What Is a Foyer?

This formal entry space isn’t as popular as it once was, but our experts say a foyer can still be a valuable addition to any home.

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Jonny Valiant

Does your home have a foyer? If you have space for a small console table to sit to the side as you step through your home’s front door, you have one—you just might not necessarily refer to the space this way.

“A foyer is a home’s first impression,” says Annie Hewitt of Martha Turner Sotheby’s International Realty in Houston, Texas. “It’s what welcomes your guests and sets the tone—casual or formal, colorful or neutral, traditional or eccentric.”

Foyers serve many purposes, but they’ve also faded away as families use their spaces differently and home layouts shift.

“Historically, a residential foyer was a small entry space between the outside of the home and the main entry hall of a home,” says Bob Zuber, AIA, architect and partner at Morgante Wilson Architects (MWA), based in Evanston, Illinois. “Generally speaking, they were covered spaces, heated or not, that provided guests shelter before being admitted into the main portion of the home.”

Today, of course, both definitions of and uses for foyers have shifted greatly. These experts discuss how foyers are commonly used today—and whether having one is a point in your home’s favor.

entry way salmon door
Paul Costello

What Is a Foyer?

A foyer is the space you step into as you enter your home through the front door. Think of a foyer as a landing space for when you enter your home.

“In some homes, it may also serve a practical purpose—to collect coats or tuck away things you don’t want your guests to see,” Hewitt says.

Some areas of the country have a more formal definition of the space.

“While New York City building code has a specific definition of what a foyer is, real estate listings in MLS use poetic liberty about this home feature,” says Eugene Colberg, principal at Colberg Architecture.

You might see these spaces referred with different terms, Zuber says, such as entry hall or vestibules.

Regardless of what they’re called, foyers are typically used for the same purpose.

“For the typical homeowner, it is a place to leave keys, mail, accessories, etc.,” says Liz Hogan, a real estate agent with Compass.

Popular in the northeastern and southeastern parts of the U.S., Hogan says these spaces are most common in larger homes.

“They are much more common in luxury homes where you have more square footage. In luxury homes, foyers sometimes double as areas to showcase art or a unique piece of work,” she says. 

Hallway with drawer, vases, and mirror
Dustin Peck

The State of the Foyer

Foyers are most common in bigger, more formal homes: Many smaller homes don’t have space for a dedicated foyer. Also, new builds in many areas tend to be open-concept, with no separate foyer. Together, these factors mean that foyers are on the decline.

“Open-plan homes do not have foyers. In homes with multiple rooms, or more traditional homes, you will often see a foyer,” Colberg says.

In the past, Zuber says foyers might feature small, decorative windows, tiled floors, and storage for umbrellas and the like.

“Quite often, two sets of doors—one exterior and one interior—acted as an airlock and provided further privacy for guests before admittance,” he says.

Bill Gill, a real estate agent and designated managing broker for Baird & Warner in Naperville, Illinois, says foyers even completely fell out of favor briefly.

“The only era in which foyers lost popularity was post World War II, when builders were focused on ‘mass producing’ homes because of the Baby Boom,” he says. “At that time, there was an emphasis on building efficient, more utilitarian homes.”

Today, again, more and more new builds don’t have foyers, Hewitt says.

“In the last several years, we have seen more open-concept homes where dedicated spaces, sometimes including foyers, are compromised,” she says. “I would say if there is a transitional room that has become more important to modern families, it is a mudroom.”

Mudrooms are less formal than foyers, but much more practical.

“Instead of having a small room in the front of the house to welcome guests, families seem more concentrated on having a small room in the back of the house where kids can kick off shoes and hang backpacks,” Hewitt says.

Colberg says the preference for mudrooms over foyers could also be a regional one.

“In northern climates, the use of [the foyer] is like a mudroom. Similar to a mudroom, the foyer is a small entry hall, most often seen in colder regions,” he says. “It’s a space to keep stuff you’re going to use, such as outerwear, footwear, and more. Depending on the house, it can also be the place where rooms connect, and be part of the circulation of the house.”

As mudrooms have become more popular, the way we use foyers has also changed.

“These spaces have been typically used as a landing spot for shoes, backpacks, coats, keys, even dog leashes,” says Shauna Pendleton, principal agent at Redfin. “However, in newer homes, this area has changed and is now more utilized as a decorating area for welcoming guests. More of a focal point in the home, and the first impression when you enter through the front door. The traditional shoe storage, coat racks, storage are now being built coming in from the garage of the home.”

entryway with greenery
Jay Wilde

How Foyers Impact Home Value

Colberg doesn’t believe foyers have completely lost their appeal or popularity, but they don’t necessarily add value to a property, either.

“I think it’s going to be a formula based on what the rest of the home looks like. Are foyers nice to have? I think they’re great to have, but whether or not it adds real value will depend on what the rest of the home looks like,” he says.

Hogan sees foyers as a plus, but not necessarily a feature that would have a huge influence on value. “I don't think they have impact per se, but they definitely add to the general appeal and impact of the property,” she says.

Hewitt believes these spaces can still affect a buyer’s attitude toward a property.

“I think foyers make a positive subliminal impression on buyers, but I have never considered them a real factor in resale value,” she says.

Still, Zuber believes a well-designed foyer can add the kind of functional space and wow-factor some buyers are after. After all, most agents agree that your home’s foyer is where a potential buyer will form their first impression of your home.

“The modern-day foyer, in the hands of a skilled architect, is often used as an organizing element of the home’s formal spaces,” he says. “The best foyers are uncluttered, airy, and spacious, yet provide functional usage, such as a place to put keys and cell phones or sort unopened mail. Thoughtfully placed benches or chairs help guests with putting on and off shoes, and easy access to coat and hat storage are common. Foyers today are meant to impress but have a long history of practical function.”

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