Where Have All the Vestibules Gone?
The Vestibule: You are Welcome
For me, the vestibule is a handshake. It greets you before you enter any space, setting up the tone in a unique way. Defined as an antechamber, hall or lobby next to the outer door of a building, there are as many types of vestibules as there are homes and ways to say hello.
Whether it is an elegant entrance decorated with a chandelier or a casual porch, vestibules are spaces that communicate messages and could impact a visitor’s first impressions.
So, what exactly does a vestibule say? I grew up with them as a Montrealer and can tell you they were always a place you took off your boots and dumped your belongings. To me, it was a place to unburden that said: “ah, home at last.” Similarly, as a guest in someone’s home, the vestibule is, and was, the way you were introduced into a space. Or not. So how you were greeted was key. Was the area well-lit? Did it speak of disarray with shoes piled up and a closet in a state of panic? In other words, if you are staging a house to sell, people are going to get the clutter or comfort vibe quickly.
Vestibules across State Lines
Now that I live in Philadelphia, I am reminded of the lyrics from a Joni Mitchell song, “you don’t know what you got till it’s gone.” Seriously, where did all the vestibules go? The first home I checked out, the front door opened-up straight into the common area – living room, dining room and kitchen. I was shocked. Thing is, it is a pretty common design here. Even in apartments. A friend of mine explained the phenomena: it’s “the city of brotherly love,” people are used to hanging out together and, going out to eat! Then she said, “maybe in the suburbs.”
Selling the Space
Of course, as prospective buyers, you know, if you want all that great space, especially in the city, you must pay for it. As sellers, if you are listing a home with a vestibule talk it up! Use words that appeal to your buyers’ senses. These might include: ‘beautiful,’ ‘spacious,’ ‘ornate,’ ‘historic,’ and ‘welcoming’. Space is something you only take for granted when you have it. Someone out there (like me) is starved and searching for your perfect foyer.
As an initial welcome, you can likely detect the practicality that accompanies the vestibule, especially in the colder weather. In fact, to the extent that they serve multiple purposes, cities like New York have become taken with sidewalk vestibules, especially in winter time. Rather like large canvas phone booths, they are often spaces that shield restaurant goers from wind and snow. A strategy where there is no built-in vestibule to serve the same purposes.
I have seen this same type of creation where homes do not have indoor garages. The enclosure becomes both a container and a private space. As a renter for many years, our last apartment was a walk up with a very small area before the front door. We bought hooks and an IKEA shoe cabinet for the wall. Voila! A vestibule. If you find a home that’s shy of entry-way space, here are three tips from top realtor Sherrie Boyer of Coldwell Banker Preferred Center City, on how to create a vestibule from scratch.
- Change up the flooring. You might use tile around the front door, then transition into your wood or carpet if you need a modest effort.
- Enclose it. Build a floor to ceiling space the width of your front door, with its own door and walls, using glass and wood to add light and dimension
- Hide in plain sight. Simple furniture that has dual purposes like a storage bench might add function and flare as could a decorative umbrella stand
To Have and to Hold – Is a Vestibule for You?
Of course, whether you need, want or have a vestibule, it’s all about your space needs and what is important to you. After all, that is what buying a home is about. Finding a space that suits your personal needs.
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