The moment guests step foot into your home, they are learning about your style and taste, not to mention your housekeeping skills. Neglecting the appearance of the entryway can be a big mistake. “The foyer is the first impression visitors are going to have of your home,” says Jacksonville interior designer Andrew Howard. And everyone knows how significant first impressions can be. We sat down with Andrew and his parents, Phoebe and Jim Howard, to discuss this vital space in the home.

According to Phoebe, decorator extraordinaire, one of the easiest ways to make an impressive entryway is simply to clean it up. “Anyone can do that,” she says “Keep your entryway really clean, make it sparkly and beautiful,” both the outside and the interior.  She recommends having plenty of room for reception and to have a simple piece of furniture, a table or a chest. “A brightly-colored rug can really make a big impact in your foyer,” she adds. She recalls how she used to have a nice blue rug in her entrance; without fail, every time she opened the door to guests they would compliment her on her blue eyes.  Using fresh flowers or a scented candle to create an inviting fragrance is also a good idea. And don’t forget the lights: “soft lighting is essential,” she says.

Andrew adds that decorating entryways is a good time to be creative. “A foyer is a great place to do something outside the box,” he suggests.  “A great piece of art, a patterned rug, wallpaper, or even just an interesting paint color can create a jewel box entry that people will remember.”

“The most important word to keep in mind when designing a foyer is ‘welcoming,’” says Jim, owner of the interiors firm, James Michael Howard, Inc. since 1988. “The entryway should reflect the homeowner’s personality,” and it should also reflect the rest of the house, encouraging the visitor to want to see more. When he considers creating a nice entrance, he always thinks of the entryways in many homes in Italy. “Italians have a special kind of entrance and when you go through the portal it creates a special experience.” Even without the rolling hills of Tuscany and long driveways, homeowners can still provide a unique and inviting ambience in their entryways. He points out, “The nice thing about a foyer is that it’s not a big space.” Because of this, you can pay close attention to the details and find a way to create that “special experience” for guests in your home’s first impression.