As a busy interior designer, you’d think that I would get my fill of room make-overs and renovations during my workday. Some days this is the case, but more often than not, after a long day at my pink lacquered desk here at the Corea Sotropa Interior Design headquarters, you will find me curled up in front of the television tuned in to the HGTV network. I call it research, but I must admit, the lines between research and mindless entertainment are often a bit blurry.
I was conducting some high level “research” the other day while watching an American-based real estate program. The agent was touring her clients through three prospective dream homes and I kept hearing one word over and over like nails on a chalkboard: “Foyer.”
Congratulations, you just bought yourself one heck of a FoyER! Image via Superstock.
Now I must clarify, it is not the word I have a problem with. Rather, it is the pronunciation that this Texan real estate agent was using. ‘Let’s step into the Foy-ER.’ ‘Look at the beautiful marble floors in this Foy-ER.’ It got me thinking, ‘How did this perfectly lovely word become defiled like this?’ Merriam Webster defines “foyer” as an anteroom, vestibule (especially of a theatre) or an entry hall. Please forgive my inelegance here, but this particular Texan’s pronunciation, with the gratingly hard R, sounded more like the definition of a back entry to me! I did a little research and found a great little website, called Phrontistery, that explores such issues. For those of you who are interested, read on. For those of you who are here for the pictures, I totally understand and encourage you to scroll on south!
According to the writer Forthright (on the Phrontistery website), the pronunciation FOY-er is more common in standard American English while FOY-yay is standard in British English. While some Australians pronounce the word FOY-er, Canadians and Brits do not. “Foyer” entered the English language only in 1859 through French, which was influential to the English elite at the time. The original French pronunciation (fwa-yay) is uncommon but, the current pronunciation (FOY-yay) is similar, at least in the second syllable. According again to Forthright, “Foyer” is experiencing a phonetic shift and because it is incomplete, the common pronunciation FOY-yay has no full rhymes in English. Well, add that to the list, right under the word orange!
An Orange Foyer (I betcha can’t find something that rhymes with that!) by Martha Stewart
OK, now that I got THAT out of my system, I thought I might share with you how my own foyer came to be. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I live in a pretty typical mid-century built bungalow. When we bought the house, the front entrance was a glorified hallway that opened onto the living room.
The above photo shows a view from the front door toward the kitchen. What is with the kitchen door?
This photo shows a view toward the bathroom. Notice the lovely framed-out telephone niche on the right. You just don’t see details like that anymore!
This photo above shows the view toward the master bedroom. For some reason the linen closet was built right over an existing sidelight. Weird!
As you can see from the above plans, we blew out the closets which divided the space into a series of hallways to create one room. I stole space for a new coat closet and linen closet from the small adjacent bedroom.
I enjoyed my research for this post so much! I just love looking at all the photos of bright beautiful foyers with 10-foot ceilings, pristine white paneling, graciously-paneled staircases and sunlight streaming in through leaded glass windows. That would be my go-to move if I were designing my dream foyer.
(Sigh…) Image courtesy of House Beautiful Interior Design by Albert Hadley
Sadly, none of these elements can be used to describe my foyer with its 8-foot ceilings and shadowy light fighting to gain entrance through 2 skinny sidelights. I am nothing if not a design realist, and subscribing to the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” school of thought, I set about creating a foyer that would capitalize on the room’s assets.
Sotropa foyer, post-renovation. Interior Design by Corea Sotropa Interior Design
You can see that opening up the room instantly improved the overall levels of natural light by stealing rays from the adjacent kitchen and bathroom. I wanted to create some drama in this space so I chose to paint the walls in Benjamin Moore’s HC-69 Whitall Brown. The combination of this rich grey-based chocolate with my old friend OC-130 Cloud White on the trim and ceiling serves to create that classic look I admire so much. The hardwood floors were ruined when we tore out the walls so instead of patching them, I ripped out the remaining hardwood and installed marble tile which runs seamlessly into the kitchen and bathroom.
One little problem I encountered when I decided to remove all the walls was that I no longer had a separation between the public (foyer) and private (bedrooms & bathroom) spaces. There was no way to fully rectify this issue short of building a wall, which I was not about to do. So, I resolved to drop the ceilings in the short halls that lead to the private spaces. In addition, I painted the dropped ceilings and the door trim in the wall colour to further minimize the spaces. Although this didn’t create a physical buffer, it does serve as a psychological cue, indicating that one is entering a private or intimate space.
I lit these little niches separately with recessed lighting, but chose the “Emma” pendant from Zia Priven for the ambient lighting in the foyer. Furnishing the foyer was pretty simple. I placed a 3′ diameter center table under the light and centered a huge mirror on the wall. I pulled one of my extra dining room chairs into the corner so guests have a place to sit when they put on their shoes. To add further storage I had a small bench built across from the coat closet. We keep all of our scarves, hats and gloves in the concealed drawer below. I had a custom cushion made for the bench in ultra-leather and I tend to switch out the artwork and the pillows to change things up from time to time.
Sotropa foyer, post renovation. Interior Design by Corea Sotropa Interior Design
That is how my lowly front entrance/hallway became a card-carrying member of the foyer club. Below are a few other examples of foyers with the same rich chocolate brown and crisp white colour combination I chose.
The graphic zebra rugs in these two foyers pack a nice punch and help to ground these double-volume spaces.
Below are two examples of a classic foyer furniture arrangement. A console table is a great opportunity for seasonal display.
Oh, there’s nothing better than a hit of pink in a chocolate-coloured room. It puts one in the mood for Neapolitan ice cream, non?
Here are two examples of foyers using the same chocolate brown and white wallpaper. This works as well in the casual entry (right) as it does in the more formal entry shown on the left.
Below are two more examples of wallpaper in the foyer. What a fantastic way to set the tone for your home!
I will leave you with this one ray of hope. Our friend (Forthright) at Phrontistery conducted a poll on the usage of the word foyer and its pronunciation. He noted that a couple of poll respondents indicated that they were abandoning or had abandoned FOY-er after hearing FOY-yay or learning that it was ‘correct.’ So perhaps FOY-yay may not be simply an intermediate form on its way out, but may eventually replace the more fully anglicized FOY-er.
Well, one can only hope.
That’s my two cents!
* All photos and floorplans of Sotropa residence are property of Reena Sotropa and Corea Sotropa Interior Design.