Functionality is important in a foyer or entrance hall: you need a place to put your packages and keys, take off your shoes and hang your coat.
But there is something else just as important. Whether you have a proper foyer or not, the entrance to your home is the first space you (and your guests) encounter after stepping through the front door. Why not give it some style and spark a little joy?
The foyer “sets the tone for what’s coming into the rest of the house,” says Jennifer Bunsa, the founder of Bunsa Studio, a Miami-based interior design firm. Because entrances are often small, they are usually not very architecturally impressive, she added, “so we want to introduce some other elements that draw attention and make an impact.”
We asked her and other interior designers for advice on how to do that.
Treat the walls
In any small space — a powder room, a foyer — adding wallpaper, an attractive paint color, or wainscoting can make the room feel more special. “Sometimes people are a little afraid to use wallpaper in a space that might not be that big, because they feel like it’s too crowded on the eye,” says Nicole Salvesen, founder of Salvesen Graham, a London-based interior design firm. . firm. “But it can really help calm the space.”
In an Arts-and-Crafts style home in Boulder, Colo., Salvesen Graham added Jasper wallpaper with a repeating blue-and-green floral pattern and painted the border around it sage green. That helped create a cohesive look “that’s actually gentle on the eyes,” Ms. Salvesen said. In the narrow entrance hall of a London home, the designers took a different approach to a similar effect, adding fluted plaster panels to the walls to create visual interest without suffocating the space.
When designing the foyer of her mid-century modern home in Roslyn Harbor, NY, New York designer Cara Woodhouse clad the walls with custom wallpaper from Surfaces by David Bonk. The pattern consists of pieces of silver leaf that are close together near the ceiling, but are further apart along the walls so that they appear to tumble to the floor. “It almost looks like snowflakes,” Ms Woodhouse said, creating a striking but “very light, bright and airy” effect.
Address the floor
As you put on and take off your shoes, it’s natural to focus on the floor of your entryway. That creates another opportunity to do something interesting.
Ms. Bunsa is a fan of using encaustic cement tiles with colorful graphic patterns in foyers. In a home in Jamesport, NY, she installed hexagonal tiles with mustard yellow, light blue, and dark blue details from Popham Design in a random pattern for a bold, geometric look. In her own home in Miami, she used free-form rectangular tiles, black and white shapes, also from Popham Design, which she ran across the floor and along a wall.
“I wanted to play with the idea of the classic black and white checkerboard tile floor,” she said. “But the Popham tile changes it and makes it feel more modern.”
For a client’s home in Roslyn, NY, Mrs. Woodhouse tampered with a traditional stone floor by installing Artistic Tile triangular marble tiles in a variety of colors, including white, black, red, pink, blue and green. “Because it was a small space, we were looking for that eye-candy moment that would pop,” said Ms Woodhouse. “It’s where you’d least expect it, which really makes a statement.”
Consider the ceiling
If a striking floor isn’t for you, or if you already have a usable flat floor, you can change the look of the ceiling with paint or wallpaper.
When Marea Clark, an interior designer from Northern California, renovated the foyer of a 1906 home with a dark hardwood floor and beautiful white paneling, she decided to liven things up by adding Schumacher striped wallpaper to the ceiling.
“We wanted to make it feel very elegant but add a playful quality,” said Ms. Clark. Now she said, “The room has an almost tent-like feel.”
Add statement lighting
A foyer is a great place to install a sculptural pendant, chandelier, or sconces, as large light fixtures can make small spaces seem a little grander. In a country house in Surrey, England, designers Salvesen Graham installed a pair of metal and glass Jamb pendants in a narrow hallway. “Choosing a large, round fixture can make the room feel a little wider and more spacious,” said Ms. Salvesen.
In the foyer of a home outside San Francisco, Mrs. Clark chose a traditional 24-inch lantern from Coleen and Company for the center of the room. The powder-coated pink metal frame adds a touch of whimsy. “It’s just that pop of color, which is unexpected,” Ms Clark said.
Ghislaine Viñas, an interior designer from New York, sometimes looks for lighting fixtures that provide multiple points of light. In a Los Angeles home, she installed a multi-arm, recessed fixture that extends with eight diffusers. For a home in Palm Beach, Florida, she chose a six-shade PET lamp fixture woven from recycled soda bottles that sprout from a single ceiling canopy on multi-colored cords.
“We wanted to combine the formality of the architecture with really good informality,” Ms. Viñas said.
Mix unexpected furniture and art
When guests arrive at a 19th-century Neo-Gothic house in upstate New York, where Mrs. Viñas designed the interior, the center table in the foyer, by Moooi, stops them: it’s shaped like a pig, holding a tray on top. back. “It’s unusual for the first object you see inside to be a bit tongue-in-cheek,” Ms. Viñas said. “Doing things that aren’t just the obvious choices appeals to the personalities of the people who live there.”
Those choices don’t have to be so playful, of course, but selecting eye-catching furnishings and accessories that encourage further exploration can help turn the foyer into a destination. When designing her home in Miami, for example, Ms. Bunsa installed a geometric planter from Bzippy in Yves Klein blue with a tall cactus, as well as a sofa with an intricately woven seat from Peg Woodworking to create several interesting moments.
In more traditional homes, Salvesen Graham tries to mix intriguing antiques, colorful patterned fabrics and contemporary art to create interiors that feel alive. For example, in the foyer the firm designed in Surrey, they installed antique blue-and-white ceramics, lampshades and cushions made with a yellow gingham fabric, and three-dimensional cut-paper contemporary art by Jack Milroy mounted in an acrylic box.
“We use antiques and vintage pieces in all of our interiors to make the home feel more authentic and grounded,” said Ms. Salvesen. “We use a real mix, because that’s how people really live.”
Don’t be afraid of bulky furniture
Ms. Salvesen also recommended installing full-sized furniture, even in mid-sized foyers where you assume you’ll need smaller pieces. While really small entryways need space-saving furniture, if you just have a little extra breathing room, “large furniture can keep it from feeling like a long, narrow space,” Ms. Salvesen said, and make it look like a proper room.
If you have enough space, install a sofa with a generously padded seat, for example, rather than one that is so thin it feels like you’re sitting on a two by four. If you have an empty corner, bring an armchair. Also, instead of feeling like you have to find a shallow console or wall shelf, choose an impressive sideboard or table in the center.
Mrs. Woodhouse, blessed with a grand entrance, took this approach to heart and installed a velvet-covered ottoman that provides seating on all sides. “People don’t usually hang out in the hallways,” Mrs. Woodhouse said. “But I gotta tell you, people really hang out in my hall.”
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