Step Inside

Men laying new hardwood flooring

Photo courtesy of French Country Homes
Photography by Gregg Willett

You never get a second chance to make a first impressionand neither does your home. When visitors walk through your front door into the foyer, they get a sneak peek at whats to come. Its the business card of the house and needs to make a memorable and appropriate impression, says Melissa Galt of Linea Interior Design Inc. in Atlanta. Therefore, the front door and foyer should set the tone for the rest of the home. While it may sound like a challenge, creating an entryway with a strong visual impact is easier than you might think.

Open to options
When designing or decorating your entryway, first decide how you use the space. Is it strictly for visitors? Do you use it every day? Galt says. List what you want the space to do. Knowing the function of the space will help you decide how it should look.

Another consideration is the space itself. Scale and proportion are the most important [factors], says Stacey Kirby, partner with Seiber Design in Atlanta. For example, do you have a wide, open space, or is it long and narrow? Is there a staircase? If so, does it dominate the space or go relatively unnoticed? Does the ceiling rise high above the floor level to include an upper balcony or loft? The answers to these questions will determine the possibilities.

A dramatic staircase creates a natural
focal point for an entryway

Photo courtesy of Southern Staircase

Next, gather ideas of what you would like to see in the space. Go through magazines and tear out photos of entryways you like, visit model homes for decorating ideas and ask design professionals for their input. Remember, the foyer design should be in keeping with the style of the rest of the home. Once you have an idea of what you want your entryway to look like, youll be ready to dress up your space.

Up-front design
Front doors and front-entry systemswhich can include sidelights (windows on each side of the door) and transoms (windows over the door)can be as beautiful as they are functional. Glass is a key component in these systems. [Homeowners are upgrading] the front of the house by updating the front door with glass, says Paul Butler, president of EntryPoint Doors of Atlanta in Alpharetta. They also are opting for accent finishes other than brass. Theyre going toward nickel, patina and black, Butler says.

Steve Simpson, owner of Artistic Glass Doors of Atlanta Inc. in Roswell, says hes seeing homeowners incorporate components such as wrought iron as well. Leaded glass designs also remain very strong in the door market.

Front doors, which can include
sidelights and transoms, can be as
beautiful as they are functional.

Photo courtesy of ODL Inc., Stock Building Supply

Butler recommends selecting a door that blends with the homes style. You dont want it to be an eyesore in the neighborhood, he says. Since 80 percent of Atlantas homes are traditional in design, he suggests an Old World or classic look for most doors. Of course, homeowners should put their personal touch on the door, too. We try to get a feel for their personal taste, Simpson says. Then we show samples to help them find one that fits their comfort zone.

Comfort level
After your guests pass through that great-looking front door, they should immediately feel comfortable. Furniture, rugs, lighting and artwork can turn the foyer into a warm, inviting room. A small table and a chair or bench usually set the tone well. A seating area [will] make it look comfortable and welcoming, says Dianna Boykin, interior designer and president of Signature Interiors Inc. in Duluth. However, she warns, make sure the furniture is the right size and proportion for the space. Dont use small pieces in a long, tall space, and vice versa. Consider using a round table to fit the curve of a staircase. Also, make sure the furniture doesnt overwhelm the space or interrupt the flow of traffic from the front door and/or staircase into other areas of the home.

Rugs also play a role in well-designed foyers. A rug in an entryway makes it warm and inviting, Boykin says. Make sure the shape of the rug complements the space. Round rugs dont fit well in long, narrow foyers just as a slim runner doesnt mesh with a wide, open space. Also, dont overlook the staircase when it comes to rugs. Runners on stairs are very important, Galt says. They help prevent slips and skids on stairs, absorb sound (which is especially good in high, open foyers) and prevent wear on the stairs themselves, she says.

Use ambient lighting, such as lamps,
cove lighting and chandeliers with
dimmers, to accent the space.

Photo courtesy of Rabaut Design Associates

Good lighting is another important element in a great-looking entryway. It creates a lot of drama, Kirby says. If there is natural light from the front door or a window, this will help warm up the space.

Also, while the benefits and beauty of a great chandelier cannot be overlooked, it shouldnt be the only lighting element. Dont think, I put the chandelier in; Im done, says Rebecca Kunimoto, owner of Wild Horse Studio in Atlanta. Ambient lighting, such as lamps, cove lighting and chandeliers with dimmers, also softens the space. Make it adjustable to fit the use and mood [of the space], Kunimoto says.

Artistic touches
Although often thought of as a finishing touch, artwork actually is considered a primary element in good foyer design. Artwork on the walls creates interest, says Jennifer Cheney, owner of Design Classique in Atlanta. This is especially important for two-story foyers. Put artwork high up on walls so your eye goes up higher visually, Cheney says.

Again, remember to choose pieces that relate in size and proportion to the overall space. Skip tiny pieces in a two-story foyer, but dont have anything so large it overpowers the space, Kunimoto says. Also, dont feel pressured to pick art you dont enjoy just because you think itll make a good impression. [Select] what you personally like, Kunimoto says. Let interior designers help with framing decisions, but dont let them pick out your artwork. Its a very personal decision.

Always a good design decision, mirrors are great for decorating foyers. They give the illusion that the space is deeper or wider, Cheney says.

Artwork is importantespecially in
two-story foyers. Hang it high on the
walls to draw the eye up.

Photo courtesy of Signature Interiors Inc.

Paint is a simple and affordable way to transform a foyer. Paint is always easy and changeable, Kirby says. Plus, it helps bring a room into scale, Kunimoto says. A high color contrast can break up a space, which is good for bringing an elevator-type foyer together. Also, a monochromatic feel will open up a room.

In addition to simply painting foyer walls, consider using faux techniques. Faux work on walls gives warmth and movement, Boykin says. Just dont get too carried away. You can do what you want, but everything needs to fit together, Kunimoto says. This applies not only to the foyer, but also how it relates to the other areas of the house.

Finally, consider a floral arrangement on the table or topiary by the door. If theres space, [add greenery] because it always feels homey, Boykin says. Choose something to bring the outdoors in.

A big entrance
When youre looking at entry points, dont underestimate the impact of the garage. The biggest door on your home, the garage door offers a perfect opportunity to improve your homes image drastically. The already wide variety of available garage door styles only continues to expand.

There are two basic types of garage doors. Tilt-ups are single-panel doors that pivot out and up. Sectional roll-up doors are made up of four or more horizontal panels held together with hinges. They are mounted with rollers to tracks on each side of the door that roll the door up and back. The most common garage door materials are wood, steel, aluminum and fiberglass. Woods such as cedar, hickory, oak and mahogany continue to be popular choices for garage doors.

A well-planned and executed entryway
provides not only a warm welcome for your guests, but a lasting impression of you and
your home. These carriage-style doors have
an Old-World European feel.

Photo courtesy of Image Doors

Dennis Easter, vice president of sales and marketing for Image Doors, says its important to choose a door that both appeals to you and complements the style and architecture of your home. For example, traditional raised panel doors are not a good choice for a Craftsman-style home with a mixture of exterior materials such as stone and brick. A wood or steel carriage house door would better suit this type of home. Cape Cod houses look good with American traditional doors, he says, and rustic styles are available for lake houses or homes with a barnlike look.

Easter says adding decorative hardware can make a carriage door look more authentic and enhance interest, and using a stain can create a nice, weathered look.

With the options available, youre sure to find a door to fit your needsand your house. A well-planned and executed entryway provides not only a warm welcome for your guests, but a lasting impression of you and your home.

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