Make the Most of Your Foyer

Check out these 5 ways to carve out a unique space in your foyer and make a memorable first impression.

Spacious foyer with storage and runner

Adapted from First Impressions: Fresh Looks for Entryways, Hallways and Foyers (Rockport Publishers), by Anna Kasabian.

In most homes, entryways function as more than a welcome area. Where there's available space, entryways may be treated and furnished in a way that makes them special little rooms. Although they aren't always the most private place in the home, entryways, hallways and foyers can be designed in ways that encourage fitting activities. A desk under the stairwell, for example, could work well for writing bills.

Look at your layout to determine potential for a new use. Is there a big, winding staircase that has created an oasis of peace beneath? What can be placed there? A desk? A bookcase? A love seat?

Remember, the entryway design doesn't have to align with the rest of the house style; it can be its own art form. Here are some tips to spark your imagination:

1. Consider adding a drop-leaf table, a few chairs and a wooden chest filled with board and card games to the area. If there's room, buy a bench with game storage underneath. Or construct a window seat with storage underneath and keep the drop-leaf table to the side. Try painting a checkerboard on the floor beneath the table and chairs. If the wall space allows, wallpaper this area differently from the rest of the main hall. For example, using a wallpaper that resembles suede or a library-wall print will enhance the club look.

2. For a contemporary feel, construct glass shelving from floor to ceiling or use reclaimed barn wood for the country look. Buy a glass-front cupboard or use the tops of other furnishings-such as chests, armoires and tables-as bases for collectibles. A locking armoire, chest or antique steamer trunk is also a good place to keep receipts and records of your possessions. For decorative accents, stay with the collectible theme and find complementary framed art, fabrics and wall coverings. For example, if you wanted to devote this space to a collection of tabletop sailing ships, bring the boat theme to the walls with brass lanterns, blue wallpaper with gold stars and fabrics with sea-themed patterns. An old steamer trunk and an antique captain's desk would also add to the space.

3. To add a garden theme, use an old marble-topped bureau to store seed packets and bulky gardening items and to display pretty pots. Keep the area in bloom year-round by having a faux painter create a garden scene that wraps the walls in the space or covers a wall screen. Painting the screen a plain color and decoupaging old postcards of gardens to the sides is another option. Or instead of a painted screen, cover the screen with garden-themed fabric, and sew pockets to hold seeds, scissors and other accessories.

4. Place a mini-bar and a few chairs in the foyer so that when party guests arrive, they can get their drinks before entering the formal dining or living-room areas. If plumbing is nearby, consider installing a wet bar and closing off the area with a screen. The screen could be painted or covered with fabric or a collage of photos or old wine-bottle labels.

5. Create a place to meditate by placing a grass cloth rug in the space, along with a few pillows covered in natural fibers in subdued colors. Or go with patterns that depict reeds or leaves to keep the calm. Set aside a tokonoma, a place where one special piece of Asian art is displayed, be it a tiny teacup or a handmade bowl that perches on a small table or ledge. Add a colorful backdrop with an Asian-made scroll. If there is a small window under the stairwell, think about installing a noren, a hand-painted piece of fabric that hangs in windows and doorways. For natural inspiration, place some narrow terra-cotta boxes and plant grass on the windowsills or the floor. You can also add a tabletop water sculpture and bonsai or potted bamboo.

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