A Friendly French Foyer: TSLL’s Home Tour (+ 6 Tips for Designing Your Own Welcoming Foyer)

May 06, 2020

“Great design is not about the size of your space or the budget you spend. It is a reflection of knowing who you are and what makes you comfortable and living confidently and happily with the objects you choose to assemble.” —Timothy Corrigan, The New Elegance: Stylish, Comfortable Rooms for Today

First impressions matter.

From our first meeting with a person who has been in our lives now for years, to our first taste of a cuisine that became our favorite in comfort and celebration, our first memory of anything remains with us, especially so, if it creates a beautiful, desired experience and then memory.

The first of anything sets the tone, communicates an unspoken message and when it comes to our homes, our hope is that it welcomes the guests and as much, if not more, the inhabitants.

The first room reveal in TSLL’s Home, Le Papillon, took place in February (see right) – the English-inspired Mudroom.

Today, I am excited to share with you the second room reveal in TSLL’s Home, the Foyer.

Whether your chosen preference in pronouncing “foyer” with an “r” or an accented “e”, to cross the threshold into one’s sanctuary is a special space. And that first room is the foyer.

Admittedly, part of the reason I chose to begin decorating my home in these first two rooms was due to that fact that I could do all of the required tasks without hiring someone, but additionally, and more truthfully, these two rooms welcome me into my sanctuary, as well as welcome guests into my home when they are invited for whatever the occasion might be, and I wanted to present a warm welcome.

What I would like to do in today’s post, along with sharing you the before and the step-by-step process as well as the detailed after images with links to the items and tips for the tasks that were included in the decorating process is to share with you 6 decor ideas for designing your own unique, signature foyer.

But first, the BEFORE image.

Before

My foyer is small and narrow. Due to the laminate floor and the taupe walls, it is a cold welcome. However, the bones are strong – clean, wide base boards; walls that were ready to be wallpapered without having to strip any previous paper off, etc.. I also want to share that the semi-flush light fixture seen here was added by me when I decorated my mudroom a couple of months ago. Previously, a modern wide flush oval light was in this space, and I removed it immediately and hung the same light from Rejuvenation that is also in the mudroom now, an Oswego 9″ clear dome semi-flush in old brass light fixture. Other than that, this is what the room looked like upon moving in last September.

The Process of Wallpapering with Grasscloth

The choice to hang natural grasscloth wallpaper was one made without hesitation. I have dreamed of hanging grasscloth since I saw it for the first time, ran my hands across it and asked, What is this? I love it, more than 15 years ago in an old boyfriend’s grandmother’s home. What I love about life’s journey is that you never know when inspiration or a memory will stick with you, but this memory is vivid, and it has sat in the back of my “decorating” mind ever since just waiting to be given the opportunity to come to life in my home.

Why I love grasscloth:

  • There is no pattern to match, so very little paper is wasted
  • A seam will be seen and that is expected.
  • Wider widths than traditional wallpaper – 36″ versus 21″-26″ (on average) which means you cover more space more quickly.
  • The warmth it immediately brings to a space without being the overt star of the room.
  • The texture to be enjoyed not only by the eyes, but to the touch.
  • Timeless

There are many places to buy natural grasscloth (there are faux options as well), but I purchased my two double rolls (they come in a double rolls which means you have the length of two traditional wallpaper rolls in one loooooong roll) from Caitlin Wilson.

Remember:

  • Make sure to order a sample/swatch to make sure the hue is what you are expecting.
    • I ordered swatches from many companies, and four from Caitlin Wilson’s before deciding on Champagne.
  • Most swatches/samples are free, but even if you have to pay $2-$5 for each, if you are investing money, it is worth the couple of bucks spent to insure what you are ordering is indeed what you want.

Let’s Wallpaper with Grasscloth!

Initially, I was not sure how easy grasscloth would be as there are many people who share that it is much more difficult than a typical wallpapering job. I do not know who those people are or what they were wallpaper, but if you can wallpaper with a pattern, wallpapering with grasscloth is actually, in my opinion, easier.

As I shared above, you do not have to match anything and you cover more space with one roll. The job goes far more quickly. HOWEVER, remember that you cannot take a wet sponge to grasscloth as you would other traditional wallpapers because it is a natural fiber. Now, keep in mind, you can carefully wipe clean some paste that happens upon the wallpaper, but know that you want to carefully remove it so that it won’t stain. Also, this is a natural fiber, so while you can use a plastic smoother-outer tool, be careful so that you do not grab a string and rip the wallpaper.

With all of that said, grasscloth is pretty tough and hardy. Read this post for a detailed list of how to wallpaper successfully, even by yourself, along with the tools you will need.

You will notice I folded my grasscloth after I put on the paste. Why I did this was to make for easy carrying to the spot where I would hang it. I folded about a foot for the top (so I knew which end was which), and the bottom I folded completely to meet the top. The paper won’t crease (unless you force it to, which you do not want to do), and you can leave it like this for 10-15 minutes without the paste drying if you would like to paste two strips of paper at once to save time.

When it comes to applying paste to the wallpaper, be generous. As well, take the paste all the way to the edge so that it will lay flat and stick cleanly to the wall.

Time to Accessorize

Knowing what I wanted to include from my previous homes for furniture and accessories was simple: the antique window turned mirror and the console table were on the must-be-included list. Also, I wanted one hook. In fact this hook (it used to be in a set of three) has been with me since I was in my twenties where it began its life with me in the first home I purchased in Portland. Yep, a hook needed to be in the foyer for my gardening hat and the leash for the boys.

The rug is something I actually found accidentally, and while I mentioned on Instagram that I would love to cover the laminate floor with seagrass, it has not happened yet (but hopefully will in the future). This particular rug was on sale at Rejuvenation when I came across it during a trip to Portland this past winter. It is hand-knotted wool, and I just found it fit the space perfectly blending the cool and the warm tones (it is available in 6 sizes and is now on sale again!). MOST IMPORTANTLY, put down a rug pad (splurge for the luxury, ultra-plush option) as it not only holds the rug in place, but makes the rug truly soft and some place cozy for your feet to land (and your pups to nap – see below).

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The console, you may be wondering, found its way into my life about 14 years ago when my mother and I went to an estate sale. It is a special piece to me for reason I will keep to myself, but it has had its welcoming space spot reserved in every home I have lived ever since.

The table lamp, for the life of me, I cannot remember exactly where I found it, but I know I found it at a yard sale??? (Now that I think of it, I believe I found it in the Hollywood District in Portland, Oregon, when I stopped into a second-hand shop there about 10 years ago.) The linen shade came with it, and that is what spoke to me immediately as it adds texture to a traditional bland white shade. I love it. And for maybe $20, it was a bargain.

The green apothecary vase is from English decorator Sophie Conran’s shop, and available in three different sizes. The price is quite nice and they do ship to the states (I think my shipping was more than the vase, but it arrived swiftly and safely), and as I wanted some color, this was the perfect vase for a large welcoming bouquet of flowers which I prefer in the foyer.

The final piece I had been waiting on to complete the room was the grouping of three framed photographs.

I thought about an array of options for which photos or illustrations I wanted to hang together in the foyer. Nothing too personal, but nothing generic; however, something that while welcoming also spoke to the person’s sanctuary guests would be entering into.

My goal was to choose a grouping of photos that revealed a hint at the journey I not only had lived thus far, currently enjoyed living but also envisioned living as life continued to unfold.

My choice may come as no surprise generally to long-time TSLL readers, the three photos were captured during my trip to France in 2018. They are images of Claude Monet’s water lily pond in Giverny, Normandy.

The more I learn about the inspirational influence Monet’s garden had on him and how he credited it with the latter half of his career’s success, and how he was not a gardener when he first lived and then eventually purchased the property that now millions of people visit each year, the more I knew I wanted to include this energy in my home. The power of Mother Nature, the comfort and source of inspiration that Mother Nature gifts us all with if only we will take notice.

As I shared in this detailed post of my trip and tour through Monet’s gardens and home in Giverny in 2018, I happened to visit on a beautiful blue sky day. Arriving just minutes after the garden opened at 9am in early July, the crowds were GINORMOUS. How I was able to capture these pictures without more than a hint of a crowd in the background, I feel most fortunate, but trust me, there were aplenty of people. And for good reason, Monet’s garden’s are exquisite, especially when they are in bloom as they were when I attended.

The framing and matting was done by a local company here in Bend, High Desert Frameworks. I have worked with Mernia and her husband on previous projects, and could not have been more pleased with the quality as well as unique offerings made available. From the digital printing to the hand-wrapped silk matting, I know when I take a project to them, it will be top quality and a custom creation.

I especially was tickled with the frame we came up with as I did not want a traditional form, solid frame, but rather a frame that looked, as I described, “as though it would have been found at a brocante in France” (in other words, with some life and patina in its visage). If you look closely, not one frame is exactly the same as the other as there are divets, “nicks” and nooks in different spaces. We were very lucky in our order as we placed it just before the company had to shut down due to the pandemic.

My choice of color for the silk matting was to find a similar hue to the champagne grasscloth, but offer a different texture and therefore bring layers to the wall’s overall effect. Monet’s water lilies pop out of the frames without being too large and excessive, and am just beyond happy with how the trio of pictures looks in the foyer.

Norman and Oscar (not in this pic) were wonderful helpers as I measured out the distance between each frame.

The single light fixture offers subtle drama being a semi-flush mount, but is high enough for clearance, even if someone is extremely tall or wearing heels as I do often. I also prefer a transparent shade as the space is small and it helps to enlarge it while still offering retro, classic style.

A few updates I look forward to making to this space in the coming months and years:

  • swap out the modern light-switch plates with push-buttons
  • add crown-molding to the wall and ceiling corners
  • seagrass flooring
  • change the door handle for a more classic, rather than modern finish and design

I love how the sunshine blazes through and lights up the small space without the need for lighting. Placing a large, rustic bouquet on the console table enables the blooms and/or blossoms to be kissed by the sunshine which makes me smile each time I see it happen.

At first I doubted I could fit the console table into this narrow space, but in many ways it is absolutely perfect as it creates privacy when I open the door (the focal point is immediately on the flowers and the three pictures rather than my home), and it offers a pathway forward rather than a wide chasm that is too nondescript. In many ways, my foyer reminds me of a flat in London’s entry way as they are often not large, but offer the first taste of the inhabitant’s style without giving the entire show away. Again, there is privacy created and thus a feeling of a safe sanctuary from the outside world.

Some readers have asked about my gardening hat, and I wish I could direct you to where to find one. I picked this lovely hat up at the brocante market in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue in Provence when I desperately needed something to protect my face and shoulders from the sun. For maybe 30 Euros, I scooped it up, wore it outside during the day, and folded and packed it into my luggage for the rest of the trip. I love it as it fits my rather large head comfortably.

The antique mirror was a DIY project which my mother thought to do more than fifteen years ago. The windows in my NW Nob Hill Portland apartment were going to be removed and updated, but these leaded glass long windows (there were two) were in my bedroom, and they were so unique. I quickly asked the contractor if I could have them, and he looked at me, smiled and said, I want them as well. I will take one and you can have the other. I was over-the-moon, and the idea to remove the glass and replace it with a mirror was my mother’s idea. It has hung in every foyer I have lived in since. (In fact, it is the one item each buyer who ended up buying my two previous homes haggled to try to include in the deal – the last buyer even suggested it was a deal-breaker. I took the risk and said, Well then, we don’t have a deal. He backed down, and bought the house sans mirror.)

5 Things to Keep in Mind When Designing Your Foyer

1.Marry function and beauty/style

How and why do you use your foyer? As I shared above, I will go on walks with my dogs and leave through the front door, so I wanted a place to hang their leash. As well, I often go through the front door to work in the yard, so I wanted a place to hang my garden hat that was easy to grab. The coat closet in this room is perfect for hanging my coats (so I don’t need more than one exterior hook), and my shoes as well (those I wear to go walking or work in the yard) go in the closet.

From that starting point with the knowledge at hand, find beautiful objects, beautiful to you that function as you need them too. From the console to place your mail when you walk in, to the antique iron hook to hang your coat, to the mirror you hang so you can check to make sure all is in place before you answer the door, these items can be beautiful and functional. Enjoy the treasure hunt to find them.

2. Eliminate anything that is not necessary (especially if you have a small foyer)

But even if you have a large foyer, a foyer is a welcoming space, so clutter does not allow for much new energy to enter the home. The foyer should be a glimpse into the home whether by how you have decorated or create framed sight-lines through which you see into the home itself.

What was necessary in my foyer? A rug for warm and creating a space of its own, a table lamp for gentle, warm light – nobody wants an overhead light beaming down at them with a 100 wattage spotlight (the wattage in my ceiling light is 40-60 watts – no more). After all, we don’t look well either when we have a bright light above us when we answer the door, and nothing will rush someone out the door like bright lighting after a warmly light dinner table gathering.

3. Add a designated space for a beautiful vase and flowers when you are able to have them

The console table has become the place for the bouquet that tells the seasons. Not every time, but often, this bouquet reveals what time of year it is. From the forsythia branches in their yellow blossoms, to the lilacs you see here, as it is the first glimpse of anyone who comes to the door, a bouquet of flowers reveals the warmth of the home as well as a benign talking point to begin a conversation. And during those occasions you do not have flowers, the beautiful vase does the talking all on its own just wonderfully.

4. Add art that means something to you

The art and its meaning may not be obvious to your guests, but you know the symbolism or story as well as its priceless value, and so long as it doesn’t offend immediately or set the wrong tone you are wishing to set, choose what you love and what brings the energy that you wish to have more of into your home. After all, the foyer is the first room we walk into, so ask yourself, What do I want to remind myself of as much as what I want to welcome my guests with?

5. Small groups of three or one large piece of art

While you can always break the rules, and should to fit your signature style, if you don’t know where to start or how to hang or what to hang in your foyer, choosing one of these two approaches will be fail-safe.

Part of the reason I chose three small frames was I already have large framed photographs in my living room, and it seemed redundant to do the same in this small space. As well, three was the perfect number for this small area of the room. If you have a larger wall, a larger compilation of framed pieces would be beautiful as well.

Hang the frames in the sight-light of where someone who is standing in the doorway will see either before they enter or just as they enter so it guides their eye into your home. In an unconscious, yet intentional way, you are guiding their gaze to where you want them to look.

6. Tend to the walls to create a warm space

Whether you choose paint or wallpaper, especially in a small space, you can really have a lot of fun creating the exact mood you want without a lot of money being spent. I was thankful my foyer was small as grasscloth is expensive, so only having to purchase two rolls was a significant investment. And rather than hanging MORE on the walls, choose thoughtful wallpaper or texturize the walls and paint them the desired color and leave more of them bare as the simplicity is powerful as well as it speaks to your clarity of design.

I hope you have enjoyed the tour of the foyer in Le Papillon. It took about two months to complete, but it was well worth it, and definitely makes me feel welcomed as I hope it will my guests when they visit soon as well. Look for more tours of TSLL’s Home in the coming months. I have a feeling we will be stepping out into the garden next, so stay tuned. 🙂

~View more posts of TSLL’s House here.

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34 thoughts on “A Friendly French Foyer: TSLL’s Home Tour (+ 6 Tips for Designing Your Own Welcoming Foyer)

  1. Love the wallpaper and the foyer’s entire aesthetic. Great job and I look forward seeing more of your renovation projects in the future!

  2. Beautiful! Every detail comes together so beautifully, the grasscloth, that rug, the lighting, your coveted mirror…. Thank you for walking us through your process.

    1. Thank you Ellen! It is a simple aesthetic, but is doesn’t overwhelm and provides, at least for me, just the right amount of comfort and warm welcome. Thank you for stopping by. 😌

  3. It’s very beautiful and welcoming, Shannon, and obviously with a lot of attention and thought to every detail. It made me wish that mine was larger so that I could do more with it. I’m going to ponder how I can do more with my small entryway. Thank you for the inspiration.

  4. It’s quite beautiful and peaceful! Alas, we don’t have a foyer, the front door just opens to a powder room and a few small steps up into the living room. However, the powder room does have a fabulous Frenchy gilt mirror which came with the house! (Love your story about the window-come-mirror!).

  5. The foyer is exquisite!! I love the Monet photos, Giverney has long been on my bucket list. Ive been foiled twice in getting there and with all that is happening in the world, not sure when my next opportunity will arise. I assume you were there over summer break. Thank you for sharing!!

  6. It turned out fabulously. And with the rug, you really don’t see or “feel” the tile so if you decide not to change it or put the seagrass down, it still looks very inviting and welcoming. Congratulations!

  7. Love the foyer! I also have a favorite hat that I bought while traveling with Sharon Santoni to Deauville and for the same reason; I was caught on a sunny day with no hat to protect my face from the sun. I love wearing it now. What is the color of your rug? Is the pattern blue? I never quite trust my monitor.
    All the best,
    Deborah

  8. I am so enjoying touring your home as you make progress. And your posts about it are so informative and helpful as well as interesting ! In our current home we don’t have a hallway/foyer but we are due to move (fingers crossed) in the upcoming month or two to a new home which has a hallway and I now already know where I wish to place a large bouquet and art. I will be referring back to your posts when I’m decorating! We also have a large front and back garden at the new house so I can’t wait to utilise your advice and tips!

  9. Shannon it’s so welcoming . Taking your time to plan it is oaying off.Your decor pieces have stories behind them making it so personal to you. I hope I am not being presumptious but have you any plans to paint your console table? I think it would elevate it. Look forward to seeing the rest of the house unfold😊

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