Call it what you will – foyer, foy-yay, vestibule, lobby, entryway or dumping zone… In modern times, they all mean the same thing – it’s the area we land in when we enter our home. It can be tiny and efficient or over-the-top grand.
The word “foyer” has been used to describe a waiting room, corridor or lobby to a large space like a concert hall, hotel, theatre or corporate head office. It’s basically a chamber or area between the indoors and outdoors of a structure, accessed by an exterior door.
We’ve adopted the French pronunciation here in Canada where the word loosely translates to, “place for fire,” or fireplace.
Because the grand old theatres from the 1700s to 1900s were large, drafty buildings, the gathering area inside the entrance usually had a large fireplace to warm audiences between acts. It was called the foyer.
Way before that, the elite classes in ancient Rome would generally live in two homes: A grand villa in the countryside or on the seashore, and a domus (where the word domestic came from), in the walled city.
The hallway-like vestibule led to an open atrium that was sparsely furnished, but was filled with marble decorations, artwork on the walls and painted ceilings. This space served as the meeting room for the home.
Few windows existed, so an open portico in the ceiling allowed rainwater to fall into a small indoor pool and allowed sunshine to light up the interior, much like a skylight today.
The entrance simply acted as an air lock to hold heat in the winter, and cooler air in the summer. But like the thresholds to the theatre, this gave way to today’s symbols of wealth – the power lobbies we see in hotels, government buildings and large corporations. All portend the wealth to be discovered beyond greater and grander entry ways.
How does that translate into today’s homes?
If we look at the ever-diminishing examples of 1950s post-war era homes, the entrance ways are small, efficient spaces to get you in from the outdoors.
As suburbs started to give way to the ex-urbs, bigger and grander homes began to dot the horizon and the foyer set the prosperity tone for the whole home.
The elegant two-story high entry with a sweeping staircase was no longer just a Disney castle fantasy. It was being replicated in multiple homes, in new communities, everywhere.
As Canadians, most of us grew up being told to use the side door, back door and mud rooms to transition from indoors to out. We tend to see the foyer as a “guest space,” not something we use every day. So, it’s time for an attitude adjustment. It should be considered a tone-setting, design-able space that represents who we are (or at least we could be)! It may go against our very nature to use anyone’s front door, but I say just do it. It may be one of the few times it gets used.
No matter how grand or how small your entry space, decorate it to reflect your taste and treat yourself to the front door treatment as often as you can – no matter what you call it.