It all starts with the foyer

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A well-designed entrance way sets the tone for the rest of the house

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We hear a lot about the importance of a home’s curb appeal, how it creates a first impression, welcomes visitors in and sets the tone for what’s to come inside. But often forgotten, yet just as vital, is your home’s entrance, or foyer.

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“It’s like the start of a good book or movie,” says architect Anthony Bruni of Colizza Bruni Architecture. “It does set the tone for the rest of the house, but it should be very thoughtful and be a special moment all its own.”

Ideally, adds Brian Saumure of Maple Leaf Custom Homes, “the foyer offers a glimpse of other rooms in the home and piques an interest in your guests as to what lays beyond.”

Playing with aspects like furniture, decor, lighting and scale “allows the host to create a dynamic, layered mood,” says designer Julia Enriquez of Astro Design Centre.

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American architect Frank Lloyd Wright was known to design compressed, darker foyers with lower ceilings to allow visitors to “discover” the comparatively more spacious openness of the home beyond, notes Hugo Latreille, an intern architect at Hobin Architecture.

“This trick might not be used very often in modern homes, but it’s a good example of how the foyer is an integral part of ‘manipulating’ your spatial experience when you walk in. These days, we tend to favour warmer, more inviting spaces that transition visitors gradually into the rest of the home.”

But the foyer is also a hub, says architect Rosaline Hill. It’s not the same kind of hub as the kitchen, which she refers to as the living hub, rather the foyer is the movement hub.

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“The foyer is about connection. It’s where the pieces of the house kind of come together… The more connected it feels to the house, the more meaningful it is as that hub.”

Elements of a good foyer

Functionality is key, but also important are style, lighting, decor and maintenance, says Michael Mazzarello of RELM Builders.

And if you don’t have a mudroom to provide a separate space for the family’s comings and goings, your foyer needs to handle many functions. “There’s often a lot of thought has to go into that to serve all those different purposes,” says Bruni.

If it’s your primary entrance, the foyer will be one of the harder working rooms in your house, adds Steve Ardington of Ardington + Associates Design.

“Consider your daily routine during each season and take an inventory of all the items your family will need to store, and make sure everything has a home.”

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Cabinetry is a great way to make a foyer feel homey and cosy, while also storing away all the family’s clutter, says Alexandra Corriveau of Art & Stone. “Once that is designed, we can play with colour and textures to make it extra inviting.”

If you have the space, try adding a console table with a bench to give you a spot to drop your bag, mail and keys when you come in and your guests a place to sit while they remove or put on shoes, adds Enriquez. “Let it showcase your style, mood and personality.”

She also recommends a mirror above the console table to give it that finishing touch. “Mirrors will make the foyer light, bright and airy … Also, that beautiful mirror will give you a chance to check yourself before you head out the door.”

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Also key, impactful and practical flooring, says designer Brenda MacPherson. “This is an area where you can make a statement with interesting tile or an area carpet. Both have to be practical and withstand the outdoor elements.”

Tile that has some texture and variation will help disguise dirt, water and salt, adds designer Sascha Lafleur of West of Main. “And if you have a sleek, polished tile, make sure to place a substantially sized indoor/outdoor rug to minimize any mess.”

Latreille also notes that we often treat foyers purely as the entrance to the home, but we must consider it’s also the last space we venture before we leave.

“How often do guests congregate at the front door to continue the evening’s conversation on their way out at the end of a late night? Having a pleasant space that is large enough for people to say their goodbyes, hugs and just generally conclude the evening will set the tone for how visitors remember their experience.”

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Foyer trends

Today’s foyer is “more flexible now and it can be almost anything, depending on the lifestyle of the client, depending on the design of the home,” says Bruni. And that’s leading to many observations.

Attention grabbers: Several industry experts are noticing a trend toward more adventurous foyers, whether it’s through bold colours, tile or decor. “We’ve seen a shift toward moodier, rich spaces in design,” says Lafleur. “With foyers typically being smaller, separate spaces at the front of the home, this is a perfect opportunity to apply bolder design choices.”

Fun with flooring: There’s a resurgence of more classic finishes, like a checkered floor — “this pattern is timeless and elegant and I love how it brings the past and present together,” notes Enriquez. Another classic pattern, herringbone, is also becoming popular again, “or something unique on the floor to draw some attention there,” adds designer Gordon Weima.

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Foyer furniture: Elevating functional items for storage and seating into furniture, like an armoire instead of a closet, is also growing, along with incorporating other pieces into the space. “It makes the entry a little more personalized and comforting,” says Ardington.

Open concept: “We are seeing foyers being more integrated into the modern open-concept design,” says Doug McCausland of Crossford Construction. “High-quality front entry doors that shield from the cold and the rise in popularity of separate mudrooms for your immediate family’s daily use are allowing people to further reduce compartmentalization of the foyer from other main living spaces.”

Melding with the mudroom: “As we move forward, we’re going to be reducing the size of our homes,” says Hill. “One of the great functional combinations to save space is combining the foyer and the mudroom. The challenge in the future will be to combine the mudroom with the foyer without losing the glory of the foyer.”

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Are foyers a casualty of shrinking homes?
In some cases, yes, says Mazzarello. “With limited space, some newer homes are opting for more compact entrance areas that serve the practical purpose of providing access to the home, but may not have the space or design elements to be considered a formal foyer.”

But the trend towards smaller homes doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the foyer, he adds. “Many homeowners are still incorporating foyers into their design plans, even in smaller homes, as a way to create a welcoming and stylish first impression for visitors.”

Every home has a foyer, notes designer Gina Godin of Mainstream, from smaller war-time homes to large estate ones. “How you create a functional visual space when you enter the home is really the key.”

Katherine Toms from eQ Homes agrees. “A foyer doesn’t need to be the size of a ballroom to have an impact. The right console table, wall decor and choice of paint colour can transform the smallest entryway into a welcoming space that sets the right tone.”


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