Q: Our new home has a large entrance foyer that probably needs more furniture than our budget can currently provide. But we still want to plan what will be needed to make the space look inviting. Can you suggest a design for a 14-by-16-foot entrance hall that has openings to other rooms on each of its walls?
A: What a wonderful space you've got! It has all sorts of potential for being much more than a walk-through area.
Entrance halls ought to be welcoming and attractive places that establish the mood for the rest of the home. Furnishing choices depend a great deal on the location of the entrance door and the other openings, since it can be quite difficult to add furniture to a space with a minimal wall area. It sounds as though you may have that problem, so I recommend that you concentrate on decorative possibilities.
It's important to understand that color, pattern and focal points are perhaps the most essential factors in making foyers come alive, although convenience and maintenance are also necessary considerations.
Starting with the floor, you might want to select an easily cleaned surfacing material that will improve with time. Marble tiles laid down on a checkerboard pattern will do the trick without help from any other floor covering. If you prefer a less formal and expensive effect, treat the wooden floorboards with several coats of polyurethane and add a durable rug for color and design.
Entrance halls can be ideal repositories for decorative items that don't look right in other rooms. A screen will soften a corner between two doorways, for example, while a small table can serve as a support for a colorful flower arrangement, as shown in the photo. If space permits, a chest of drawers, secretary or console table also make excellent decorative additions. Small benches, settees and occasional chairs are likewise appropriate pieces for such a space.
Remember -- proportion is just as important as size. Don't use a lot of legged pieces, or else you'll produce a spindly effect. Pairs provide an automatic symmetry. Matching chests, tables and chairs can be very effective visually, but only when they flank an opening.
And don't forget to add some sparkle. A mirror over a chest, or a console holding a couple of candlestick lamps, will produce a mellow, welcoming glow with or without the presence of a chandelier.
Entrance halls are also wonderful for displaying collections. Small groups of paintings or prints or plates can be hung on the walls and placed inside glass-door cabinets. Alternately, you might consider making a stronger decorative statement, since you do have the space to accommodate something dramatic. Keep in mind that it's difficult to feel overwhelmed in a foyer. No matter what design you create, an entrance will remain a transition area that's not suited for quiet contemplation.