In suburbs across America, traditional townhouses and developments come standard. But let's say your taste swings more contemporary, or your house dates to the '80s, is brass-infused and needs an update. One of the best places to start redecorating is the foyer.
"I think an entry should set the tone of the house," says designer Raji Radhakrishnan of Raji RM & Associates in Washington. You want it to "hint at what's to come inside."
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If your entry hints that you're boring and tired, don't despair. Designer Regan Billingsley offers this advice: "Updating an entry can be as simple as painting or changing light fixtures, rugs and accessories." Radhakrishnan and Billingsley, who are each working on foyer projects, offered us a few ideas for inspiring awe upon arrival.
Furniture with form and function
The challenge with entries, Radhakrishnan says, is that "you want to balance both function and beauty. ... You want it to be useful to hang your coats, remove your shoes, bags, et cetera, but you also want it to be pretty." Coat closets are traditionally the best way to tame the clutter. If you don't have one, try a hall tree. "It is multifunctional -- usually with a mirror, coat and hat hooks, and umbrella stand all in one," Radhakrishnan says. Restoration Hardware's coat rack bench also has a seat for putting on shoes and a shelf to store them ($1,195, restorationhardware.com).
Find a more modern hall tree at a lower price with West Elm's wood-and-steel Pipeline hall tree -- also with coat hooks, a bench and a shoe shelf ($499, westelm.com).
Entries should have "a great console table, a bench if possible," Radhakrishnan says. Horchow's Cynthia console would work with a variety of home styles, including traditional and transitional ($1,499, horchow.com).
"I almost always use accessories that add a pop of color as an opportunity to introduce other colors that appear throughout the house," Billingsley says. A bright piece of furniture is also a good, vibrant choice: Grandin Road's Amalfi bench comes in enough colors to complement any color scheme: red, purple, orange, green, yellow, black and teal, with multiple cushion color and pattern options ($199, grandinroad.com).
The Springfield storage bench offers a more muted take on color, with a white base and just a splash of color in its cushion, available in dark blue, light blue and yellow. Store shoes and leashes inside the bench ($249, grandinroad.com).
For another way to introduce color, Billingsley says, try painting or wallpapering the interior of your foyer closets. "On a dreary day, a fuchsia, periwinkle or Kelly Green closet can make putting on your winter coat a lot more fun."
Welcome guests with lighting
Good lighting in an entry is critical. Use it as an opportunity to signal your style. "If the ceiling is not too short, hanging a light fixture -- not a chandelier -- such as a lantern or pendant will give the space presence," Radhakrishnan says. Try a mother-of-pearl hanging lamp from Pier 1 Imports ($150, pier1.com).
Bring your entry into this century with just one switch to a neo-traditional pendant. When used properly, brass can be more retro than dated, as Thomas O'Brien proves with the Hicks small pendant, by Visual Comfort & Co. If brass still isn't your thing, it's available in several other finishes. ($483, circalighting.com).
"Entries with really tall ceilings will need a variety of lighting, including hanging light fixtures, sconce and table lamps," Radhakrishnan says. Anthropologie's Seaworn wall sconce offers a modern alternative to the Colonial-inspired candle sconce ($248, anthropologie.com).
"One accessory I urge every client to add to their entry is a table lamp," she says. "It can be set on a timer to ensure that everyone in the household walks into a lit space." Don't settle for just any lamp, though. Use the opportunity to find something special, such as the Bond lamp, with its unusual mix of materials: An eggshell linen, natural burlap or Java burlap drum shade (shown) contrasts with a glass base and walnut neck and bottom. ($299, schoolhouseelectric.com).
Put accessories to work
"For a small space, entries do a lot. They hold keys, coats, rain boots, hats, dog leashes and more. I like to find accessories that are functional yet unique," Billingsley says. "An umbrella stand, a shoe rack, a mail sorter and a key tray are all opportunities to organize in an artistic and individual way." Anthropologie's ceramic post holder is a softer take on the standard metal letter holder ($12, anthropologie.com).
Ballard Designs' French Axis rubber boot tray is one of those items that remembers both function and style. It's made of rubber that rinses clean and is accented with a scroll pattern that recalls elegant metalwork ($26, ballarddesigns.com).
A detailed white porcelain umbrella stand adds interest to any entry. Billingsley also likes using a clear tall vase or galvanized steel pail for umbrella storage. ($159, horchow.com).
And because rain and mud won't contain themselves to boot trays and umbrella stands, look for a durable rug for the entry hallway. Make sure that it's a "rug that will look good even when used for wiping dirt off your feet," Radhakrishnan says. Indoor-outdoor rugs from sources such as Dash & Albert Rug Co., Dwell Studio and Ballard Designs are a good idea, Billingsley says, as are natural-fiber rugs, such as the herringbone sisal runner from High Street Market ($135, highstreetmarket.com).
Where to shop for entry accessories? West Elm, Jonathan Adler, CB2 and Wisteria are some of Billingsley's favorites. One West Elm find: the bone inlay Parsons wall mirror ($249-$499, westelm.com).
Entry mirrors can reflect light into a home as well as be pieces of art in their own right, as Ballard Designs' bone sunburst mirror is ($269, ballarddesigns.com).
A chair such as IKEA's PS 2012 chair offers a place to slip shoes on and off as well as a place to drop mail and groceries for a moment. If you're lucky enough to have a long entryway, "one or two hall or side chairs flanking a console table will work great," Radhakrishnan suggests ($90, ikea.com).