January is the month of new beginnings. The fresh start of a New Year is exhilarating in the possibilities it suggests. Resolutions are made, for better or worse. We all share a bright new opportunity to make changes and to gain a new perspective on life.
In the realm of interior design, there is another type of new “beginning”: the first impression your home makes on visitors.
The old adage that “one doesn’t have a second chance to make a first impression” applies well to the entryway and foyer of your home. That first step into your world speaks volumes about you. Moreover, the “feel” of your entryway can raise or lower the over-all sense of your visitor’s well-being.
Take a look at the area just inside your front door, and decide if it is projecting an accurate portrait of who you are, and what your home is all about. Better still, back up and check out the exterior view of your front door. Its color, style, hardware, all begin the introduction to your home.
What a perfect time of year to “re-think” and spruce up the entry of your castle!
The following is a checklist of ideas and steps you can take to ramp up your home’s “welcome factor”:
• As you pull into your driveway take a hard, objective look at the walkway leading to your porch and front door. The path that leads to your door can be as attractive during the winter months as in foliage-filled spring and summer. Trees and foliage that have a lovely winter display are perfect candidates for the entry area. Consult arborists as to how far to plant various varieties from your home’s foundation. Winterberry trees, with their bright profusion of red berries, or holly, are wonderful for colder climates. The southern, warmer climates, with their long growing season, have many beautiful choices.
• Your front door is a focal point. Choose a color which complements your house, and reflects your personality. Choose hardware and a door handle that works with the style of your home. There is nothing as warm and welcoming as bright brass hardware (door handle, knocker) against a deep red, forest green, or black door. Note: if you live on or near a shoreline, avoid brass fixtures, which can easily become pitted from the salt/mineral air. Some of the heavily coated brass fixtures are more resistant to this inevitable damage. Inquire when purchasing.
• Keep your entryway simple. There may be a single item which you would like to feature, such as a large black antique milk can or an old iron Victorian log rack. Wreathes are gracious, and symbolize the circle of life. They are appropriate and lovely any time of the year. It’s fun to construct seasonal wreathes that suit the “feel” of your home.
Thus, the first impression has begun.
Inside the front door
First in importance: your foyer must function for you. Secondly, it should be a visually beautiful and eloquent introduction to you and your home.
We humans all need a place to put things down when we get home - the mail, the keys, a handbag. We need a place to hang our coats or those of guests. We need a mirror in which to check ourselves out as we leave the house in the morning.
This is “Life-As-A-Human 101".
These functions can be met at any price level, efficiently and beautifully.
• Most homes are equipped with a closet near the front door. If yours is an exception, consider a small wardrobe armoire if one will fit comfortably, or a coat tree, which is the least preferable option, but better than nothing.
• In close quarters there may not be enough space for even a small console table with drawers. Wall-hung shelves work well in small or narrow spaces, along with a well arranged mirror or two. In a larger foyer, a console table, a mid-height bookcase, or a shallow writing table (or secretary) will hold all those sundries we need to park when we come home. A mirror functions beautifully above any of these choices. The look and style,of course, will fit with your decor and personal tastes.
• A long, narrow bench/hamper (like a deacon’s bench or hall tree) can be decorative and functional in a foyer area: it’s a great place to put on boots, and a perfect hiding place (under the lid) for a handbag or two.
• Lucky are those with large foyers, where there is space for a bombe chest under a mirror, or a round foyer table “floating” elegantly, mid-floor.
• Choose a foyer rug style based on the look of your home: elegant and traditional, funky and eclectic, beachy, rustic, or urban. Choose something good looking but not terribly expensive, in a size appropriate to your space. This rug will catch everything, all the grit and sand, from visitors’ shoes. Its purpose is to do just that, and to protect your floors and interiors rugs. It may need to be replaced every two years or so. So this is not the place for a priceless oriental.
• Non-slip stone or tile floors work well in entryways, but even if you have this type of floor, a handsome scatter rug will help keep things warm and inviting.
• Be sure your foyer is well lit. It’s fortunate if you have natural daylight pouring in, but at night see to it that your entry is bright and cheerful. A couple of tall buffet lamps on a console, a crystalline pendant chandelier, recessed lights, a beautiful lamp, used in many combinations will create flattering light and maintain an intimate, warm, glowing ambiance.
• There are those homes or apartments which have little to no foyer area. It can be disconcerting to enter from the outside directly into a main room. If this is a problem, consider using a divider to create a “mock foyer”. To achieve this you can place an etagere or a heavy screen opposite the door to create the illusion of a foyer, and as well as a gradual transition into the home.
Saving the Best Till Last
After the functional aspects are put in place, COLOR is ultimately the element that will provide the most impact, vis a vis “first impressions”.
Which color(s) will create the right introduction to you and your home? The answer is as individual as you are. Consider these eye-poppers:
• Slicker-yellow walls with ivory moldings, and a navy blue ceiling. The ceiling can be studded with evenly spaced gold stars, for amazing drama.
• Walls of hand-painted 3" stripes, in pale blue against pale seafoam green, on which hang a series of 6 handsomely matted and framed seashell drawings.
• Lacquer-red walls trimmed in pale café latte moldings, behind a black and white striped demilune console table, over which hangs a gold-rimmed mirror. Pop some yellow tulips in a vase on that console, and you have a cover photo!
Each idea above is deliberately bold. Of all the areas in your home, your foyer is the space to design with wild abandon. This is an area where you can make a statement, have some fun, create the first impression of your world.
Remember: “bold strokes” do not necessarily mean “loud strokes”. A bold stroke (note the blue and green stripes) can be very gentle in its effect, but deliberate and confident in the feeling it conveys.
I have always said, and still maintain, that the biggest errors people make in their interior design are made when trying to play it safe.
So go ahead. It’s the month of BEGINNINGS. Take that hard look at the “beginnings” of your home. What does your “beginning” say about you - your personality, your lifestyle, your worldview? Do you lead with your sense of humor? Are you a nature-lover? Do you prefer dramatic colors or subtle ones? Are there things you would like to “fine-tune” in your foyer?
Whoever thought this relatively small, overlooked space could say so much, so articulately, about you!
© 2011 SHOPSICLE ® All Rights Reserved
What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly. -Richard Bach