Whoever coined the phrase "You never get a second chance to make a first impression" must have been talking about front halls and foyers. As the first space guests experience when they step into our homes and the last thing they see before they depart, entryways are important way stations that help make visitors feel welcome and set the stage for the rest of the house.
But instead of making a grand entrance, entryways are often Storage Central -- crammed with junk mail, coats and boots -- or bland pieces of real estate, furnished with the requisite mirror and table and accented with a plant and a pile of keys.
Around the corner from sleek stainless-steel and granite kitchens and lavishly decorated living rooms, foyers are too often the wallflowers of home decor.
"I've seen high-end homes that are beautifully decorated, magnificent properties with the most boring front halls," says Anna Kasabian, author of First Impressions: Fresh Looks for Entryways, Hallways and Foyers. "Your entryway is not just some ambiguous space. It's an actual room in its own right, along with being the place you welcome guests to your home. There's no reason for it to be bland. You can use it as an appetizer for the rest of the house or make it something totally unexpected."
Alice Fakier, host of HGTV.com's Ask Alice series, agrees.
"I consider the front hall to be the prelude to the rest of the house," says Fakier, an interior designer and first runner-up on the debut season of HGTV's show Design Star. "It's a sneak peek for what's ahead. Why would you take time to make the rest of the house beautiful and ignore the entrance?"
For some, says Fakier, the space's practical needs present design stumbling blocks. "Entryway" is a popular search word on HGTV.com, which features a photo gallery of foyers and front halls in the Designers' Portfolio section of the Web site.
"Foyers do have to serve practical purposes," Fakier says. "You need space for coats, a surface to put down bags and newspapers, a place for boots and even a spot for dripping umbrellas. You want to be sure that there's good traffic flow through the area. With some imagination, you can provide for all that and still create a dramatic entryway with decorative objects like artwork, furniture and creative lighting."
Linda Tucker took that advice to heart when it came to decorating her front hall, a large space that flows into both the living room and dining room of her family's Connecticut home. She and her husband, Larry, furnished the space with Asian-inspired pieces, including comfortable chairs and a decorative table. Walls are accented with paintings and photography, including several works by Hawaiian artist Roy Tabora. Glass in the front door lets sunlight through, and a color scheme built around a deep red tone creates an inviting area.
"We use the space to display artwork we've collected, almost as a gallery," Linda Tucker says. "It's a space where you can stop and sit and have interesting things to look at."
When Randi Bradbury and her husband, Bill, purchased their home overlooking Long Island Sound, the house had no front entry and no real identity. The foundation dated from the 1700s, but the existing structure had last been renovated in the '50s. The couple tackled a project that included restoring the house to its Colonial-era identity, adding a new addition and creating a glass-walled entry hall to connect the two. The glass hallway offers views of the far shore of Old Lyme and Great Island and enchants visitors, who are drawn to the ever-changing vista.
"When I open the door to welcome guests, they look over my shoulder rather than at me," Bradbury says. "We've had so many people say, 'Oh my gosh, what a great spot,' that we eventually named our home 'Great Spot.'"
Even if you're not building a new entry or working with spaces of a grand scale, you can still create a jewel of a spot inside your front door, Fakier says. For hallways without coat closets, she suggests placing an armoire on one wall for coats and shoes. A chest with drawers keeps keys and mail handy but out of sight. Depending on the foyer's size and shape, seating can include a bench with hidden storage, a comfortable chair or an architectural element, such as an old church pew.
"Consider some lavish or luxurious touches," Fakier says. "Since foyers are usually smaller, you'll get a lot of bang for your buck. "
Korky Vann writes for the Hartford (Conn.) Courant.