“Make an entrance!”

- Thursday, April 01, 2010

You know the old saying: You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Well, it applies to your home as well. What does the entrance to your house say to guests as they arrive at your front door? Is it welcoming? Is it neat? Does it hint to your personal style and tastes? Does it make a statement? What kind of impression does it make?

A transitional area between outside and inside, the foyer should set the mood for the rest of the home. Large or small, it should make an impression. In fact, you may not even have a separate room or space to function as a foyer. In my first apartment the front door from the public corridor opened directly into my living room. However, by using a hand painted floor screen, I delineated an area by the front door and separated it from the rest of the space. This was a simple “trick of the trade” to create a “room” where one did not exist and it actually made my small apartment feel much larger.

Many “open plan” style homes so popular today do not have a formal, walled-off space at the front door. The foyer in a model home I designed in Hampton Lake is an example. The space, though wide and rather grand, is defined only by a change in ceiling height, in this case a very deep, geometrically shaped tray detail set-off with crown molding and a change in the ceiling paint color. I employed a large, round table centered beneath the tray, directly under a dramatic chandelier to help define the foyer. A tall chest with marble-inlaid drawer-fronts was placed off to one side under a tall, heavily carved mirror. These chunky casegoods add weight and to the space to further anchor a loosely defined room. This created a sense of procession from the front door, allowing the eye to momentarily pause before looking through the great room, and then out onto the screened lanai and pool beyond.

Of course, many homes do have a separate foyer and these can vary in size, from mere hallways at the front door to vast, two-story atriums complete with grand staircases and balconies. How to furnish and decorate these spaces can be just as challenging as creating one from scratch. My advice? Have some fun with it!

The foyer in my historic Savannah home is, architecturally, one of the most interesting spaces in my house. It boasts high ceilings, the original plaster moldings, and a ceiling medallion (amazingly still intact after 120 years of use, several different owners, and a stint in the 1970’s as a rooming house) and is thus blessed with lots of detail. A gently curved staircase with a stout newel post and a gracefully flowing handrail is the most prominent feature, so I let it take center stage. The walls have been painted in a faux stone-block pattern, creating a neutral and subtle backdrop for an eclectic collection of antique world maps and contemporary paintings; these provide a prelude to the diverse mix of art displayed in the rest of the house.

I installed a Moroccan pendant chandelier, resplendent with its silver metal fretwork and jewel-toned glass, to cast a welcoming glow. A Chippendale chest, painted in the Japanned style of black and gold, was placed beside the stair wall. It serves dual purposes: a feast for the eyes and a multi-tasker of storage. The drawers hide and organize a multitude of diverse items including the leash for my dog, some folding umbrellas, gift-wrap for host and hostess gifts, bowls for extra keys and change, even a few cherished Christmas ornaments (my home was built in 1890, so creative storage is always welcome). The surface area on top allowed me room to place a crystal lamp for extra illumination and a decorative bowl or vase for fresh flowers, ideal for entertaining.

In short, my foyer works for me the way it envisioned. In addition to transitioning me in and out of the house and keeping me organized, it speaks to my guests, saying, “Welcome, come on in.”

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