A patterned carpet or runner on a staircase can jazz up a foyer.
Ho, hum. Oh, hi.
That's the limp greeting guests get from a bland foyer, an area that - with a little thought and effort and not necessarily a lot of money - could be making a positive statement instead about the house and its occupants.
Super-sized or tiny, the area just inside the front door may be suffering from neglect, inertia, or simply confusion about what to do with it, some local decorators say.
"It's a space you don't really live in, so I find people don't give it as much thought" as other rooms in the house, says Bob Miller of Bob Miller Interiors in Maumee. It also may be more difficult to decorate, he points out, because wall space is usually broken up by doors, hallways, or arches into adjoining rooms or a stairway to the second floor.
Tara Walton of Holland, owner of Re-Designing Interiors by Tara, says people tend to make one of two mistakes in decorating the foyer: "It's either too empty or too cluttered. ... People don't know what to do with it."
So they tend to do nothing, says Pamela Straub of Pamela Straub Interior Design in downtown Toledo. The most common mistake she sees is homeowners' failure to express their personality through decor.
"A foyer is a wonderful way to put their personal stamp on their home," Mrs. Straub says. "I think they're afraid to do anything too different."
Although the decor should relate to the rest of the house, it's also a good place to add punch, she continues. "It can be more dramatic than spaces that are living spaces," Mrs. Straub explains.
This could be the place to add whimsy - maybe a mural or a piece of lacquered furniture. "I also think that wallpaper is very pretty in a foyer," she says.
Many clients shy away from wallpaper because they think it's out of style, she acknowledges. "Wallpaper has never been out of style," Mrs. Straub asserts. "Some of the best faux treatments I've seen have been in wallpaper. It really is a wonderful design technique."
Perrysburg decorator Luella Smith agrees. "Wallpaper isn't being used as much these days, but a pretty wallpaper is very comforting and very inviting," says the owner of Interiors by Decorating Den. "I think little touches of wallpaper do a lot of work for the home."
Her must-haves in a foyer include an area rug, table, lamp, and mirror, with pieces scaled to the size of the space. "A piece of furniture, a mirror, lighting - it says 'welcome to my home,' " Mrs. Smith says.
The niches built into the walls or overhead in the foyer in some newer homes can be accented with a different paint color or faux treatment, or mirrored to stand out, she suggests. Some people use them to showcase collectibles, while others set a vase or floral arrangement into the nook.
Mrs. Walton, of Re-Designing Interiors by Tara, suggests adding decorative crown molding or quarter or half-round columns in a foyer that lacks architectural features. Wall sconces also can add interest, she says.
She suggests placing a chair or bench in the foyer. "That makes it feel like a part of the house, like another small room rather than an open, wasted space."
You might be able to furnish the foyer by simply moving accessories or small pieces of furniture from other places in the house - a reshuffling that doesn't always occur to people, says Mrs. Walton. "When they purchase an item, they tend to purchase it for one room in the house."
Mrs. Straub says that having a chair or bench in the foyer helps the area function as it should, giving people a place to sit down to put on or take off boots, for example. A mirror in the foyer also serves a purpose, she says, allowing people to check their appearance as they arrive or before going out. Mirrors also brighten a foyer by reflecting light.
Several decorators mentioned painting the foyer to make it lighter or richer, and using a series of prints to call attention to the stairway wall.
John DuVall, an interior designer and color consultant who owns the Honey I'm Home store at Westgate, says painting one wall a strong accent color can serve as a focal point, especially useful in a foyer that lacks architectural features such as a beautiful stairway.
Don't overdecorate, Mr. DuVall stresses. "The point of a foyer is to welcome people into the home, so it should be primarily simple, left kind of open and airy. ... I think you can give a simple introduction as to what the flavor of the home is - the personality of the home - but my main focus is clean living through less clutter. Less is more. I would rather see one fabulous focal point than three or four average."
Mr. DuVall says that's true whether you have a sprawling, two-story entry or a small vestibule. "Just because you have more space doesn't mean you need to have more stuff," he declares.
Mr. Miller, of Bob Miller Interiors, says he finds people use furniture and accessories of the wrong scale, rather than too much or too little.
His advice for jazzing up the area includes using a patterned carpet or runner on the stairs, with the color and pattern coordinating with other features and furnishings in the house. If you don't have a stairway, you can use an area rug in the foyer - "something that really makes a statement," Mr. Miller advises.
Overall, the statement should say something about the house and its occupants.
"It should say we're very traditional, or we're very upbeat, or we're very contemporary," Mr. Miller says. "It should introduce the feel of the house rather than try to be its own space unrelated to the house."
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