Let your foyer earn its keep as an extra room in your home.

How to Convert an Open Foyer Into a Room

by Benna Crawford

Why waste a perfectly good foyer on some grand entry statement when you have a busy family in need of space for their many and diverse activities? Transform that extra square footage into a useful room to accommodate your budding Chopin or curious trouble-magnet toddler. But don't ignore the decor. You want to impress visitors with your creativity, not the daily chaos.

1. Compact Conservatory

Not many homes have the luxury of a dedicated music conservatory, but an empty foyer needs a piano. Park the upright or an electronic keyboard against one wall and repurpose a narrow antique pie safe or a skinny bookcase as a music cabinet against the opposite wall. A thick carpet with padding will slightly muffle the resonance, if noise is an issue. But the kids -- or the late-blooming grown-ups -- will have a place to practice undistracted, and the existence of a music room is an invitation to run a few etudes. Add a floor stand for a cello, with a beautiful wooden stool or low Chinese elm chair for the cellist. Secure violins, violas and guitars to the walls like art with wall-mounted string instrument hangers. An adjustable-height music stand works for tiny-to-teen string players.

2. Book Nook

Foyers have corners, wall space and, usually, some natural light. That's all you need to create your own private library in the entryway of your home. Secure purchased or built-in shelves to every available wall -- all the way to the ceiling. Buy or commission a book ladder so you can reach to upper volumes; some wood ladders convert to seats or extra shelving when not in use for climbing. Park a comfortable wing chair in a corner where light from the transom or windows next to the front door can fall on the page, and add a floor lamp for gloomy days and stolen reading time after dinner. A globe on a floor stand in another corner has an old-fashioned library vibe. Include one or two writing desks or pullout shelves in the bookcases if the room will be used for homework as well as literary pursuits.

3. Practical Playroom

Start from the ground up to turn your foyer into a playroom where you can keep an eye on little ones. Rubber hopscotch tiles fit together for a safe, cushioned game that can snap apart to be stored in a cabinet when company comes. Pad the rest of the space with similar alphabet snap-togethers in bright primary colors. Paint a cupboard the same color as Big Bird and stuff it with building blocks, soft animals, dollhouse furniture and a blankie or two. Open shelves along a different wall hold baskets of picture books, trucks, dolls and educational toys; the baskets mean easy clean-up at the end of play sessions. A small table and two tiny chairs, an easel that flips to a chalkboard, and a big paper globe light in orange, yellow or hot pink encourage artistic collaborations on a rainy day.

4. Mini Museum

Expand the display space for your art collections by reimagining the foyer as a gallery. Minimalist shelves will hold sculptures and ceramics you've hauled home from all over. Line up framed paintings or a black-and-white art photography selection along one wall. Highlight prized pieces with adjustable ceiling spots to replace the entryway chandelier, and station a folk art bench and indigenous woven carpet inside the door. Paint walls gallery-white, pewter or charcoal as a backdrop to focus attention on the art. And don't limit yourself to valuable collectibles. Early works of tomorrow's geniuses can be even more appealing. Exhibit the recent and current oeuvre of the resident artists on a cork-tiled wall, a stepped tansu chest and hanging as mobiles from the ceiling fixtures.

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