All right, I admit it: We bought a McMansion during the dizzy days. Now, my husband and I are experiencing our own economic downturn. It’s not a good time to sell, but, as the kids are in college and the rooms are separately zoned for heat, we’re planning to shut off the upper floors and live downstairs this winter to economize. It’s easy to turn the family room and downstairs bath into a master suite. Any suggestions about how to (inexpensively) make the big foyer more useful? It’s about 18’ x 20’ with a 10-foot ceiling, and there’s a smaller entrance between it and the front door. — Regretting It in Mount Kisco
Downsizing without moving — good idea! Interior designer Nancy Almeida, whose company Beautiful Home is located in beautiful Scarsdale, thinks that since you’re co-opting your family room for a bedroom, a general furniture switcheroo is the best bet. “She could make the living room the family room, and use the foyer as a living room, but place the furniture so that it’s more of a sitting room,” she says. Okay, definition time for those of us whose living and sitting rooms are one and the same. “A sitting room is less formal than a living room,” Almeida explains. “In a sitting room, you don’t congregate everything as in a formal living room, where you might have two sofas facing each other.”
Almeida suggests you first create a focal point, “perhaps a round table with a pretty floral centerpiece for some height.” (If your McMansion decor is typical, I’m betting your foyer is already thus equipped.) “Then arrange furniture around that, perhaps one sofa and two armchairs,” Almeida says. “Spread pieces out to keep the look informal. Maybe put two chairs in a corner, like a little conversation area with a small table between them.”
What about the floor? (I’m picturing an acre of polished hardwood.) “Area rugs would be great to delineate the space — one great area rug under the center table,” Almeida says. “Or, if you have two and they work together, put one by the sofa and chairs and another under the table. Artwork would be terrific with that high ceiling,” she adds.
Should anything be done to draw attention to or away from the staircase? “No, leave the staircase alone,” Almeida recommends. “If there are windows, dress them up a little bit. There’s probably a chandelier — keep that. Put lamps alongside the sofa and between the chairs. The small entrance works as a foyer, and then you’re walking into a sitting room. It can certainly work.”
There you go: Just get a few burly guys in to haul furniture around and you’re all set. Sounds like fun.