Into the Foyest

When you step into our house, the entryway is grand… and barren. We have no idea how to decorate or fill the area between the front door and the swooping stairway. It’s not really laid out as a space for people to gather, but we don’t have much need for a hatrack or other “entryway” furniture items. And I’m scared of putting out too many tables or that sort of thing, because I know I’d be tempted to leave out mail and to-do notes and other bits of clutter that would accumulate.

After several drinks at Thanksgiving, two of our friends, Victor and Aaron, were riffing on what to do with this space. They noticed the all the plants we had scattered around the living room, and suggested (with the logic of drinkers everywhere) that it would be cool to gather all the plants into this foyer area and turn it into a foyer forest; a foyest.

The idea stuck.

Separately, I had wanted to grow orchids. These require light, humidity, and warmth. I don’t have the resources to pull off a full greenhouse, so humidity and well-regulated warmth are out. But I can get hardy orchids and at least control the light, right? And with regular watering/misting, they might have a shot. However, they require good drainage, which usually translates into “pour water at the top, watch water pour out of the bottom.” If you’re inside a finished house, that water needs to go somewhere that doesn’t cause trouble.

Thus was born the idea of the Water-Proofed Corner Orchid Wall that would form the backdrop of a foyest. The plan was to construct two vertical surfaces from which it would be easy to hang plants, and attach them in on L-shape so it would be self-supporting. The back part of the wall would have plastic sheeting, so any water from e.g. misting would condense on the sheet and run down. At the base of the wall, I would install a trough to collect water. Finally, I would construct a narrow bench at bottom of the wall for additional plants to sit on. This bench would be sightly angled back, and would have rubber underneath, so any excess water could also drain into the trough.

I had some rubber material left over from a project. The plastic sheeting was simply a cheap painter drop-cloth, doubled on itself. In a stroke of luck, I found 3′ wide fiberglass troughs at the nearby hardware re-use store. The size of these troughs dictated the dimensions of the project.

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I whipped together a quick framing of 2×2 lumber posts (painted red in the above). I attached the plastic to this framing, then over it attached old 3″ fir boards which were recycled from flooring lumber.

Here’s a close-up of the trough; note that the backdrop plastic sheeting extends into it.

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Obviously, this wasn’t a fancy project with stellar wood-working. I know these boards will be exposed to moisture and this won’t be long-lasting, so the goal is to have something presentable but not perfect.

I was worried that over time, the trough might accumulate water and be hard to empty out. In practice, it evaporates out quickly enough that this hasn’t been a problem.

Once the walls were finished, I extended out a bench with rubber underneath the boards. It’s not obvious from the photos, but the bench slopes back slightly so water will drain into the trough. This has proven to be an absolutely wonderful design, because I can freely water my plants and trust the water won’t go anywhere bad.

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The hardest part was actually figuring out how to rig the lighting. I had LED grow light tubes which I wanted to illuminate the plants hanging from the wall, as well as on the bench. These tubes would ideally float in space about 1′ out from the wall, above everything. But how? My solution is clunky, but I just built out some braced extensions at the top that let me attach lights over the whole affair.

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As a final (but very big) touch, my wife found the perfect bit of used furniture, a big square bench with a hole in the middle. Perfect for a huge centerpiece plant, to truly make it a foyest!

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