Create the illusion of a foyer when the front door opens directly into the living room.

Ways to Decorate a Foyer

by Benna Crawford

Welcome guests and your wonderfully messy family to your home with a foyer that is both impressive and easy to keep organized. Reflect the design choices in your home with a brief sampler at the front door -- practical and utilitarian, unabashedly theatrical, easy-going country or drop-dead sophisticated. Color and accessories will determine what message you send. So will whether your kids come and go through the front foyer or the garage.

1. High Drama

If you're given to the theatrical, might as well open the show with it. Paint the walls of your foyer deep red and cover the floor with large black-and-white tile squares or a vibrant red oriental carpet over polished hardwood. A lacquered black Chinese or art deco cabinet is eye-catching and handy for stashing coats and hats. Add a black-and-white zebra-design porcelain umbrella stand and a gilt- or platinum-framed pier glass. A delicate table in front of the pier glass, in a style to coordinate with the period cabinet, can hold a single cut crystal bowl for keys. Or skip the key drop and display a tall, flowering orchid plant -- a white Phalaenopsis, or moth orchid, is always appropriate. Remember that entryway drama should blend with the decor in the adjoining rooms.

2. Country Chic

Colorwash the walls of your foyer in soft salmon or delicate spring green and paint all the trim and the ceiling cream. A worn garden bench -- silvered teak or a handmade bench with a distressed look -- provides a handy spot for pulling boots on or off. Over it, a single shelf with hooks for hats, bags and jackets will hold a woven wicker trug or a decorated watering can. Hang handmade twig brooms or rakes on the wall like found art and secure a wicker fishing creel to the inside door frame to catch mail or stray mittens. A rough sisal mat at the threshold whisks some sidewalk or outside dirt from shoes. Use a painted canvas floor mat or a braided rug in the center of the foyer over a slate or wide-plank floor.

3. Un-messy Mud Room

In many homes, the front door opens into the mud room -- that's where the family enters and leaves, and that's where the boots, scarves and coats wind up. Your foyer doesn't have to look like the local thrift store jumble, as long as you decorate it with enough hooks, bins and boot trays to take care of business. Paint walls in a medium shade in an eggshell sheen so marks wipe off easily. Calculate how much gear you can expect at peak coat season and install a line of sturdy hooks along the staircase wall or over a bench on the longest wall. Above the bench, hang a "box" of cubbies to hold hats, mufflers, backpacks or sports gear. You may be able to find a freestanding unit that combines bench, hooks and overhead shelves and cubbies -- instant organization that saves the walls and goes with you when you move.

4. Elegant Entry

When you are fortunate enough to have a sweeping entry with a high ceiling and a central fixture, make the most of it. Cover floors in decorative tile or marble, or for hardwood floors, use a hand-loomed runner that continues down the hall. Consider texture for the walls -- stucco gives a Florentine or Venetian flavor to the decor -- and choose either soft cream or a rich medium-color matte paint. Rose, peridot, cerulean, marigold or lilac paint work with gold and crystal accessories. Alternatively, look for either reproduction period mural wallpaper or a dramatic stripe to cover smooth plaster. Hang a crystal chandelier from the central fixture. If you have a transom window over the door, adjust the height of the chandelier so it's visible through the window. An ornate gilded table flanked by silk-upholstered Louis XV chairs and topped by a mirror adds a requisite touch of gleam.

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