Visitors do judge a home by its foyer

DESIGN LINE

January 24, 1993|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Contributing Writer / Los Angeles Times Syndicate

In design as well as in relationships, first impressions matter a lot. Despite the overused adage about not judging a book by its cover, our opinion of the whole is obviously influenced by the part we first encounter.

This is certainly the case with the foyer, or entrance hall, where guests are greeted. It's important that this seemingly incidental space be well designed, since visitors' perception of an entire home is shaped by their response to what they see first.

I have found that an anonymous-looking entrance hall is preferable to one in which a grand design statement has been attempted but unsuccessfully realized. If in doubt, just accept the blandly colored space with the predictable mirror-and-console combination rather than trying to create a boffo display of colors, patterns and furnishings. Surely it's better to bore visitors than to offend them.

Of course, there is a happy medium that's not difficult to achieve.

Some of the most attractive entrance halls contain surprises such as a book-lined wall or a collection of interesting travel photos. Properly outfitted, this space can actually serve as a very useful repository for artifacts that can't be displayed elsewhere. And whatever is chosen for decorative effect, be sure that it expresses the distinctive style and personality of the home's chief designer.

Small foyers are usually easier to design because a single striking object, like a mirror or light fixture, is often all that's required. Large entrance halls, which frequently have been carved out of even bigger spaces, can pose special problems because of doorways, windows and stairways that may be awkwardly placed. These fragmented elements need to be pulled together to give the foyer an identity of its own and to prevent it from melding into adjacent rooms. The photo suggests how such a feat can be performed.

The designer of this space began by considering its surround, which consists of the walls, floor and mill work. Coordinated wall-coverings from the Wall-Tex "Country Open House" collection were selected for the vertical surfaces. A dark green border at the ceiling and above the cream-colored chair rail blends with the dado wallpaper below. The background color of the wall-covering that was applied between the two green borders is the same as the cream-white paint that was used on the woodwork and doorways.

As the photo also shows, extra dining room chairs and small pieces of furniture and art -- not necessarily of the highest quality -- can look fine in such spaces. The trick is to make the background colors so strong and interesting that the eye won't linger on the objects and furnishings.

Is this a negative approach to designing a room? Maybe so, but remember that interior design is often based on camouflage. And what's wrong with making an overall space look better than the sum of its individual parts?

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