Here is the question:
I recently received a question about a two-story foyer and just could not answer it in two sentences. So, here is the article.
Our current project is updating our two-story 9X13 colonial foyer. We like our tile, chandelier, and wood trim. We’re changing the entry door, area rug, carpet on stairs, and, most important, old outdated wallpaper (already stripped). We thinking of Venetian plaster on walls, perhaps heavy on the stairwell, and some type of two-color paint design. The wood trim is walnut-stained oak. Can we keep the wood stained oak and add painted architectural boxes on large walls, perhaps a shelf under the window, and cove molding? In other words, what would you do to turn a drab two-story foyer into an attractive entry?”
Dear Mr. Suchandsuch,
You can take a different approach to this dilemma. Let’s just look into classic, traditional and modern styles to see if any of them (or a combination) feels right to you.
Classic Style Tall Foyer
This classic entryway has white painted banisters with wood stained newels (key, bulkier banisters). The railing is wood as well. Because the banisters are painted this allows for a more cohesive look. If you decide to go with this look then painted paneling or picture boxes will look balanced.
The above image is the work of John B. Murray, an Architect. I like how the cove molding separates the two levels of the foyer and the wood molding on the top of the cove echos darker wood finishes. Because the space is very tall, dividing it with molding is a simple and smart solution that brings the space to human proportions. Since your foyer has a much smaller footprint, so this concept will work even better for you. The top molding doesn’t have to be too thick, by the way.
Here is another example of architectural elements as a means of abandoning the grandiosity of the two-story foyer and making it into a cozier, more welcoming entryway. Here the mood is decisively rustic but yet classic and elegant.
2. Mediterranean Style Two-Story Foyer
For a Mediterranean-style foyer with Venetian plaster in a beige tone, there is no need to paint the banisters. Venetian plaster has lows and highs in the finish, it can not be totally flat.
Because applying Venetian plaster is an intense multi-level work it could be really expensive. First, it is troweled with a special tool, then it is sanded. Finally, the second layer is the finishing layer. They can stop right there. If they do the finish is not very shiny, it looks like plaster with a subtle sheen. But if you want it shiny like marble, then they have to burnish it. I was a decorative painter before, many years ago. I am not sure if there is a newer product now that allows for fewer steps. I haven’t had a request for this finish in a while.
With this look, you have to be intentional so that it doesn’t appear dated. Bring in accents and wall art that is relevant to this look. Install ceiling beams. Beams on the ceiling are very much in vogue now thanks to Joanna Gaines from the Fixer Upper.
If you are changing the entrance door can it be embellished with inserts of faux wrought iron on the two sides of the door? (Disclaimer: I never worked with this company but they seem to be doing nice work).
Modern Look Two-Story Foyer
The recessed wall applications are very interesting! And heavy moldings on the upper level make this two-story foyer even more attractive. But I have to admit that I am not crazy about the decor. To me, the door style and the foyer dressers with whatever is on them don’t flow with the whole style. It looks like an afterthought. But I love architectural details.
Finally, for the simplest solution this is what I would do:
- Install a bulky cove molding over the front door halfway between the door and the window.
- Paint it Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace
- Bring in a light wood piece of furniture, not white or gray but very light beige, almost white but with warm undertones.
- Install ceiling beams in the same wood color as the floor.
- Paint the walls with an off-white color with warmer undertones. If you want more durability in paint you can find a harder working brand. Sherwin Williams has many commercial-grade options.
- But if you want to go with Venetian plaster, please ask the contractors for a sample board before you sign the contract.
What do you think?