Q: We recently purchased a home with an exceptionally large entrance hall. It's difficult to furnish because it has several openings onto other rooms as well as a wide staircase. Equally perplexing are the glass sections on both sides of the door. Since they're the only source of daylight for the hall, I don't want to cover them, yet I also enjoy my privacy. What can I do with a hall like this?
A: Don't despair. There are solutions to each of your problems.
Let's start with the furnishing issue. You should first understand that there's nothing unique about your entrance hall's lack of wall space. That's a common condition, owing to the fact that these areas, by definition, open onto other parts of the home.
One possibility is to situate a round table right in the center of the space. Then put a colorful vase filled with flowers on top of it, hang a lantern or some other lighting fixture from the ceiling above it, and place a decorative rug underneath it. Such an arrangement, frequently used in hotel lobbies, will automatically become the hall's focal point, thereby diverting attention from the overall size of the space and from the distracting features on its perimeter.
You might now be saying, "Wait a minute, my entrance hall isn't that large!" If so, forget the table but keep the centrally located ceiling fixture and rug. That will still enable you to create the focal point that's essential in reducing the visual sweep of the hall.
You'll also need to paint all the walls and possibly the ceiling in a dark color. Again, the objective is to make the space seem more compact, which cannot be achieved with light colored wall covering.
Lamps directly attached to the walls are a much more effective solution than ordinary down lights that are positioned to shine on the walls. Besides adding some desirable glitter, they will have the effect of making the hall's perimeter seem even less far away.
If the staircase is an attractive feature, there's no point in camouflaging it. Install a carpet runner on the steps that features a design similar to the rug used in the center of the foyer. You might also place some live potted plants in decorative cachepots on the first few steps, provided that the stairway is wide enough to accommodate them. Be sure to choose grape ivy or some other species that can survive without sunlight.
And now for the problem of what to do with the "light" on either side of the doorway. (That's the name given to these glass-paned openings that serve the useful purpose of admitting daylight to the hall).
One way of preserving your privacy is to replace the clear glass with frosted panes. That option will allow diffused sunlight to enter the space, though it's not a particularly decorative touch. Alternately, you could purchase some etched, semi-opaque glass from a local specialty shop or, with luck, at a crafts fair.
There's also the old standby solution of installing thin rods at the top and bottom of the lights, with a sheer gathered fabric hung between them. Too ordinary? Then take a look at the photo.
Guests are welcomed to this entrance hall with a touch of color on the lights. These translucent, pleated shades are from Joanna, a CHF company. Through the use of the solarized material, they offer the uncluttered look of blinds as well as the softness of curtains.
A semi-sheer fabric in a pale color would probably work best in your situation. Such a choice will go well with whatever style you create in the hall itself.