Edmonton-based interior designer Jennifer Hughes shares the secret to falling in love with a home at the first step in.

While we often go all in to make our kitchens, bedrooms and other living areas stylish and comfortable, the first few square feet of a home that we step into often don’t get as much well-deserved attention. And that’s a shame: entryways and hallways serve us day to day, after all, welcoming guests and setting the mood when we return from a long work day.

For Jennifer Hughes, an Edmonton-based interior designer and founder of Turquoise Chair, a carefully designed entrance is key to an unforgettable first impression. “It’s important to be intentional and create a space that reflects who you are,” she says. “The entryway sets the tone for your home.”

With years of experience designing condos and show homes, Hughes is an expert in showcasing a client’s personal style right at their doorstep. Ahead of this year’s Edmonton Home and Garden Show (taking place from March 21 to 24), where Hughes will present a Hallway Hacks feature packed with entryway inspo, we asked the designer to share her tips for creating an entrance that will make guests stop and say wow before coming back again.

Accentuate with a Statement Piece

Opt for one accent piece, like an oversized gold mirror, bench or large art or floral arrangement, and keep everything else simple, suggests Hughes. This lets the details speak for themselves while guaranteeing a high-impact result.

You can also try drawing the eye up by displaying an unconventional lighting fixture or wall-mounted bicycle. “Choose something that will spark good visual interest and make people go, ‘Wow, that’s awesome,'” says Hughes.

Make It Pop with Colour

If you’re not happy with the appearance of your entryway—or just want to spice things up—the simplest solution is to paint the walls (or better yet, just one wall) in a fresh colour, notes Hughes. You can also cover them with a patterned wallpaper. Hughes says that moody tones like dark blues and greens are hot right now, as well as coral, Pantone’s 2019 colour of the year.

But don’t limit shade to the walls: create a wow effect by colouring the interior side of your door dark navy or black. If you do this, it’s crucial that you carry the accent hue through the rest of the space with fixtures or hardware in the same shade. “This is a risky move and it’s not for everybody,” warns Hughes. “I suggest keeping the colour to a neutral, so it won’t be too distracting.”

Stay Organized

An entryway, in essence, is designed for last-minute touch-ups and storing shoes, coats and on-the-go essentials like keys and purses—so you definitely don’t want it to look like and be a mess. Hughes says that the secret of a neat and functional hallway lies in assigning a place for each item, while keeping everyday comfort in mind.

This can be achieved by introducing a sideboard, a dresser, built-in shoe racks, shelves or cute wall hooks. A console table may do double duty with tall baskets or containers stored underneath and catch-all bowls placed on top.

Bring the Outdoors In

Greenery can liven up even the most minimalist of settings. In the case of an entryway, it helps to create a natural transition from the outdoors to your warm and cozy nest.

Try incorporating lush, leafy plants that require little maintenance, less demanding faux blooms or dried bunches of eucalyptus and fluffy cotton, says Hughes. The designer confesses that she loves using greenery, whether it’s a potted plant or florals depicted through an art piece, as they “help finish the space and add life to the whole room.”

Work From the Ground Up

Your entryway is likely the most high-traffic area in your house and, as a result, gets lot of attention. So ditch the rug, suggests Hughes, and ensure your space is both practical and aesthetically appealing by installing a durable patterned or bold colored tile. Have you seen those fantastically tiled floors in the foyers of grand hotels and historical estates? They work wonders in terms of creating a gorgeous space, so feel free to borrow the hack.

Let the Staircase Shine

In Hughes’s experience, staircases often “get in the way” of people’s mission to create a stunning and functional entryway. That’s because most of them steal a lot of space, but it’s important to work with what you have. Hughes suggests putting a tall console table or nice bench at the bottom of the staircase to help extend your entrance or maximize a hallway.

Small details like antique church pillows or a macramé wall hanging can warm up the area, too, while a collection of prints or photos can introduce a graphic element. Even if your staircase is small and narrow, lightening them with bright white paint or going rustic with natural wood tones will give your entry a warm and lovely look.

No Entryway? Create One!

While functionality is vital, visuals are important, too. And in many small and open-concept spaces, the kitchen or living room may be the first thing you see or step into when you enter.

To avoid a busy and cramped look, try separating areas with an architectural iron screen or define your entry by placing a bookcase, bench or console table nearby, says Hughes. Even if your entryway is technically non-existent, introducing the right furniture or considering accents on the walls and floors will create the illusion of one.