Friday, June 18, 2010

Planning: Vestibule/Foyer

I thought I'd start this series of posts off with "Dreaming" but knowing that if I am focused and determined enough to make this happen; this new house, and all of this work will be a reality ... I've decided to call them "Planning" and they start today with the foyer/vestibule area.

Many houses built in the early 1900's have what I like to call a vestibule: an area of entry before the main hall or foyer. Vestibules in WNY have so many fabulous benefits that having a house without one makes you a little jealous of those who are lucky enough to enjoy them. Most usually tiled with mosaic tarrazotine, vestibules are the perfect entry point for people with muddy, wet, or snow clad boots and coats. It saves your hardwood floors from unnecessary water damage, and can prevent staining to rugs when shoes are removed in the space. They're not uncommon, but rarely will you find them in houses under 2000 square feet.

From what I could tell from the window - the foyer is papered, at least partially, with an old gilded lencrusta. The other wall space is painted a brown cinnamon color. The window you see in my not-to-scale plan is actually a transom, probably about 5'5 feet from the floor, and about 2' x 3'. It's been covered with board and plastic, so I can't see if the original leaded glass still remains. Note the grid lines in the middle of the room. That's an arch that spans the entire width of the space. UNDENIABLY GORGEOUS!

I knew without a doubt, the minute that I looked in to see the painted woodwork, including to-die-for 18x18 recessed wood panels, and the soft curvature of the arch, that I wanted to use the rich texture of grasscloth in the foyer and vestibule, reaching up to the second floor and down the main hallway. The flexibility of style with grasscloth is unparalleled and the texture and richness makes any space feel instantly more sophisticated.
I'd choose something like this:

The richness of the deep honey tones in this paper is a nice choice for a small space like a foyer or a hallway, and will allow the light to reflect and refract nicely creating a variety of color and spotlight on texture that you'll never get with paint or flat paper. A fresh coat of dove white on all of the painted wood and the shell for both rooms is complete.

Now, I don't think that there are existing french doors leading from the foyer to the main parlor:

So, I'd add them. Simple 9-12 light french doors, stained a lovely deep rich walnut. I've always loved the pairing of white mouldings and dark stained doors. A pair of them will work beautifully leading to the living room, and one will find the perfect spot between the foyer and the hallway to the basement. All in all - the look will be similar to this:

Sorry - picture is sorta poor quality, but it's the best I could find the execute the point. So ... we're sorta cookin' with crisco here, right? We've got new grasscloth walls in a soft honey brown tone, richly deep stained french doors in the doorway to the main parlor and basement hall, and a new leaded glass window in the transom and also the stair landing. The fun part: furniture, lighting, and space plan:

I really love a secretary in the hallway. It serves as a wonderful impromptu office, a place to keep and sort mail, and often times, will allow you storage for scarves, hats, gloves, and those fun sticks you break apart to keep your hands warm! My northern readers will know what I mean! So, it's a must have in every space plan when possible, and here we have plenty of room.

I picked this gorgeous Mahogany Empire Butler's secretary for the space at the foot of the stairs. It's narrow enough (24") to serve as a permanent fixture there. Now, I love the Empire style antiques. Empire was a transitional furniture style created between traditional and Victorian styles. It's a masculine antique - filled with interesting carving and fantastic space. This particular piece (again - keep in mind we've suspended time and money is moot) is 2-pieces, and has a small drop for writing space and hidden stack storage. It's listed on Ebay for $2500, and is probably right in line with the value of such a large piece in good condition.

To either side of the secretary, I'd place the open back Victorian parlor hall chairs. They're rosewood, and the pair on Ebay is $149.95. Small in scale, they're the perfect side chairs when you need an extra seat or two, but easily tucked next to furniture like the secretary for easy maneuvering through the hall: hence - hall chair.

Keep in mind, the dark furniture will be against the warmth and texture of a honey brown grass cloth, and will sit across from a beautifully detailed staircase with custom paneling. Above the chairs, to either side of the secretary, I'd hang these gorgeous sconces by Suzanne Kasler from Circa Lighting.

I think that this vignette is particularly indicative of my style: masculine, tailored, but with a delicate, yet eclectic mix. Atop the secretary, I'd layer some gorgeous blue and white Asian porcelain ginger jars and temple jars. I love the look:

Course, I couldn't - and wouldn't - stop at 2. There's a need for a rug, and because of the L-shape nature of the space - 2 would fit the bill. I could have custom broadloom or seagrass cut - but in this space - with the amount of traffic it's sure to receive - I think a beautiful oriental or kilim will be gorgeous.

We're lucky enough to have several of these gorgeous rugs - so I think I'll pick from the best of the lot and away we'll go! Scott is anti-crystal in many cases. He'll have to get over that ... but in the foyer, I think I might let him have his way and put in this gorgeous lantern above the staircase.
The light, open feeling of it will be in perfect harmony with space, but will be the perfect juxtapose to the heavy Empire furniture. The lines are complimentary to the sconces flanking the secretary - and it's available in blackened rust finish - which I believe is a better fit.

My quick rendering:

Again, quickly done - no color, but you get what's going on in my head. Are we all on the same page? Great!

Now, the vestibule: That space has tile floors. I love them, as they're old and wonderful and original to the house. They also make great sense when it comes to the function of a vestibule in this climate - as I explained before. So the tile stays. The walls get the same gorgeous grasscloth paper and due to the height of the ceiling and the swing of the door - we're going to have to rely on table lamps. So, furniture and lighting:

First, the corbel glass console from Restoration Hardware. Now, I'm lucky enough to live in an area where the architecture is old enough and diverse enough that I am likely to find something similar to this at a re-use store and create my own. But sense we're making believe - we'll pull this one in! Atop that console, we'll do two lamps made from these wicker wrapped demijohn bottles, topped with green pleated shades to pull out the color from the great European botanical we'll put on the wall between the lamps. Beneath the table, is the perfect place for another pop of wicker - which can hide shoes, scarves, gloves and the like - so we'll put a basket there. Accessorized with a yellow cashmere throw over the trunk and a deliciously put together arrangement of yellow flowers and magnolia leaves - we're done. The rendering:

I'm quickly realizing how much more beautiful these would be colored in. Perhaps I'll work on that for the next few. So there you have it ... a piece of my brain and the way I put it all together. What do you think?


  1. Gorgeous. I would love a vestibule. One of the most charming ways to enter a home. Love the botanical! Great work.

  2. Artie! You have come back to LIFE!
    We have missed you! The renderings are wonderful. I will be crossing my fingers for your success in getting this house you have fallen head over heels for! DO keep us all posted!

  3. First of all...Another practical reason for having a vestibule up here in winter wonderland is that when you enter, the cold air is trapped in the vestibule area between the doors and doesn't cool down the rest of the house. I'm certain that by now, you understand, let's talk about that corbel work! Nice Artie...very nice ideas...I wish I had a vestibule..:-)**Tami

  4. Your plans for the hallway sound great. In fact, I used to live next door to a house with an almost identical plan--the stair landing had a bay window with a window seat--and if I hadn't left town instead, I might have bought the place. That house was great, so I see why you like this one. At any rate, your hallway plan sounds excellent.

    The vestibule, however, seems overfurnished, since the whole function of a vestibule--aesthetic function, that is, apart from its practical function as an air lock--is to serve as an intermediate, transitional step between public space & private. In purely visual terms, the vestibule grouping works just fine, but furnishing the space so densely extends the 'private' realm of the hallway out into into a room not originally designed for such use, and in doing so, it actually diminishes the vestibule's practical function, and Victorian architects were nothing if not practical. Of course, most houses today don't have vestibules, so it's not surprising that most people, when confronted with them, don't know how to furnish them appropriately. Basically, in vestibules, less is more.

    In the winter, people bulked up to twice their normal size with heavy, puffy coats will put at risk anything sitting on that console, making things like delicate floral arrangements out of place. Then again, most vestibules are unheated, so real flowers probably wouldn't survive in winter, anyway. At first glance, that throw seems a natural for cold weather, and it does provide a splash of pretty color, but let's face it: it's functionally pointless in a pass-through space, and here, its problematic location on top of the trunk's lid is asking for trouble, anyway, since it's likely to either slip behind the trunk when people open it or, worse, fall on the slushy floor. It just needs to go away. Sorry.

    The glass top of the console minimizes the visual bulk of the piece--important in such a small space--and it shows off the scrollwork in a way that a solid top would not, but its top surface needs to be clear & uncluttered for the inevitable books & gloves & bags that people need to put down while they take off their wet boots, so I'd trade the fragile, space-eating lamps & use the same wall-mounted sconces you have in the hall. That way, you provide visual interest while keeping the flat surface for practical use.

    Lastly, that's a nice piece of art, but what's really needed here is a mirror--in a decorative frame of course--so that, when someone is leaving via the front door (which hope, presumably, is why you're going through all of this in the first place) she can make sure that her hat is on straight before she goes out the door, and if she's a guest arriving, so that she can at least attempt to fix her hat hair before she makes her grand entrance at the party. The most important thing we can do for our guests is to make them feel comfortable when they're in our homes, and that requires making it easy for them to arrange themselves ahead of time. A pretty decor comes after that--in the hall.

    Last thing I'd do is add a matching wicker trunk on the other side of the vestible--for sidewalk salt & wet boot storage--and up above it, a horizontal molding all the way across the wall, with plenty of hooks for coats & scarves. Wet boots & scarves should never meet.

    Can't wait to see your color sketches!


  5. ...i love your ideas for the vestibule...but the mirror idea is a very good thought...i know i live in the comes in the front door...and in winter their coats are usually taken else where if there is no would come in the back door and that is where we would put all the hooks for our coats and and shoes etc...your excitement is so much fun...if it is "meant to be" i hope your dreams come true...if not...there is a better dream waiting for you...

  6. I love it! It has that Ralph Lauren feel to it. (referring to your past posts expressing your love of his style) Yet you have placed your personal design seal throughout. The vestibule ceiling height completely allows for the vingette you have envisioned. Otherwise it would feel like entering a cavern. I live in snow country also, and pratically speaking the only reason I see with changing anything would be if you had a few children. This is the 'front door' to your world and you given it the life it would otherwise scream for. Both spaces are fabulous...absolutely fabulous!