The transition from outdoors to indoors can be very jarring if a visitor walks straight through a door and directly into a living room or front parlor. An architectural design element called a foyer often helps visitors orient themselves before moving into a specific room of the home. Typically, it is a small hallway or open space just behind the main entrance that acts as a reception area for guests. Other ground floor rooms may connect with the space, as well as a staircase leading to an upper floor.
A foyer also serves as an initial introduction to the home's overall design scheme. The walls may feature framed paintings or other fine art objects, and the space may also be furnished with a decorative table, coat rack, an oversized room clock, or a framed mirror. The entryway may be lit with several floor lamps or a dramatic overhead light fixture.
This area may also be considered a transitional space, much like a mud room or anteroom. Coats, boots and umbrellas are often kept there for convenient access during bad weather. Guests may remove their shoes and leave them in the entryway during visits. Some designs include a small but functional half-bathroom to allow guests to freshen up before entering the rest of the home.
The word foyer itself comes from the Latin focarium, meaning "of the hearth." This same Latin root can be found in the word focus, which suggests that the space should be considered the focal point of the modern home, much like centralized fireplaces or hearths became the focus of ancient homes. A home's entryway provides visitors the opportunity to orient themselves before moving on to other rooms of interest.
The communal area outside of an auditorium or theater can also be called a foyer, although it may serve a different function than the space in a home. In a theater, it often contains a concession area, a front office, a ticket booth and public restrooms. A public lobby in a professional building may also contain a reception area and access to elevators and stairwells.
For those who are looking to improve the look or functionality of a home foyer, there are a number of home improvement books and websites that suggest ways to create more visual interest or improve the lighting scheme of this often overlooked area.