many years later, she and her family lived not 200 metres away in a very similar building.

Many people heroically use their front door space to the max by surrounding it with thriving, trailing plants as well as storing bikes, shoes and buggies. This reflects a certain level of trust and camaraderie between neighbours and perhaps indicates further nuances in their relationships. I always find tenement closes intriguing; often the items kept outside doorways echo what many home owners without closes keep within their homes on the other side of the front door. Just like a well-used front step, open porch or garden, you can learn so much about someone from how they personalise and populate such a small space.

A friend who works as a school's outdoors coordinator keeps all his sporting equipment at his front door just as you enter his home. You are immediately met with three bikes and enough sets of skis to start a ski school. It feels like he is trying to bring the outdoors into his home and, arguably, he is succeeding.

My family home in North Berwick has an incredible, unique entranceway. As you open the front door, you enter into an architectural fusion of stone elements from a medieval abbey that once stood near to the plot. The design unites these with replica stones that finish the vestibule, creating a space with an almost spiritual calm. When the old and new meet in an interior or exterior design, it seems that the fusion emulates Scotland and creates a distinct coorie feel. This remarkable atmosphere and sense of history present in the now make draughts, leaks and the damp worth it.

Make Your Own No-Sew Draught Excluder

Got any old trousers lying around? Jeans nearing the end of their life are perfect for this. For smaller draught excluders, long sleeved tops are equally as good.

You will need:

Tape measure

Sharp scissors

Old long-sleeved tops or trousers that you were going to throw away. Jeans are great to use as

the fabric is nice and robust

Something to stuff it with: toy or pillow stuffing,

Old socks, wool or packaging from delivery boxes are fab

Optional: string or ribbon


1. Start by measuring the door you want to make the draught excluder for. You need to measure the width and depth to make sure it fits snugly (to exclude those draughts!) and so that you won't trip over it.

2. Think about the floor on which your draught excluder will sit – if it's in a 'high traffic' area it could get quite grubby. Darker fabrics are therefore ideal.

3. Cut the sleeves or legs off of your garment of choice, so they are as close to your measurements as possible.

4. From the remaining fabric cut strips that are as long as possible and ideally 2cm wide.

5. Take a leg or sleeve of fabric, and either use the strips of remaining fabric or your preferred string /ribbon and tie one end closed.

6. Stuff it with your chosen material until it is pretty firm but not too stiff or solid.

7. Then tie the other end of the draught excluder closed and squish the sausage into shape.

8. That's it – you're finished! Now you can enjoy a draught-free, coorie night in.

The Coorie Home by Beth Pearson, with photography by Ciara Menzies, is published by Black and White, priced £14.99