The Secret to Welcoming Entryways

Our San Antonio Interior Designers and Architects Explain How to Design Entryways for Easy Transitions and Connections 

Crossing the threshold into a home is like entering a new world. From the street, we have no idea what lies behind the front door. Once inside, the house reveals itself little by little (at least in a welcoming entryway design). However, crossing the threshold feels like jumping off a cliff in some cases—the design is too abrupt and doesn’t ease the transition between public and private spaces or connect to the rest of the interior. Our San Antonio interior designers and architects explain why the secret to welcoming entryways hinges on seamless transitions and connections.   

The Secret to Welcoming Entryways is the Intimacy Gradient

The Intimacy Gradient, defined by architect Christopher Alexander in his book A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction, guides the organization of spaces inside the home and the transitions between them. Following the Intimacy Gradient, designers place the home’s public spaces towards the front (the front door) and more private areas towards the back (the family room) with connections in between (the entryway or foyer). Alexander explains, “The movement between rooms is as important as the rooms themselves; and its arrangement has as much effect on social interaction in the rooms, as the interiors of the rooms.” Rooms like entryways guide how people enter the home and move throughout the property, connecting all the rooms inside to one main landing. A successful and well-designed entrance must provide space to receive guests, ease the transition into a new realm, and make it easy for visitors to navigate the home.    

Entryways Serve as Transitions from Public to Private Spaces

The entryway is where the public outdoor world and intimate interior meet. When exiting the hustle and bustle of the busy street, visitors and residents need a space to land. Welcoming entryways provide a spot to readjust, release the demands of the external world, and regroup before moving inside. Entries help the mind transition into a new state, and good design sets the stage for the expectations of the home. Without a defined entryway, outfitted with essentials like coat racks, benches, tables, and catchalls, entering the house feels like an awkward shuffle. The mind needs a mental and physical place to drop the weight of a day spent in the outside world—and all the packages, groceries, and paperwork that comes with it. To create easy transitions inside, we can actually look to the outdoors. Adding indoor-outdoor connections to the entryway through natural light, material selections, and color can help bridge the gap between these two spaces.    

Entry Transition
When exiting the hustle and bustle of the busy street, visitors and residents need a space to land.

Entryways Connect the Home 

Entryways welcome guests and ease the transition from public to private spaces, but they also need to connect the rooms of the home. These connections include physical halls and doors, as well as nods to the overall design style of the property. In a formal foyer that is its own room, it is important to give cues to the home’s design style, providing previews of colors, patterns, and motifs awaiting visitors inside. For casual entryways open to the main living spaces, separation is needed. Define the entry zone with a rug, lighting, and practical furnishings. Giving guests the room to get acquainted with the home is the first step to offering welcoming hospitality. With well-designed connections, visitors will feel at home and at ease.   

Entry With Connections Photo by Amity Kett
Entryways need to connect the rooms of the home.
Photo by Amity Kett

Mean vs. Generous Entryways

In A Pattern Language, Alexander explains that there are two types of entryways in the world—mean and generous. It is our goal to create generous entryways that welcome visitors and establish effective transitions. 

Mean Entryways 

“In a building where the movement is mean, the passages are dark and narrow—rooms open off them as dead ends; you spend your time entering the building like a crab scuttling in the dark,” says Alexander. Closed-off entryways that don’t bring in elements from the outside or offer views into the main living spaces don’t feel inviting. Entries need natural light, small previews of the homeowner’s personal style, and guiding sightlines that draw visitors inside. 

Generous Entryways

Alexander explains, “When passages are broad, sunlit, with seats in them, views into gardens, they are more or less continuous with the rooms themselves, so that the smell of woodsmoke and cigars, the sound of glasses, whispers, laughter, all that which enlivens a room, also enlivens the places where you move.” Bright, airy, and large entryways that offer previews into the home direct the flow and transitions inside. Wide halls, sightlines, and subtle invitations to specific rooms make sure guests are not left questioning where to go.   

Entyrway With Light And Connections
Wide halls, sightlines, and subtle invitations to specific rooms make sure guests are not left questioning where to go. 
Photo by Amity Kett

4 Different Types of Entryways

When designing an entryway, there are four types of spaces to consider.  

1. Foyers

Formal foyers are separate rooms entered by the main front door rather than a more casual side entrance. The foyer should be designed to receive guests, give a good first impression, and direct the movement through the rest of the home. When creating a foyer, don’t be afraid to make bold design decisions, investing in rich paneling, marble floors, chandeliers, and stylish furnishings that make a memorable impact.  

2. Vestibules 

Vestibules are small entries that lead to a larger foyer or hall. Common in colder climates, vestibules feature two sets of doors—creating a room that helps retain heat and provides a place to take off coats and boots. Typically, vestibules will be finished with durable floorings like tile and offer pegs for coats and shelves for shoes.   

White House Vestibule
White House Vestibule

3. Casual Entryways 

Casual entryways are smaller and less defined than formal foyers. Appearing in open-concept floor plans, they provide a small landing space off the front door and open up immediately into the main living area. While this helps promote a more laid-back style, it is important to define the space as much as possible to ease the transition into the home. 

Casual Open Entryway
Casual entryways are less defined than formal foyers.

4. Mudrooms

Mudrooms serve as landing spaces for side entries off the garage, kitchen, or laundry room. They are typically reserved for the residents of the home and aren’t designed to greet guests formally. Here, the family can store coats, take off shoes, receive packages, and hide messes from the main front entry. 

Mudroom
Mudrooms serve as landing spaces for side entries off the garage, kitchen, or laundry room.
Photo by Amity Kett

The Intimacy Gradient Makes for Good First Impressions

Besides the front walkway, the entryway is the first impression guests have of the home, so it is important to make it a good one. Using the principles outlined in the Intimacy Gradient helps us keep in mind the purposes a front entry should serve: ease transitions and connect visitors to the rooms inside. Designing a space to meet these demands will provide a welcoming reception every time.  

Separate Formal Entryway
The purposes of a front entry should serve to ease transitions and connect visitors to the rooms inside.
Photo by Amity Kett

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