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What is a Foyer?

Michael Pollick
Updated May 16, 2024
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The transition from outdoors to indoors can be very jarring if a visitor walks straight through a door and directly into a living room or front parlor. An architectural design element called a foyer often helps visitors orient themselves before moving into a specific room of the home. Typically, it is a small hallway or open space just behind the main entrance that acts as a reception area for guests. Other ground floor rooms may connect with the space, as well as a staircase leading to an upper floor.

A foyer also serves as an initial introduction to the home's overall design scheme. The walls may feature framed paintings or other fine art objects, and the space may also be furnished with a decorative table, coat rack, an oversized room clock, or a framed mirror. The entryway may be lit with several floor lamps or a dramatic overhead light fixture.

This area may also be considered a transitional space, much like a mud room or anteroom. Coats, boots and umbrellas are often kept there for convenient access during bad weather. Guests may remove their shoes and leave them in the entryway during visits. Some designs include a small but functional half-bathroom to allow guests to freshen up before entering the rest of the home.

The word foyer itself comes from the Latin focarium, meaning "of the hearth." This same Latin root can be found in the word focus, which suggests that the space should be considered the focal point of the modern home, much like centralized fireplaces or hearths became the focus of ancient homes. A home's entryway provides visitors the opportunity to orient themselves before moving on to other rooms of interest.

The communal area outside of an auditorium or theater can also be called a foyer, although it may serve a different function than the space in a home. In a theater, it often contains a concession area, a front office, a ticket booth and public restrooms. A public lobby in a professional building may also contain a reception area and access to elevators and stairwells.

For those who are looking to improve the look or functionality of a home foyer, there are a number of home improvement books and websites that suggest ways to create more visual interest or improve the lighting scheme of this often overlooked area.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to HomeQuestionsAnswered, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.
Discussion Comments
By StarJo — On May 16, 2012

I think that foyers should be useful rather than all about appearance. I have a half-bathroom in mine, and it is usually the first thing the guests hit when they arrive.

I know how nice it can be to know exactly where the bathroom is without having to ask. I always feel a little embarrassed when I've driven a long way to see someone, and the first thing I ask them is, “Where's the bathroom?”

All my guests have to do is simply walk in and freshen up. They know that I will be waiting for them in the den when they are ready.

By lighth0se33 — On May 15, 2012

@seag47 – Lighting really can do a lot for a foyer. Mine is by no means as fancy as your friend's, but I have played with the lighting to set a certain mood.

I used blue light bulbs to create a very relaxing, soft mood in the foyer. I keep a vase of large white flowers on top of a cherry wood table in there, and I also have a small fish aquarium sitting on the table.

I have a tapestry that was painted by my sister featuring ocean waves hanging in there, and I think that it goes very well with the whole blue theme. None of the items in my foyer were outrageously expensive, but the mood they create is priceless.

By seag47 — On May 15, 2012

I love it when foyers have recessed lighting. It makes the entryway seem so dramatic, and it builds suspense for the discovery of the rest of the home.

My friend makes really good money working as a nurse, and she has a fancy foyer. When you walk in, you see an archway with lighting hidden up inside of it. The light shines down, illuminating the small area in a golden glow.

She has a huge oil painting of a meadow hanging right across from the front door, and the light falls upon it, really enhancing the artistic effect. I feel as if I have stepped into an art gallery every time I walk into her foyer.

By orangey03 — On May 14, 2012

I live in a very small home that was built to be nothing but functional, so it doesn't have a foyer. Visitors have to walk straight into either the kitchen or the living room, and the floor plan is so open that you can see the entirety of the house from either location.

I would have loved to have had a foyer in my house. However, I am renting this home, so I can't make any major renovations to it.

If I ever get to buy a home of my own, I will make sure it has a foyer. I would go all out with the design of it, too, because it would serve as the first impression of my entire house for people who have never been in it before.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to HomeQuestionsAnswered, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a...
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