Tips: Your foyer makes a first impression

Paul Hodgins
The Orange County Register

First impressions are important. That wise old saying applies to your home, too. When you’re redecorating, it’s easy to overlook what’s immediately inside the front door — especially in a part of the country where many of us enter the house through the garage, and only guests arrive through that more formal portal.

“The entrance sets the tone of the home, and it reflects the owner’s personality and taste as well,” said Dora Brigham, founder of Dora Brigham Interiors in Costa Mesa, Calif. “You should take care to feature pieces of art and other things that tell guests who you are.”

Brigham and other interior designers follow a few simple rules when considering how to decorate an entrance.

Create a foyer-like space even if it’s an illusion. If your home is small and doesn’t have a well-defined foyer, use a different paint color, carefully placed furniture, some potted plants or a room divider to convey a sense that it’s a separate room. A small rug or different flooring can help too. “Another nice touch (for a small foyer) is a very beautiful painting, something that has perspective to give the place a feeling of more depth,” Brigham said.

More space gives you more possibilities. “If you have a little bit of room in your foyer, display an antique or a console or a chest that is perhaps more dramatic than the other furniture in your home,” Brigham said. “And above all, I recommend a mirror to reflect as much light as possible.”

Of course, if you follow the Eastern philosophy of feng shui, you’ll want to avoid a mirror in the entrance to your home — it’s a big no-no if done incorrectly. advises, “Putting an attractive mirror at the entry way is a gracious way to welcome in the chi. Just make sure it is not placed directly across from the front door or it will send the chi (often interpreted as money) right back out!”

If you’re a fan of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, you’ll probably want to make your foyer darker in color and perhaps even reduce its height. He and other 20th-century modernists such as Richard Neutra liked to build a sense of “opening out” into their interiors, which meant small, low-ceilinged, often darker-colored foyers giving way to light, airy rooms with higher ceilings.

For a while, Wright’s aesthetic was ignored by home designers. Many homes built in the 1970s and ’80s feature dramatic two-story entryways filled with light.

“A lot of beautiful homes that we’re remodeling now were built at a time when two-story entryways were popular; they give you a sense of grandeur,” Brigham said. “But many people don’t know what to do with it — all those endless walls.”

Don’t be afraid to take advantage of that vertical space with a long tapestry or a dramatic pendant light or chandelier. Brigham likes wall sconces and other striking effects of illumination that accentuate the vast expanse of wall.

One of the most welcoming touches you can add to your foyer is a vase full of cut flowers or a bowl of fresh fruit. It creates a welcome and hospitable atmosphere and gives you a multitude of accent-color possibilities. Many interior designers like to reserve bright contrast for fruit or flowers — a bowl of ripe lemons, say, in a foyer that’s prevailingly cool violet in color.

If your home has a stairway in the foyer, consider a bold, colorful pattern for the stair runner or a collection of different-size framed prints for the stairway wall. Both are powerful invitations to enter and explore. The banister and railings are wonderful places to employ dramatically contrasting colors, too.

Brigham says you should take your time and enjoy the often laborious process of discovering just the right pieces for your foyer.

“The fun is the research and the hunt – being able to find the thing that will make you feel, ‘Yes, this belongs in my home. This represents me.’ So take your time with that. When you see the right thing, you will know.”