One issue I see a fair amount in both published and unpublished manuscripts has to do with how doors are used and their orientation.

Doors have a fairly standard direction that they open, depending on the type of building and what the door accesses (and what country you are in). In the United States, it follows this pattern:

  • Commercial Buildings
    • Exterior doors open outward (into the street).
    • Restroom doors open into the restroom.
    • Restroom stall doors open into the stall EXCEPT handicapped stalls, whose door is required to open outward, into the room, to make it accessible.
    • Interior office doors tend to open into the office (away from the hallway).
  • Residential Buildings
    • Exterior doors open inward (into the house).
    • Interior room doors open into the room.
    • Bathroom doors open into the bathroom.


Exposed hinges are less secure.
Doors that open inward have the door jamb to protect the door and mechanisms from the elements.
Doors that open inward are easier to kick in.
Doors that open outward can hinder traffic on the “out” side.
Doors that open outward can hit visitors, etc. or force them to move away from the door to allow the door to swing open.

In general, the residential door opening directions are not required by code (as far as I can tell) but are rather holdovers from privacy concerns of the Victorian era. These door orientations are still treated as “standards” and because people are used to these standard directions, if you deviate from them, it should be called out so that readers don’t get pulled out of your story in order to ponder why your door opens the wrong way. You should also be sure that the direction you choose makes sense, given issues like security, traffic, etc.

Countries outside the United States have different standards and they should be investigated and taken into account if you are writing something set in another country. I know that in Finland and many Scandinavian countries, doors open outward into the hallways and I’m sure there are other exceptions.

Mostly this is a case of knowing your setting, your target audience and what they expect and being careful that you don’t cause them to suspend disbelief because you try to block open a door with a chair from the outside of a room :)