A spectacular entryway is the best welcome mat you can have. It's the first thing your family and guests see when they come to your home, and it's an immediate indicator of the experience visitors will have while they're with you.
"People get excited when they approach my house," says Matinecock homeowner Frank Abruzzo. "It's so unique, and it's like a sanctuary. People come, and they don't want to go home."
That sense of anticipation -- that thrilling question of what's coming next -- can be the result of a well-landscaped driveway, a beautifully lit foyer just behind the front door, or even the front door itself. "The first thing people usually say when they see our house is, 'It's so big,' " says Bay Shore homeowner Allan Spector. "So I think our red front door invites people in. Once they're inside the house, they're in a cocoon, because we have dark wallpaper on the walls, and we have a gallery in the hall of family photos. But our house looks so big from the outside, so I think the front door makes it inviting."
Of course, once guests are inside, you have a second chance to make a first impression. "Light is a big part of making a foyer more welcoming," says homeowner Rick Rosner of Oyster Bay Cove. "We make sure there's a lot of natural light, and our hallway gives a nice feeling of openness."
From grand to cozy, a good entrance says it's time to relax because you've arrived. Here are five homes for sale that accomplish this terrifically, as well as some tips from the pros on how to make sure your entryway always says, "Welcome!"
Annual taxes $87,116
Time on the market More than a year
Why it's welcoming "When the gates open, and you see this long, winding drive, with the trees just greeting you, you just say, 'Oh, my God,'" says Frank Abruzzo, a stock trader who owns the 5.5-acre estate. After entering through a remote-controlled gate, visitors amble down the 450-foot drive, which is lined with white pines, black pines and locust trees, and arrive at the front of the home, which features a blacktop driveway with cobblestone inlays.
White hydrangea flank the entrance. "The front of the house is pretty, especially in the summer," he says. "The hydrangea change color every season, and there's four on each side of the front of the drive."
The six-bedroom, seven-bath, three-half-bath property offers about 8,000 square feet in the main house and an additional 3,000 square feet in the pool house. There's a gunite pool, lighted tennis court, four fireplaces and a billiards room.
The house also includes a finished basement with a wine cellar that holds about 112 cases and a full-capacity generator.
Listing agents Marilyn Jenney, 516-759-6822 and Stephen Caronia, 516-922-9155, Daniel Gale Sotheby's International Realty
OYSTER BAY COVE $1,950,000
Annual taxes $31,404
Time on the market Six months
Why it's welcoming For Rick and Patti Rosner, coming home is like going back in time. "You walk in, and the foyer is the centerpiece of the house," says Rick Rosner, who owns a hardware store in Hicksville where he works with his wife. "That's what caught our attention when we first came in."
The couple have lived here seven years with two dogs, and they both say they still love just walking in the front door. "It's a grand entryway," says Rosner. "You walk in, and the ceiling is 20 feet high, over two floors. My wife had the chandelier custom-made."
The Rosners thought of every detail in this 5,100-square-foot, five-bedroom, 4 1/2-bath Southampton Colonial. The carpet is custom-made of a special wool. The exterior is cedar shake, the 2.58-acre lot is professionally landscaped with a fenced yard for the dogs, and a creek runs through the property. Inside, in addition to the bridal staircase, there is a two-story-high stone fireplace and a humidifying heating system to combat dry air.
But it's the entryway that really impresses visitors. "There's a lot of light in the house, and there are two windows over the hallway," says Rosner. "People walk into the house and they just say, 'Wow.' We use the hallway as a focal point, because it brings people into the house. We love the size of the stairway and the way it flows. The house was pretty much built around the stairway."
Listing agents Deborah Peseri, 516-624-9000, and Carol Gannon, 516-286-3757, Douglas Elliman Real Estate
Annual taxes $20,034
Time on the market Five months
Why it's welcoming Massive steel doors that open into an 18-foot-high foyer give visitors to Joseph Pizzirusso's home the sense that they're entering a palace. "When people come up to the house, they like how spacious the house is," says Pizzirusso. "They like the doors, the high ceilings, the molding work."
Pizzirusso works in construction and built the home himself. He lives there with his wife, Sarina, a stay-at-home mother, and his three children, Alexis, 6, Michael, 4, and Joseph, 3. The family has lived in the home seven years, and during that time, Pizzirusso has worked to make the house his own. "I worked with an architect, and I found the front doors from a little mom-and-pop company from Mexico," he says. "We had to have a crane come to set the doors."
Entering the four-bedroom, three-bath house, guests are instantly awed by the sheer height of the foyer. "About a year after we moved in, we added the paint to the ceiling, too," he says. "We found the chandelier in Manhattan, because we wanted an iron chandelier to match the rustic feel of the doors and the custom-made railings."
The property also includes a radiant-heated driveway and balconies with views overlooking East Bay.
Listing agent Seth Levy, Shawn Elliott Luxury Homes & Estates, 516-364-4663
Annual taxes $15,631
Time on the market More than a year
Why it's welcoming The entrance to this four-bedroom, 31 / 2-bath home, flanked by 20-foot-tall Greek columns, is a testament to the owner's style. "I grew up with a Greek background and a father from Greece, and I think I was just drawn to a strong entrance," says Dennis Katevatis, who owns Shells Only, a building company in West Babylon. "It has a really strong look from the curb."
Katevatis has lived in the house 23 years with his wife, Rose, who works with him. They raised their two children here. The foyer's ceiling is 20 feet high, and the 5,000-square-foot home is on a one-acre lot with a four-car garage. But what really impresses people is the entrance. "The bluestone entrance and the massive columns make it special," Katevatis says. "The foyer has granite floors and solid wood stairs."
Listing agent Natalie Lewis, Douglas Elliman Real Estate 631-758-2552
BAY SHORE $448,000
Annual taxes $13,677
Time on the market Six months
Why it's welcoming This three-story home makes a bold first impression, partly because of its towering footprint. "It's a Georgian Colonial, and there aren't many on Long Island," says Allan Spector, a retired commercial real estate broker who lives in the house with his wife, Marcia, who works for a nonprofit.
The couple has lived in the four-bedroom, 3 1/2-bath home for 36 years. They're only the second owners of the house, built in 1927. "We painted the door red to draw everyone's attention to it, and to tell people that's the way you come in," says Spector. "The color draws people in, and invites people."
Other features that give the home its compelling presence are the 150-foot driveway, which wraps around the home and leads to parking and a barn in the back. There is a three-season porch and a separate solarium, the latter of which boasts a wood stove. Then there are the windows.
"The house has 72 windows, if you can believe it," says Spector. "The house is all glass."
But it will still be the exterior that draws attention for its stately, massive presence. "It's a big house, and it's a tall house," says Spector. "And it's very symmetrical and proportional."
Listing agent Suzanne Herrick, Century 21 Herrick Real Estate, 631-968-5300
Ins and outs of entrances
Getting your entrance right will go a long way toward making guests feel comfortable and welcome. Mary Middlemiss and Nancy LaCalamita of the interior design firm Twice As Nice Interiors in East Islip offer the following pointers for both inside and outside the home:
* Good lighting is the single most important feature of your front hall. "If a homeowner has the space and height for a chandelier, we recommend that, but wall sconces or a nice table lamp are also great," says Middlemiss. Both recommend seeking out lighting alternatives to standard ceiling lights, which can cast a harsh glare. Also, give yourself as many options as possible. "Dimmer switches are important, because they allow you to adjust the lighting," she says.
* Decluttering your foyer is key. "We suggest benches and decorative chests that can hide wires and that can provide storage," says LaCalamita. "Plus, you need some furniture in a foyer to make it welcoming." Still, just because you want your entryway tidy doesn't mean it should be free of personality. Try hanging family photos.
* Finally, adding one small touch of extravagance to your foyer can make a big impact, especially in such a relatively small space. "It's always nice to have fresh flowers in foyers," says Middlemiss.
* Both Middlemiss and LaCalamita recommend thinking carefully about exterior paint. "The color scheme for your siding, your front door, your bricks need to all coordinate," says Middlemiss. "Coordinating colors are more pleasing to the eye, and when things are pleasing to the eye, it makes people feel more welcome." Keep your paint looking sharp. n Landscaping is crucial. "When the outside looks neat, and the greenery is beautiful, and there are potted plants, people will feel welcome," says Middlemiss. Don't forget that lighting counts outside, too. "Lighting at the front entrance is important," says LaCalamita. "Any landscape lighting that lights the walkway is welcoming. You want something that lights a clear path to the front door. And you also can hang a lantern or sconces on either side of the front doorway."
* Lastly, consider rolling out a mat. "A nice welcome mat is important," says LaCalamita. "It can have your monogram on it, or just say 'Welcome.' "