How to Avoid the 5 Worst Entryway-Decorating Mistakes
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How to Avoid the 5 Worst Entryway-Decorating Mistakes

Interior designers share the most common décor goofs they see in foyers—and how to avoid them.

By Elizabeth Anne Hartman
Mon, May 31, 2021 12:35pmGrey Clock 4 min

An entryway should feel like an appetizer on your way to the main course,” said New York City interior designer Laura Krey, one of the many designers who wonder at the neglect this key room often endures. Lacking an actual foyer is no excuse, said Lucie Ayres of 22 Interiors in Los Angeles. “You must figure out how to define an area that will welcome you and your guests.” Rugs, wallpaper and seats can delineate where walls don’t. We asked pros like Ms. Ayres for the irksome decorating gaffes they see most frequently, and for their seasoned advice on what to do instead.

The Family Dump

“Life happens—shoes, bags, jackets and umbrellas get tossed by the front door without a second thought,” said Amanda Khouri, co-founder of design firm Murray Khouri in Nashville. That includes the detritus that Covid has littered our lives with, such as masks and sanitisers. Kristen Peña, of San Francisco’s K Interiors, noted that while we must stay safe, “it’s important that your entry has a more-welcome, less-E.R. feel.”

Instead: Take stock of your habits and clutter and you’ll be able to designate a place for everything without sacrificing beauty, said Ms. Khouri. Are your ever-present water bottle and yoga mat adding visual noise? Tuck them in large fat-weave baskets placed beneath a console or a closed storage piece such as an antique sideboard. To corral Covid supplies, said Ms. Peña, add a good-looking lift-top box to the entry table. Another solution, care of New Orleans designer Maureen Stevens: Ikea’s Hemnes shoe cabinet, easily made more stylish by changing the hardware, or adding colour and pattern with stencil or even wallpaper.

Fugly Rugs

One of the best ways to ruin the view of the beautiful room beyond your entry is “a huge, industrial-strength, waterproof doormat that would look more suitable on a loading dock,” said Carey Karlan, of Last Detail Interiors in Darien, Conn. Puny rugs don’t work either, said Samantha Gallacher, co-founder of IG Workshop in Miami Beach. They look like sloppy floor mats and don’t stay in place, she said.

Instead: “Large rugs in the entry make the space feel like it is designed and intended to welcome guests,” said Dallas interior designer Chad Dorsey. Ms. Gallacher suggests that the rug make a statement as well as introduce the design concept and colours reflected throughout the home. Ms. Karlan favours an Oriental rug. “The thick wool is very absorbent, they clean well, they don’t show dirt and they come in all styles, from contemporary to classic,” she said.

WINNING ENTRY In a foyer in the Pittsburgh suburbs, designer Betsy Wentz refused to play it safe. For the cabinets, she chose vivid Benjamin Moore paint colours that were then layered in lacquer by National Woodwork in Lawrence, Penn. PHOTO: CARMEL BRANTLEY

Puny Lights

Foyers with overly diminutive lights aggrieve Philadelphia designer Melinda Kelson O’Connor. “The entry is not the place for ambiguity or mystery. The space should make a statement.” Another hazard, New York-based Kati Curtis pointed out: inappropriately sized fixtures that get lost volumetrically in the space and create a basketball-court ambience.

Instead: Opt for a striking chandelier and illuminate artwork with perimeter-wall lighting, Ms. O’Connor suggested. “Even a foyer with a low ceiling can have a large, beautiful flush-mount fixture.” Bigger is better, especially in a vaulted space. “Use a fixture that visually fills up the height, adds interest and makes your entry feel more welcoming and less lofty and intimidating,” Ms. Curtis advised.

Entryway as Afterthought

Given that it’s the first—and sometimes only—space guests see, it’s remarkable that the foyer is treated like the home’s neglected stepchild. “It is the place where brownies are dropped off and play dates are exchanged,” said Sewickley, Penn., designer Betsy Wentz. Still, homeowners frequently leave foyers sparse and undecorated, which feels lonely and off-putting, said Los Angeles designer Lindsay Pennington.

Instead: Ms. Pennington recommends hanging an impressive mirror to expand the space and choosing a chest over a console if you have room. “Drawers make life easier,” she said. Eilyn Jimnez, founder of Miami’s Sire Design, suggested including vintage pieces, found items and family heirlooms in a curated way. “These items are a great way to tell the story of your home.”

Overdoing the Wow

On the other hand, don’t mistake your foyer for a receiving room at the Vatican. It’s too much if you’ve added treatments to floors, walls and ceiling and crammed in bold lighting and furniture, said San Francisco designer Lindsay Anyon Brier. “The entry should be the opening paragraph of the home. It should begin to introduce the plot but not give everything away.”

Instead: One strong design idea can be enough, said Tal Schori, partner at Brooklyn’s GRT Architects. He welcomed both warmth and function into the 3-foot-by-5-foot entry of a narrow townhouse by hanging unique, muted ombré wallpaper, screwing in a glass sconce and installing three brass hooks. Ms. Brier likes to highlight a sole piece of art or a light fixture that is sculptural by day and becomes a glowing focal point in the evening. “Make it spectacular but in a less-is-more way,” said Ms. Brier.

ODD ARRIVALS

The funniest foyers designers have stepped into

ILLUSTRATION: GUY SHIELD

I walked into a foyer and noticed only the enormous, completely-out-of-scale lantern, hung way too low, and a complete lack of furniture to balance it. The embodiment of inhospitality, the room offered nowhere to drop your purse, your key or mail and certainly no spot to sit.” —Rebekah Zaveloff, co-founder and director of Kitchen Lab Interiors, Chicago

Suffice it to say a dearly departed taxidermy dog is best left to a more private part of the residence.” —Fernando Wong, landscape and interior designer, Palm Beach, Fla.

An entryway doubled as a laundry depot. It’s so awkward to see someone’s dirty underwear before shaking their hand, and it’s always a mistake to leave your undergarments by the front door.” —Isabel Ladd, designer, Lexington, Ky.

I had a client who was obsessed with Star Wars. He had a curio cabinet full of Star Wars memorabilia, as well as a life-size cutout of Princess Leia, in his entryway.” —Mary Patton, designer, Houston

Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: May 28, 2021.



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I.M. Pei was the confident visionary behind such transformative structures as the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong and the Louvre Pyramid in Paris, but he was also humble, and for years resisted a retrospective of his work.

Pei, a Chinese-American architect who died in 2019 at 102 , would always protest any suggestion of a major exhibition, saying, “why me,” noting, too, that he was still actively at work, recalls his youngest son, Li Chung “Sandi” Pei. A decade ago, when Pei was in his mid-to-late 90s, he relented, finally telling Aric Chen, a curator at the M+ museum in Hong Kong, “all right, if you want to do it, go ahead,” Sandi says.

A sweeping retrospective, “I.M. Pei: Life Is Architecture,” will open June 29 at M+ in the city’s West Kowloon Cultural District. The exhibition of more than 300 objects, including drawings, architectural models, photographs, films, and other archival documents, will feature Pei’s influential structures, but in dialogue with his “social, cultural, and biographical trajectories, showing architecture and life to be inseparable,” the museum said in a news release.

As a Chinese citizen who moved to the U.S. in 1935 to learn architecture, Pei—whose full first name was Ieoh Ming—brought a unique cultural perspective to his work.

“His life is what’s really interesting and separates him from many other architects,” Sandi says. “He brought with him so many sensibilities, cultural connections to China, and yet he was a man of America, the West.”

Facade of the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong in a photograph commissioned by M+ in 2021.
© South Ho Siu Nam

Pei’s architectural work was significant particularly because of its emphasis on cultural institutions—from the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., to the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar—“buildings that have a major impact in their communities,” Sandi says. But he also did several urban redevelopment projects, including Kips Bay Towers in Manhattan and Society Hill in Philadelphia.

“These are all places for people,” Sandi says. “He believed in the importance of architecture as a way to bring and celebrate life. Whether it was a housing development or museum or a tall building or whatever—he really felt a responsibility to try to bring something to wherever he was working that would uplift people.”

A critical juncture in Pei’s career was 1948, when he was recruited from the Harvard Graduate School of Design (where he received a master’s degree in architecture) by New York real estate developer William Zeckendorf.

With Zeckendorf, Pei traveled across the country, meeting politicians and other “movers and shakers” from Denver and Los Angeles, to Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Boston, and New York. “He became very adept at working in that environment, where you had to know how to persuade people,” Sandi says.

During the seven-year period Pei worked with Zeckendorf, the developer fostered the growth of his architecture practice, supporting an office that included urban, industrial, graphic, and interior designers, in addition to architects and other specialists, Sandi says.

When Pei started his own practice in 1955, “he had this wealth of a firm that could do anything almost anywhere,” Sandi says. “It was an incredible springboard for what became his own practice, which had no parallel in the profession.”

According to Sandi, Chinese culture, traditions, and art were inherent to his father’s life as he grew up, and “he brought that sensibility when he came into America and it always influenced his work.” This largely showed up in the way he thought of architecture as a “play of solids and voids,” or buildings and landscape.

“He always felt that they worked together in tandem—you can’t separate one from the other—and both of them are influenced by the play of light,” Sandi says.

View of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, on the mesa, in a photograph commissioned by M+ in 2021.
© Naho Kubota

Pei also often said that “architecture follows art,” and was particularly influenced by cubism, an artistic movement exploring time and space that was practiced in the early 20th century by Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and the sculptor Jacques Lipchitz, among others. This influence is apparent in the laboratory at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., and at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, N.Y. “Those two buildings, if you look at them, have a play of solid and void, which are very cubistic,” Sandi says.

Yet Sandi argues that his father didn’t have a specific architectural style. Geometry may have been a consistent feature to his work, but his projects always were designed in response to their intended site. The resulting structure emerged as almost inevitable, he says. “It just was the right solution.”

Pei also intended his buildings “not only to be themselves a magnet for life,” but also to influence the area where they existed. “He never felt that a building stood alone,” Sandi says. “Urban design, urban planning, was a very important part of his approach to architecture, always.”

After he closed his own firm to supposedly “retire” in the early 1990s, Pei worked alongside Sandi and his older brother, Chien Chung (Didi) Pei, who died late last year, at PEI Architects, formerly Pei Partnership Architects. Pei would work on his own projects, with their assistance, and would guide his sons, too. The firm had substantial involvement in the Museum of Islamic Art, among other initiatives, for instance, Sandi says.

Working with his father was fun, he says. In starting a project, Pei was often deliberately vague about his intentions. The structure would coalesce “through a process of dialogue and sketches and sometimes just having lunch over a bottle of wine,” Sandi says. “He was able to draw from each of us who was working on the project our best efforts to help to guide [it] to some kind of form.”

The M+ retrospective, which will run through Jan. 5, is divided into six areas of focus, from Pei’s upbringing and education through to his work in real estate and urban redevelopment, art and civic projects, to how he reinterpreted history through design.

Sandi, who will participate in a free public discussion moderated by exhibition co-curator Shirley Surya on the day it opens, is interested “in the opportunity to look at my father anew and to see his work in a different light now that it’s over, his last buildings are complete. You can take a full assessment of his career.”

And, he says, “I’m excited for other people to become familiar with his life.”