Decorating & Design

December 6, 2012

Ask A Designer: Spacious Foyer Fix-Up

Q. I’d like to add picture-box mouldings and perhaps wainscotting to my foyer, from the floor to the second-level ceiling. What size “picture boxes” should I use? With an 8′ ceiling, what height should the wainscotting be? And how do I transition the mouldings to the high ceiling of the circular staircase? Should I paint the crown moulding the same matte finish as the ceiling?

— M.T., Markham, Ont. (To submit your own question, see our Ask A Designer™ page.)

A. You have a beautiful wide and open foyer! It’s a great spot for welcoming guests, and it can easily become another room in your house. Adding architectural detail is a smart idea; it’ll bring depth and character to the space.

Skip the wainscotting and instead install vertical mouldings to accentuate the ceiling height. You’ll have to curve the mouldings around the staircase, so shop around for a talented trim carpenter! Have them installed so that the tops are all on the same plane — the heights will decrease as they move up the stairs — then cap them off with a chair rail, as in our inspiration photo. (You can fill the upper wall by stacking a second tier above the chair rail.)

Use the same white — like Delicate White (518-1) from Pittsburgh Paints — on the walls, staircase stringer and millwork, but indifferent finishes for contrast. Go with matte for the walls, mouldings and stringer, and semi-gloss on the baseboards, trim and crown. Then paint the banister and stair treads glossy black to reference the floor tiles.

Your foyer can handle something larger than your existing console. Try a round table (see inspiration photo) — I like the 48″-diameter Miraval dining table from Crate & Barrel. Its shape is traditional, but rendered in cast-iron with a mirrored top, it has an industrial edge.

Slip two ottomans underneath the table as easy-to-access perches for donning shoes. The 9158-00 ottoman from Lee Industries has a great leggy profile and can always be moved to the living room for extra seating.

Break up the floor tile with a patterned rug under the table. West Elm’s jute and chenille Herringbone rug has a luxurious texture.

To play up the ceiling height, hang a light over the table. The Fergus lantern from Currey & Company has elegant lines and will offer impact without overwhelming.

See more Ask A Designer responses. Plus, submit your own question, with instructions from our Ask A Designer™ page.

1. Lantern, Currey & Company. 2. Ottoman, Lee Industries. 3. Table, Crate & Barrel. 4. Rug, West Elm.