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Keypads on Doors Opening Up New Way of Thinking

May 31, 2018 09:00PM ● Published by Matthew Schlueb

One of the houses I have been renovating had new exterior doors installed last week. Exterior doors are typically one of the last things to go in to avoid the wear and tear by subcontractors during construction. Even after temporary doors are replaced with the final doors, a temporary handle and lockset are often used until the job is complete, to keep house keys out of the hands of laborers and deliveries coming and going. 

On this particular job, the homeowner opted for handle sets with a keypad, so the entry combination could be changed once the renovations were done. Keypad handle sets are not new; they have been used on vacation rentals for years. However, what is new is their use on homes. Fueled by an Airbnb culture, in a social sharing society, home is changing from a place to lock away one's lifetime of treasures, to a stage set for maximizing rental rates. The new generation no longer lives in a private space of their own; they are accustomed to existing within public spaces shared with others.

Maybe with fewer valuables to lock away, or I would argue less value placed on material things, the idea of home is becoming something very different. The founder of Airbnb sold his own home to live a life traveling from house to house listed on his company's website. This may have been an act of marketing showmanship, but what I find interesting is the lifestyle he is trying to promote—no longer one of settling down, working to pay off a mortgaged house, into retirement and one's final days. On the contrary, he is reviving the migratory instincts of our early ancestors, people whose valuables could be carried on their backs.

A recent study has found signs of segregation in the rental habits of Airbnb. People tend to share with those of similar ethnicity, economic class or political leanings. This is not surprising, as it is much easier to turn over your home to someone that holds your values. The surprise comes in the fact that our new social sharing world is not as free-spirited as billed. Much of the age-old preconceptions and biases carry over. Maybe this is what the Airbnb founder was counting on—the objects we collect may change over time, but human nature, our drive to explore new horizons, will always be a part of us. 

Maybe our homes could do more to facilitate those desires to travel, and not just be a repository for the souvenirs we bring home. There is certainly something satisfying about organizing all of one's necessary items into a bag thrown over a shoulder, whether it is one made of Italian leather stitched in an old-world tradition or a waxed canvas bag more popular with the young trendsetters. Either way, to do so is a deliberate act, selective of the objects surrounding one's environment. It is a minimalist aesthetic, preferring utility and versatility in simple, reliable things.

Much of that sentiment translates into the therapeutic effect one feels by decluttering their home. There is no shortage of online gurus touting a 10-step method, which speaks to our underlying compulsions appeased by a consumer marketplace. My own home is no exception. I find it a continual effort keeping everything at bay. Our front door may have a ring knocker for a handle, but it also comes with a keyed lock, doing nothing to break a collecting habit.

And maybe that is the answer—questioning the locked door. I grew up in a house where doors were never locked. Friends and family would come and go freely, unrestricted by an unlocked door. Some may say that was a different time, things were safer, everyone knew their neighbors, kids on the block played together. Who doesn't look back on those days with fond nostalgia? My question is—why couldn't those days return? What are we afraid of, that we must live behind locked doors? And, could an Airbnb lifestyle, sharing homes, remove some of that fear? Or do we lose something else by sanitizing our homes for someone else's use?

Our ancestors traveling from place to place carried locked boxes, rather than living within one. Before locks were invented, life's treasures were hidden away. But today, we are the ones doing the hiding, not our possessions. In a digital age, valuables are not kept behind lock and key. Access is granted by numeric accounts and key codes, so it is no wonder keypads have found their way to our doors.

And this changing nature of a home is just one manifestation of a changing society. As cars become self-driving, traffic lights will be a relic of driving’s early days. If a car picks you up and drops you off at the curb of your destination, no more parking hassles, what will it matter if it is your car or a shared car? The car is merely a vehicle, providing a service, fulfilling a function. The house is no different—its role is changing right before our eyes.

As new technologies and apps reveal to us the true nature of a house by shifting the way we use it, the functions it provides us, many of the things we historically associate with a home, like a front door lockset, will suddenly seem antiquated. The social sharing generation understands that a house is just a house, the trinkets inside are just trinkets. The things that really matter in life can’t be locked in a box or stolen away. Once you have that realization, a house becomes something very different. And the idea of locks on exterior doors seems to lock in a mindset more than anything else.

Matthew Schlueb is a registered architect and owner of SCHLUEBarchitecture. For questions or comments, contact Matthew at nhm@finalmove.com. This article is part of an ongoing series addressing architectural issues for homeowners.

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