By Marni Jameson
The entry hall of the one-year-old Phoenix home was bare as a bowling alley, save for a plastic rideable truck.
The house belonged to DC’s stepson, Adam, and his wife, Amber, parents of two little darlings, ages 6 and 3, who apparently use the hallway as a parking lot.
Amber, and to a lesser extent Adam, has a different vision for the entryway. Before DC and I arrived for a holiday visit, Amber let slip that she was shopping for entry furniture.
That was all the encouragement I needed. Whenever anyone uses the word “shop” and “furniture” in the same sentence, I butt in, welcome or not.
Like many young families, Adam and Amber find the job of furnishing a new home while working, going to school, and raising a family, challenging. Though many areas of their house are coming along well, Amber came to a full stop at the front door. The pressure of decorating this space, which is a home’s first impression, left her frozen at the threshold.
Also, like many new to decorating – and those not so new – she and Adam are nervous about spending money on something big that they won’t like once they get it home. We have all been there.
“I don’t know where to start,” Amber says after DC and I settle in, and get to talking about, what else, home design. “I’ve picked out an entry table, but I’m not sure it’s right, and it’s a little expensive.”
“Do you want my help?” I ask, as if she has a choice. My New Year’s resolution is to start exercising some restraint, which I plan to start doing in February.
Her eyes brighten.
Adam looks nervous. He knows my advice, though free, will cost money.
DC looks around for a corkscrew.
As I forge ahead, I understand I am not exactly on terra firma. I only officially became the mother-in-law less than a year ago. The only situation worse than a meddling mother-in-law offering decorating advice, is a new meddling mother-in-law that is the second wife of a stepdad offering decorating advice — not that I’m one to let such piddling matters stop me.
Amber and I size up the space. On the plus side, the area has great backgrounds: taupe porcelain wood floor tile, a neutral warm grey wall color, and 10-foot ceilings. One of the space’s challenges, however, is that it feels more like a hallway than entry.
“You need to define the entry, and separate it from the rest of the space with a rug,” I say, as I take measurements.
Amber says she’d been thinking of getting a runner. However, I tell her, a long runner would accentuate the runway feel, which we want to play down. A 5 x 7 would be perfect and would establish the first half of the corridor as the entry; the second half then becomes transition space, and can stay plain.
Adam likes the plain part.
“I don’t have to furnish it?” Amber asks.
“Nope,” I say.
Then she pops open her laptop to show me the entry table she’s picked out. At a bit over $500, this would be a budget bite for this family.
“Want my honest opinion?” I ask.
“It’s too big. At 18 inches deep, it would stick out and block traffic. Plus, it’s designed to be an entertainment unit. You don’t need cabinets. You want a narrow console.”
The ideal table would be no more than 14 inches deep, and would have no knobs to catch on purse straps, backpacks or pigtails flying by.
I take over the mouse. Together we surf home furnishing stores. In a few hours, we dial in a sleek espresso-colored console, a pair of buffet lamps, a killer round brushed-silver mirror, and a 5 x 7 rug.
The total … Adam perks up anxiously …. $475, everything for less than the original table, and better looking.
“I saved you money,” I say to Adam.
“That’s Marni math,” DC says.
After I return home, the pieces begin arriving, table, lamps, mirror, and finally rug. Amber sends pictures, so I can watch the entry develop like a picture in a flip book.
When all is in place, I text her, “Happy?”
“I love it!” she texts back. “It’s so great to have some style in the house that is kid friendly, the right price, and chic for our little family. Even Adam, who rarely comments on design, said how nice it looks.”
I smile. No one will ever know how relieved I am.
As I helped Amber create her entryway, I am reminded what every entry needs:
- A defined space. Some entries by virtue of their architecture are better defined than others. However, those that open directly into a living room, or, as in Amber’s case, onto a long hall, need definition. Declare the area with an area rug, or, in a carpeted space, install hard flooring to force the outline of an entry.
- Floor it. An area rug defines the space. Knowing what a beating entryway rugs take, Amber appreciated getting one that was handsome but inexpensive, so she won’t mind replacing it in a couple years.
- A small table. Part of saying “welcome to my home” is having a table for visitors to set their keys and sunglasses on. The table should be in proportion to the space and should not block traffic.
- Mirror mirror. Every entryway needs a small mirror, so you or guests can quickly check hair, scarves, blouse buttons and lipstick before heading out. I steered Amber toward a round mirror, to throw a curve in the space that was all rectangles.
- Light it. An entry should also have a table lamp or two to leave on when you step out.
Syndicated columnist Marni Jameson is the author of three home and lifestyle books, including Downsizing the Family Home – What to Save, What to Let Go (Sterling Publishing 2016). You may reach her at marnijameson.com.