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Although a home's foyer is the first room visitors see, many people fail to give the room the decorating attention it deserves.

Vicki Alston, an interior designer with Priba Furniture Sales & Interiors, Inc. in Greensboro, says the foyer is important because it sets the tone for the entire house. It's an area that needs more consideration than many people give it, Alston adds.The foyer, also called the entrance hall or vestibule, generally gives a visitor a feel for the home's inhabitants and needs to be decorated carefully because of this, Alston says. For one thing, Alston notes, the foyer often opens to more than one area of a home, such as both the living and dining rooms, and it's necessary to keep colors, patterns and textures of those rooms in mind when selecting furnishings for the foyer.

She suggests doing something a little different with the foyer, including using a conversation piece or something off the beaten track in the room. Doing this, she says, ``gives you something to break the ice when someone new comes into your home.'

Alston thinks the foyer should be both functional and a showpiece. There is always a need for some place to put umbrellas, to hang coats and to put down a hat, she says, and a mirror on the wall provides a place for a last-minute primp before you go out the door or before you open it to a visitor. In addition, the mirror adds depth and helps open up a small room. A nice piece of art can also serve as a conversation piece, Alston says.

Tables also can be used for a different look or to provide an interesting piece, but they generally aren't really functional except as a place to set down the mail or a hat, Alston notes. Both Alston and Jo-Anne Statham agree that what you do with a foyer generally depends very much upon its size.

Statham, president of A Classic Design in Greensboro, feels seating is one thing that can add functionality to a foyer. Seating is wonderful to have when you have young children waiting for a car pool or for them to put their book bags on, she says, noting that this might clutter up the area some but makes it more usable.

She points out that foyers are useful for greeting people and are a place to wait for others who may be coming up the walk. They also make a good place for people to put their name tags on when you're having a party.

Statham agrees with Alston that most people want their foyer to look its best because it's the first impression visitors get when they walk into a house, but she also feels that it's sometimes the last place people decorate because the foyer is not as useful as, say, a den.

Statham, too, finds people are insisting on functionality. For example, she said, if people put a chest or highboy in a foyer, they want to use the interior of the piece for storage rather than having it be wasted space.

She also notes that people tend to use lamps in foyers more than they do overhead lighting, particularly when they are entertaining. She also says grandfather clocks are coming on strong as a piece for the foyer.

Most homes being built today have foyers, although many of the rooms are not as large as in some older homes. Statham says that even the new retirement villages generally have a long foyer or hallway that opens to other rooms and that can be decorated.

If a house doesn't have a foyer and the front door opens directly into the living room, Alston says, a foyer often can be simulated by use of screens that allow occupants a bit of privacy from someone coming to the door unexpectedly.


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