x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

House Doctor: Everything starts in the entryway

This often overlooked space sets the tone for the rest of the house, and is an easy place to take risks or make inexpensive changes.

The importance of an entryway is often overlooked, but this room sets the tone for the spaces ahead. Similar to the opening chapter in a novel, the foyer establishes the story that has yet to unfold by introducing the aesthetic qualities we can anticipate as we move through a space. Our design expectations are firmly planted through these initial experiences.

Of course, the entryway has functional requirements. It serves as the threshold between the harsh outside environment and the calm, comfortable inside. It is a transitional spacewhere we can shed the tools we require for outdoor activities - shoes, jackets, keys and bags - and enter unencumbered into a place for relaxation. Conversely, it is a place to prepare for our journey out into the world, where we can check ourselves in a mirror, sit to tie our shoes and collect our requisite items.

The entryway can provide a striking beginning to an interior. Exaggerated details, forms and finishes can be implemented here, or subtle hints of what will follow can be introduced. The drama of the entry can lead into subdued public and private areas where interpretations of these elements are carried through.

Before starting to decorate this area I suggest deciding on a strategy for how the space should be perceived. If a home's design language has already been established, then a few significant elements can be drawn out and interpreted for the entry. A detail in a public area of the house might be used in grand gesture here - an accent colour on furniture might be used as the wall colour or a primary colour in a wallpaper pattern. (The wallcovering can have a bold or dramatic pattern because it is used in a defined, limited space.)

If the entryway is small, mirrors can be used to enlarge the space. Functional lighting can be combined with decorative fixtures that serve as a focal point and element of interest. A single chair or stool and a chest, table or console can serve specific functions and stand alone as one-of-a-kind sculptural objects.

Larger entry rooms can serve multiple functions. Aside from the foyer to a home, a large entry can be a space to display art, rugs, wall hangings and sculpture.

Floral arrangements add colour and texture as well as a pleasant scent that enhances the overall of entering a home.

Fortunately, the entryway is a room where risks can be taken and inexpensive changes can be made as needs or wants change. On a limited budget, this room can be the first one to be intentionally designed and have a remarkable effect.

Robert Reid is a professor of architecture, art and design at the American University of Sharjah.