There's something magical about a gate... each one seems to have a unique character, some special quality about it that people recognize, come to know, and enjoy. It's impossible to say how or why something as simple as a gate can become a memorable acquaintance... just what it is about a gate that engenders such affection.

Perhaps it's because gates are active players in an otherwise passive plane of the fence. Even an infrequently used or purely utilitarian gate-one that gives access to a service yard once a day or a couple of times a week-performs a valuable role in the scheme of things.

Or perhaps gates grow memorable because they render a double service-to separate as well as to join. They create a boundary, but at the same time will open to join person and place together again.

And maybe it's because gates and gateways promise an experience-a transition from that place to this one, a shift from then to now, leaving behind what was, stepping into what is and will be. There's a tiny, marvelous magic in that, and every gateway gives it. Even those that have grown rickety (having carried one too many children astride) and that now sag or squeak or drag grow more precious for their service. They're endured, treated gently, carefully repaired, and renewed. It's no wonder, then, that gates win an appreciation. There's something friendly about a gate, something pleasant to see, to approach, and to pass through-if only once, or again and again.

What kind of gate?

Depending on their purpose and the impression you'd like them to give, some gates warrant more visual importance than others. A main-entry gate, for instance, might deserve a more prominent design than a gate that leads into a service yard. A gate can draw a lot of attention to itself or none at all, depending on its design and the type of material it's made of.

A gate can completely contrast with a fence. Metal gates, and wooden gates of a different style, announce their presence like an actor on center stage. By design, this gate treatment interrupts the fence line's visual continuity to highlight its place in the scheme of things.

A gate can exactly match a fence. Those that do, detail for detail, effectively conceal the fact of their existence. When you want to downplay the gate, a hinged one, mounted flush with the fence surface, will create a discreet effect.

A gate can also harmonize with the fence in style, but have distinguishing special effects, such as an openwork top or a particular trim detail. This invites attention to the gate without detracting from the visual continuity of the fence line.

In planning and designing your gate, the first step is to choose the type of material you'd like it to be made of-wood or metal. Wooden gates in a wood fence are a naturally pleasing combination, whether you buy a prefabricated gate or design one yourself. Metal gates in an ornamental iron fence are an enquiringly attractive combination. However, metal gates in a wood fence need special consideration. They look best if used in counterpoint to an essentially solid-surfaced wood fence, classic and tailored, or a style that is simple, rectilinear, and clean-lined.

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