There's no question most urbanites have to do the best they can living with limited square footage. But no matter how small a dwelling, sometimes it's more about a smart space plan that can make or break a place. For me, a residence with a dedicated foyer or front hall that marries form and function well is a key ingredient – particularly for we Torontonians who have four seasons of climate to navigate the moment we step out our front door.
And, well, isn't life a little more chic when you can make a grand entrance?
Speaking of making a grand entrance, have you seen the madcap 1958 film Auntie Mame starring Rosalind Russell? It's about an orphan who goes to live with his free-spirited aunt in New York, where conflict ensues when the executor of his father's estate objects to the aunt's liberated lifestyle. One of the highlights of the film, beyond the racy dialogue and never-ending parties, is that the apartment undergoes five extreme design makeovers. Here are some of the decorating changes seen in the acres of foyer:
If you click the photo above, you'll enjoy the original trailer for this hysterical movie! For lovers of design and comedy (what could truly be a better combination?), Auntie Mame is a must-see film!
Although few residences have a grand foyer like the one in Auntie Mame, it's unfortunate when developers forgo creating any sense of arrival, especially in this day and age of the teeny tiny condo. There's one building on King Street West where the developer tried to trick buyers into thinking they had a foyer beside the galley kitchen, but then he stuck the fridge under the stairs. This is worse, both visually and functionally. I mean, who wants to walk out of their kitchen and down the hall to get cheese? Here's a photo showing this travesty:
In my former Button Factory, the front door opened directly into the living space for a number of years which, I have to admit, was much too revealing. For $5000, I had a custom wood track suspended from my ceiling in an irregular 'S' shape from which panels of diaphanous linen draperies were suspended spanning the full width of my loft townhouse. With the larger swoop of the wood track arcing around the front door, one could move the linen panels to any desired configuration, including creating a voluminous 'self-contained' foyer. I loved the simplicity and understated elegance of this design solution. The verticality of the window coverings cast the eyes up to enhance the proportions and height of the ten foot ceilings, while the texture of the linen weave filtered the light from the south exposure and created privacy from passersby when required. You can see more close-up photos in my post called Don’t Be Too Revealing.
This ethereal foyer created a sense of mystery and suspense, and piqued the curiosity of those who looked in to wonder what lay beyond. Just like with Cupid, a spell was cast with the desire to see more. I didn't realize until it was completed that the draperies added an extra layer of softness that was lacking in the space. This feminine touch helped counter balance the otherwise masculine weight of the loft's brick walls, wood beams, stone floors and steel elements. The addition of curves, fabrics and colour successfully achieved the Yin Yang balance essential of good design. I knew my place spoke to the female segment of the market when two single women competed against each other to buy my loft. Here's a photo:
Although I'm touting my appreciation for the meet and greet benefits of having a foyer, in our Canadian climate they're also extremely practical. With our ever-changing four seasons, the ubiquitous front hall of many traditional houses serves as a much-needed transition zone. It provides a dedicated space to kick off wet boots and coats, and creates a buffer from the sometimes radical differences between the temperatures inside and out. Although these foyers can often be as small as the front entries of many condominiums, there's still an opportunity to make it visually arresting. Here's a couple of examples from Houzz.com
If you've seen some of my past or current renovations, you know my aesthetic varies – I can be clean-lined modern or classic contemporary. If I was flush with cash, I would own a place with a foyer so expansive I could put a pedestal table with flowers right in the centre. Here is an inspiration shot that showcases a foyer of my dreams:
As a housing-obsessed realtor who unlocks doors to homes pretty much every day, I've long been fascinated by the manner in which residents balance the practical function of coming and going with the art of making a favourable first impression. After all, crossing the threshold into your home creates an instant image statement of who you, and your household, are.
Does the form and function of your foyer serve as an accurate reflection of your household?
In the Garden Suite of The Black House – my triplex slash vacation rental property in Charlottetown, PEI, which I co-own with a best pal, we created a beautiful yet functional foyer. In my domestic philosophy, I measure the authenticity of a well-loved home by how well its collection of rooms and their contents, starting with its most public to its most private spheres, successfully communicates the story of its occupants and their domestic life at that moment. As a housing conceptualist with a more critical eye, the success of the thoughtfully composed domicile requires its rooms to sequentially unfold from public to private in a harmony of scale, proportion, finish and visual cohesion. How's that for upping my design ante?
At our 1880s shingle manse, renovating the Garden Suite became an exercise in honouring the history of the house and the materials of its vintage, while infusing a relaxed modernity appropriate to its reincarnation as a vacation get-away. And it started with the foyer, where we took a design risk and dedicated an entire room to begin our domestic tale. At The Black House, the Garden Suite begins arriving into an 8×8 foot foyer with floors of marble black and white ribbon tile, walls of white bead board, and pocket French doors connecting to a demure classically-inspired Centre Hall with wood parquetry floors, crown moldings and a faux Greek Revival porch from which the Entertainment Space unfolds. We restored the vintage radiator, added a vintage milk bottle chandelier, attached some red sailing cleats for coat hooks from Charlottetown's Cottage Industry, and placed 2 stainless steel + 1 light cube from Toronto's Stylegarage for seating to contrast with the architecture. Although the space isn't large enough to accommodate my dream of a pedestal table in the centre of the room, I find it captivating nonetheless.
There's another foyer I adore right now in a gracious Deer Park residence that makes my heart go thumpety-thump. The owners – under the guidance of architect Peter Higgins – renovated and restored this century home into a confection of classic contemporary design. From the moment one walks into the foyer, one is transported into understated delight. It transitions into a centre hall with a gorgeous staircase from which the space plan radiates. Here's some pics:
Don't you love? Wanna see the whole place? Check out A Bespoke Classic Contemporary Restoration In Deer Park, which we sold for over asking!
When it comes to real estate shopping, it's easy to overlook the merits of a foyer. After all, there are so many other practical and emotional needs that take priority when your search is on for the 'right place'. But at urbaneer.com, we're here to assess and review the little details that make for a great property for your consideration, even when your attention might be appropriately focused elsewhere. With over two decades of experience in real estate and design, we're here to guide you from start to finish!
Have questions? Please know we're here to help!
~ Steven Fudge, Sales Representative
& The Innovative Urbaneer Team
Bosley Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage – (416) 322-8000
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