Chad recast the formal living room as a lounge space where the family members play music, read and relax. Many of the eclectic furnishings and accessories are family heirlooms. The guitar belonged to Chad’s father, while the sofa — reupholstered in a cobalt blue velvet — and old cameras belonged to his grandmother. The elephant references one of the daughters’ love of pachyderms.
After: Pale gray walls and crisp white molding and baseboards give the living room, and its entrance, fresh appeal. With a background in industrial design, Chad had a previous career creating home decor products, including the wall clock seen here. “I designed clock faces and gave them vintage-sounding names,” he says. “There is no Esslinger Clock Company. I just used my family name for fun.”
After: Chad removed walls from the staircase to open it up to the surrounding rooms and hallway. The new floating oak treads match the refinished floor. New balusters and handrails add to the airy look. “We lived through all of the remodeling construction in the house,” Chad says. “When we took out the original staircase, we couldn’t access our bedrooms for a while, so we all slept together in the basement on mattresses. We referred to it as our family love-in.” He hung vintage advertisements, banners and memorabilia that resonate with the family on the wall above the staircase.
House at a Glance Who lives here: Patty and Chad Esslinger (she’s an accounting firm director; he’s an interior designer who redesigned the home), their three school-age children, two dogs and a cat Location: Downers Grove, Illinois Size: 3,200 square feet (297 square meters); four bedrooms, four bathrooms General contractor: Platinum Builders One of the first changes Chad made was reimagining the entry, which serves both the garage and the front door, to make it more user-friendly. A narrow console table serves as a landing spot, while two ottomans provide a place to sit down and change shoes, rather than opting for the staircase on the right. “Adding a mirror to the space helps open things up,” Chad says. “You can also make sure your hair is OK before you go out.” The barn door leads to a laundry; it replaced a traditional door that ate up too much space.
It all started with just one piece in Toronto. When homeowner Peter Andrew saw this sculptural piece, he knew he wanted to hang it in his entranceway, which made him realize he wanted to keep the original staircase, which helped inform other major renovation decisions, which … well, I’ll send you over to the full story so you can find out how the rest of the house turned out.
Modern art meets Arts and Crafts in Montreal. The hints in this hallway are subtle, but once you see the rest of the house, you’ll realize you were tipped off. The oversize urns and chunky console table let you know that homeowners Maxime Vandal and Richard Ouellette like to play with scale. The stools reveal that they like to play with old and new. The front door and its stained glass window tell us that they enhanced the best architectural elements of the 1910 Arts and Crafts home, and the brightly colored stool is a clue as to how fearless they are when it comes to bold colors and graphics.
Balancing elegant and rustic in Dallas. This extensive remodel was a labor of love for newlyweds Ilya and Arina Gurfinkel, who completed the bulk of the renovations themselves after work and on weekends. Their style is a mix of elegant and rustic, embodied very well in this console table vignette. The table itself has a vintage industrial look, while the paned mirrors above it look like they were plucked from a Paris salon. An elegant ceramic collection is the icing on the cake.
Casual and formal mix in the Oregon countryside. Alli Jensen wanted to create a separate, more formal entry area in her home. However, she created it with a casual touch: barn door hardware. This way her family can decide whether they want privacy in their great room or a clear view to the front door. The three-paneled doors are larger versions of others she used throughout the house.
Buried treasure comes to the surface in Akron. The entryway in Tim Frankln’s renovated barn is full of the site’s history. Franklin found pieces of the potbelly stove scattered around the Ohio property, cleaned them and placed the stove as a tribute to the home’s past. The artwork is three original drawings and schematics of the farmland.
French country style rules the roost in Georgia. In Douglas and Kim Nichols‘ Buford home, a sideboard painted with a weathered treatment has a strong presence, enhanced by mirrors, a pair of tall gingham-topped table lamps and a plate collection. Ocher walls say bonjour, while the door and sidelights wash the space in light.
Farm fresh and friendly in Georgia. A vintage feeding trough’s patinated blue paint is welcoming in Zack and Lauren Anne Johnson’s Athens farmhouse. The couple is adventurous when it comes to choosing colors for their home. This vignette hints at the inviting and casual vibe throughout the house.
Usonian balance in the Pacific Northwest. At first glance you might think this is an outdoor space, thanks to the expansive window and the bed of river rock that continues from inside to out. What visitors know for sure when crossing the threshold into Scott and Emily Faulkner’s house in Ellensburg, Washington, is that they are taking a step back into the golden age of midcentury modern architecture.
Southern comfort in Dallas. This foyer says an architect lives here, especially if you know what went into restoring the architectural drawing over the vintage church pew. Homeowner and architect Christy Blumenfeld painstakingly bleached the brown spots out of the antique rendering, restoring it and framing it, and it’s one of the first things one sees upon entering. The striped grass cloth wall covering and the potted palm ooze Southern hospitality.
Merging belongings and styles in Portland. Just inside the front door of their Oregon bungalow, a gallery wall combines the personal styles of newlyweds Chris and Jennifer McCormick. A vintage license plate mingles with a map of Portland; a vintage pennant tops a mirror. A dresser provides plenty of landing-strip storage, while a quirky chair offers a great spot for tying one’s shoes. The entry reflects the design compromises the McCormicks made upon moving in together. The result is eclectic harmony.
Exposed in Toronto. In Steve and Meg Gardner’s home, most of the Victorian details had been wiped out during prior renovations. While they went for a clean and contemporary open plan, the original exposed brick is a beautiful and historic accent. The wall continues to their bedroom above. A modern light fixture overhead hints at what awaits inside.
Artfully sticking to a budget in Texas. Homeowners Sarah and Jack Greenman know how to stretch a budget. In lieu of expensive wallpaper, Sarah took inspiration from Jamie Meares at Furbish Studio and painted their striking entryway to look like wallpaper herself. She also made the painting with the little white bird.
All dogs allowed in Austin. Margaret Hoffman’s country property in Texas serves as her home and a sanctuary for dogs she’s finding homes for. There’s nothing like a prominent ceramic pooch in a minimalist home to represent a passion for saving animals. The sealed concrete floors are easy to keep clean with pets.
Moody and grand in Salt Lake City. “My grand hallway is a great landing spot to drop keys, bundle up before heading out, check your face in the mirror, feel sorta fancy,” says homeowner Cody Derrick. The gray tones, fantastic finished wood, long mirror and lithograph set a moody, luxe tone his Utah apartment. You also learn right off the bat that Derrick is not afraid of bold graphic wallpaper and that you’re likely to see more antlers inside.
This entrance is shallow and wide (the front door is to the right) and relates to the ranch style of the home. A good rule of thumb is that the foyer is around 2 to 4 percent of the total square feet or meters of your house. Most people also need a coat closet within or immediately adjacent to this space, and that should be 24 inches (61 centimeters) deep and at least 36 in. (91 cm) wide with doors that are at least 24 in. (61 cm) wide and 80 in. (203 cm) tall. If you design a wide coat closet — say, more than 48 in. (122 cm) — give it a double door of at least 18 in. (46 cm) per panel. This will make access to its interior more convenient.
This airy contemporary entrance hall in New York gets more light from a skylight in the upper-level roof. A bridge helps to define the extent of the foyer and provides a scenic vantage point from which to enjoy the interior plants and stone wall from above. Notice the slate floor as another indication of this foyer’s extent.
Contemporary architecture can interpret traditional configurations, as shown in this Australian addition by Klopper and Davis Architects. A sidelight and transom of a single pane each accompany the colorful slab entrance door. This long and narrow foyer pays homage to the original 1920s bungalow to which it was added with its embossed ceiling and exposed brick.
In this transitional-style house by JCD Custom Home Design, two interior arches are reflected in the transom. Sidelights with glazed upper sections and a paneled lower one complement the four-panel entrance door. This foyer is about 72 in. (183 cm) wide and runs approximately the length of the adjacent room, about 15 ft. (4½ m). Notice that a closet is at left, conveniently placed aside the footprint of the foyer. A long and narrow table lines the opposite wall and provides a place on which to set things.
This contemporary Mediterranean entry by Ryan Street & Associates is modestly scaled but highly refined in detail. The arched glass entrance door with sidelights was likely custom fabricated, and a unique low and square baseboard gives this space individuality. This arrangement measures about 66 to 72 in. (168 to 183 cm) wide and 72 to 96 in. (183 to 244 cm) long. The narrow table provides a place for accessories.
First Street Builders This new traditional Craftsman house also has a standard size entrance door, 36 in. (91 cm) wide and 80 in. (203 cm) tall, and there is also a transom above it that helps it to relate to the taller door of the coat closet. The overall size of this foyer is generous and includes a built-in bench where shoes can be removed. The seat height of a bench should be around 14 to 15 in. (36 to 38 cm). Notice that the coat closet door is relatively narrow. Doors narrower than 24 in. (61 cm) can be difficult to find off the shelf.
Entryway Design Ideas The traditional Connecticut foyer by Hollester Interiors shown here is generously proportioned and acts as a central circulation route as well. The spacious room has an area for the entrance door, a landing for the stairs, places for tables on which to set things, and benches and chairs. A foyer of this type needs to be 15 to 20 ft. (4½ to 6 m) wide and long to function with this capacity. Notice the extra-wide plank floors, which coordinate with the larger scale of the space.
Wall Thickness This contemporary rustic mountain home by BCV Architects in a California ski resort area has a wide glass entrance door set within arched sidelights and an arched transom. Configurations like this are custom. The refined details of the finishes and the scores in the concrete floor give this modern space unique character. You will notice that the interior arches are thicker than the other walls. This may or may not be for structural reasons, but the heft of this detail emphasizes the foyer’s importance. If you want this effect, make those walls at least 8 in. (20 cm) and at most 18 in. (46 cm) thick; 12 in. (30 cm) might work well enough.
Ceiling Heights Standard American ceilings were 8 feet for many years, but more recent trends have made 9- and 10-foot ceilings more common. Of course, you may have a two-story house with an open foyer, and your ceiling may reach the height of the second floor, which would be a minimum of 17 ft. (5 m) to the full height of the upper level.
Sidelights and Transoms Sidelights and transoms can be found in many traditional configurations. Traditional-style American sidelights are usually 12 or 18 in. (30 or 46 cm) wide, and transoms (a window above the top frame of a door or window) will fit in a header height of 96 in. (244 cm) when combined with an 80-in. (203-cm) door. You can buy an entire single door or set of double door and sidelight(s), with or without transoms, in a packaged group from many manufacturers. Expect these doors to range from 60 to 96 in. (152 to 244 cm) in width and from 80 to 120 in. (203 to 304 cm) in
Single and Double Doors Many entrance doors in American houses are 36 in. (91 cm) wide and 80 in. (203 cm) tall. If you are shopping for a front door, you will find an abundant range of choices in this size. Double doors are another option, provided you have the space for them. You can find pairs that are 30 in. (76 cm) wide each, making an opening that is 60 in. (152 cm) wide. More common is a pair of doors that are each 36 in. (91 cm) wide. At 6 ft. (2 m) in width total, it takes generous wall space and a larger-than-average foyer to handle them. Double doors are designed with an active side and a passive side — that is, one of the doors will act as the one you most frequently open. The other door is considered passive, though it can be opened as well, but it stays in place most of the time. When specifying double doors, be certain to consider this question carefully. It often makes a difference as to which side you will want to open more often.
Most people also need a coat closet within or immediately adjacent to this space, and that should be 24 inches (61 cm) deep and at least 36 in. (91 cm) wide with doors that are at least 24 in. (61 cm) wide and 80 in. (203 cm) tall. If you design a wide coat closet — say, more than 48 in. (122 cm) — give it a double door of at least 18 in.(46 cm) per panel. This will make access to its interior more convenient.
Foyer Size and Shape Shapes and sizes of foyers should relate to the style and size of the house. A good rule of thumb is that the foyer is around 2 to 4 percent of the total square feet or meters of your house. Grand foyers can measure 20 to 30 feet (6 to 9 meters) in both directions and be just as high. Modestly scaled foyers may be about 5½ ft. (1½ m) wide; the length, which holds a central hall with a stairway (not seen here) is likely 15 to 20 ft. (4½ to 6 m). The width of a long foyer needs to be a minimum of 42 in. (107 centimeters) to feel right. Widths of 48 to 54 in. (122 to 137 cm) are better, while 60 to 72 in. (152 to 183 cm) will likely feel very generous. Here a niche in the brick wall, which was once an opening into the original house, provides a spot for a lamp and other accessories.
These two photos may initially appear dissimilar; however, they are more alike than you might realize. Scale is the differentiator, but they are both rooted in traditional architecture and they function similarly. An entrance door is centered within each foyer and each has a chandelier, albeit of considerably different magnitudes. Each also has a beautiful table, upon which rests a vase of flowers. Mirrors allow the play of light and provide reflection, and color adds emphasis. These elements are common to many entries. Attention to the scale of the details and the execution of the design make them successful here.