1. Start outside"Many times the outside entrance is neglected," says interior designer Lauren Jacobsen of Jacobsen Design in Studio City, Calif., "the front door is in poor condition, lighting is dim or nonexistent and plants are sparse and dying."
Make sure the area is tidy (no forgotten toys behind the bushes), freshen the front door and porch railings with a coat of paint and change out the lighting fixture if it's broken or desperately outdated. Add a potted plant or two and go with miniature varieties of common evergreens like juniper or boxwood for year-round color (and less maintenance).
Design by Kenneth Brown. Photography by Mayer Bowden Photography.
2. Light the wayA chandelier combined with table lamps on a console is a traditional look for a grand two-story entry, while a smaller foyer may call for wall sconces and downlights. Regardless of your lighting combination, all fixtures should be put on dimmers, says interior designer Andreas Charalambous of FORMA Design in Washington, D.C., so that you can change the mood of the room depending on the time of day.
In the second-floor foyer pictured above, Charalambous used picture lights on a cable system to spotlight a series of photographs. The soft light washes the wall with a warm glow, enticing guests to venture upstairs.
3. Set the tone"Even though most foyers are relatively small, take advantage of being able to make a big statement," shares Lauren Jacobsen. "Beautiful, rich, dark paint colors, textured wall coverings, quality flooring and area rugs all say 'this home is something special.' "
On the flip side, if you're struggling with how to decorate a foyer with a sky-high ceiling, designer David Stimmel of The Stimmel Consulting Group in Ambler, Penn., says to showcase large-scale artwork or position furniture in the neighboring spaces so that they draw you into the home. A chandelier or pendant fixture is a must in a large, open foyer so take special care is choosing one that fits the proportion of the space (i.e. steer clear of dining room-sized lights) and the style you want to project.
Design by Andreas Charalambous.
4. Bring on the dramaA smaller foyer can achieve just as much impact with a sculpture or an oversized floor mirror propped against the wall. Using a nontraditional piece of furniture with special details—a handpainted dresser, a chaise covered in a vintage fabric—is an excellent way to set your foyer apart (while also making it more functional).
Interior designer Grace Sielaff of M. Grace Designs in Chicago, Ill., likes to bring in a "wow" color then use it in either the living room or kitchen to tie the rooms together. If you're not inclined to cover a wall in your wow color, then sprinkle it in with artwork or a gracious fabric.
Design by Suzanne Furst.
5. Make the floor a focal point"Install a stone floor in the entry and have it open onto wood floors," says interior designer Nana Kersh Winters of Schooler-Kellogg & Company in Dallas, Tex. "If not a floor change, then have a beautiful rug in front of your door and layer it on top of carpet if that's your only option."
Another idea is to hand-paint or stencil a design around the perimeter or in the center of a wood floor, applying several layers of varnish to protect the finish.
6. Accessorize with natureThat's hardly the reality for most of us but the fresh flowers may be the more attainable of the two — especially if they're relegated to the foyer where they'll have the most impact. "They'll let your guests know their visit has meaning," Lauren Jacobsen notes.
If flowers present too much of a maintenance issue, consider other organic objects, like a lovely tray with a layer of smooth pebbles, a wall-mounted or tabletop fountain or a decorative vase holding tree branches cut from your own yard.