Using lots of white paint and 30 framed Leonardo da Vinci sketches torn out of a book, Liess transformed her lackluster entry into one of the most welcoming spaces in her home. (Katherine Frey/THE WASHINGTON POST)

Designer Lauren Liess says that when her family moved into their dated 1970s Herndon house, the two-story entry was “scary and dingy feeling.”

With a few easy upgrades, she turned the dark and dreary space into one of the most welcoming places in her home.

“It had a lot of height,” says Liess of the foyer, “so I wanted something special and with high impact when you first walked in.”

Here, Liess shares her simple, affordable steps for enlivening an entry.

The Liesses’ two-story entry foyer the day they moved into their home. It was “scary and dingy,” Lauren Liess says (Katherine Frey/THE WASHINGTON POST)
·Paint the front door

“I wanted it to be a fun, happy color,” says Liess about the exterior of her front door. She narrowed her color choices to orange and teal; because Halloween was right around the corner, she went with orange (Maple Leaf by Behr).

·Repaint walls and trim

To immediately refresh and brighten her large, dark space, Liess repainted using a no-chemical white paint (Beach Pearl by Freshaire Choice, available at Home Depot).

·Remove carpeting

When they moved in their home, the stairs were covered in white-wall-to-wall carpeting, which would never have stood up to a family of four including two toddlers, says Liess. She removed the carpet and painted the stairs instead. She used deck paint for extra durability (Ultra White by Behr).

·Cover up dingy linoleum

Liess upgraded the grimy vinyl flooring on her entry landing quickly and easily by covering it with wall-to-wall seagrass carpeting. For continuity, and an extra layer of protection, Liess continued the seagrass as a runner on the newly painted stairs. “I love the natural, textural look and feel” of seagrass, says Liess. “It’s kid-friendly, pet-friendly and so affordable.”

·Install a new light fixture

In her entry, Liess swapped out the too-small existing pendant light that cast an unattractive yellow glow for a dramatic 31 / 2-foot gilded iron lantern. “I wanted a focal point, and something long and linear, to fill up the big space,” she says.

·Create a salon-style wall

Liess used torn-out pages of sketches from da Vinci’s “Leonardo’s Notebooks,” (Black Dog/Leventhal Publishers, $40) and 30 metal frames to create a statement wall for under $300. The frames were bought online at for a little more than $20 each. “They came in pieces, so we had to put them together,” she says. “It took hours.”

Liess says she considered hanging the frames in a grid but ultimately decided against it. “My home is more relaxed and I wanted a relaxed vibe, so I went with hanging them randomly.”

·Add something quirky

Liess fell in love with a large vintage portrait painting she found at an antiques market. It doesn’t match the framed da Vinci sketches in the foyer, but that’s exactly why Liess likes it there. “I always like to add something ‘off’ in every space,” she says. “Something that shouldn’t quite work, so the room doesn’t feel perfectly done.”

More: Check out photos of Lauren Liess’s home in our gallery.