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How to Design the Perfect Entryway

When it comes to designing a foyer that welcomes, it’s all about form meeting function.


Photo: Jeld-Wen

A well-designed entryway is like a good host: warm and welcoming. It should set the tone for the rest of the home to come, but also radiate a sense of comfort that puts your friends and family at ease. To achieve that effect in your timber home, you need to address your foyer’s size, atmosphere and, perhaps most importantly, its functionality.

 

The amount of space you devote to an entryway not only depends on the size and scale of the rest of your home, but how you plan to use it, and one of the first decisions you need to make is whether you’ll require one entryway or two. It’s not uncommon to establish a formal entryway to greet guests at the front of your home and have an equally wonderful, yet intimate, space — often off of the garage — for residents to enter.

 

Be on the Front Line

 

There’s more to designing a front entryway than meets the eye, but the eye is a good place to start. As soon as guests step through the door, they should have a pleasing line of sight into your home — one that emphasizes the timber framing truss work and perhaps a fireplace or a spectacular view.

 

There is a flip side to this approach, however. Instead of allowing guests to take in the grandeur of your timber home all at once, you may choose to reveal it slowly instead. The foyer provides a perfect medium for this transition while also creating a sense of privacy, either with a divider wall or with a staircase, to provide some separation from the front door and the rest of the home. (This also helps restrict extreme temperatures from penetrating the entire living space every time you open the front door.)

 

Size-wise, make sure guests have enough space to enter and exit your timber home comfortably without bumping into each other. The average person needs 3 to 5 square feet of space to put on and remove coats or shoes; so as you’re laying out your plan, think about the volume of people (e.g., you have a large family) who may be arriving or departing all at once. Keep in mind, however, that although a foyer’s footprint should allow for the right amount of activity, it should be proportionate to the rest of the house. A small foyer will get lost in a large-scale home, while an oversized entry in a petite place can be a waste of precious square footage.

 

Though this is your chance to make a good first impression, take care not to over-design this area. All too often, a homeowner wants to make a statement with the foyer for that “wow” factor, but the space ends up becoming cold and unwelcoming. You’ve got your timber frame to make guests swoon — save the drama where it’s due.

 

 
Photo: Heidi Long

 

Come in Through the Back Door

 

Unlike formal foyers, rear entries are utility-centric. Most homeowners come in to their house through the garage, so it stands to reason that this back door gateway doubles as a drop zone or mudroom, complete with a coat closet, a bench to make it easy to put on and remove shoes and lockers for sports equipment. It also could house your washer and dryer and, maybe, a sink for rinsing hands after a day of gardening or car maintenance. 

 

When planning your timber home’s rear entry, consider who will use this space just as thoughtfully as you  would the entrance your guests see. Will young children use this area? If so, include room to stow backpacks and shoes, and make sure the flooring is kid-friendly: skid resistant, resilient and easy to clean.

 

If the pitter-patter of little feet is a distant memory, a rear foyer still makes sense, but for different reasons. Some ideas: Use this area for kitchen-storage overflow; set up a small work station for bill paying, charging electronics and schedule keeping; or add a space for pet grooming.

 

What’s Outside Also Counts

To create a truly successful entry, there’s more to think about than just what happens when you walk through the front door. Everyone enters from the outside after all, so the approach to your home is just as important.

 

If you’re building in a colder climate, take extra steps to block out the harsh winter winds by designing a double-door vestibule, also called an air-lock entry. On the flip side, if your home will be in the South or another warm-weather region, a deep porch will create respite from the sun. Porch ceiling fans will take it a step further by generating a gentle breeze, and the space will have the added benefit of creating a spot for outdoor socializing. Add a touch of timber framing to your porch or even drive-up porte cochere and you will hint at the exciting space that lies within.

 

 
Photo: Karl Neumann

 

5 Tips for a Perfect Entry

 

  • Create a Seamless Transition. The move from outdoors to in shouldn’t be abrupt. Establish a mood with your walkway and landscaping that will set the stage.

 

  • Don’t Overcrowd. Don’t try to cram too much into your foyer. A bench and a coat rack (if you don’t opt for a closet) are often all you need. If you have a little extra space, add a console table to rest purses or packages. A large wall mirror will bounce light around the space (and allow guests to check their look as they come in).

 

  • Be Consistent. Your timber home’s foyer is an introduction to your house, so design and decor should complement its overall feel. Don’t give your foyer a California contemporary vibe if the rest of your timber home is traditional.

 

  • Shed Some Light. Chandeliers and sconces are elegant, but make sure your entry has adequate illumination so it’s safe and easy to use. Supplement them with recessed lighting or table lamps.

 

  • Include a Focal Point. Whether it’s a work of art or a sweeping staircase, make sure it’s front and center in this all-important room of your timber frame home.

 

 

See also: What to Consider When Designing a Staircase