Often overlooked and under-loved, hallways are much more than just corridors that lead to other rooms. Read our essential guide to making a stylish first impression with a welcoming entrance.
Words: Róisín Carabine
Typically small, narrow and featureless, hallways are notoriously tricky to decorate, even for the most experienced designer. If yours is looking a little sad and soulless, you’re not alone. Overlooked and under-loved, too often hallways are relegated to mere corridors to other rooms where bikes and boots and bags and coats are dumped and not enough thought is put into their decoration.
With a bit of creative thinking and clever planning, there’s no reason why you can’t lavish the same attention on your hall as the rest of the rooms in your home. After all, this is the first space your visitors see and is one of the most important spaces in your home. A beautifully decorated hallway sets the tone for what’s to come – and is your opportunity to make a stylish first impression.
And as these are areas that no one spends much time in, you can afford to be daring with paint colours, flooring, furniture and lighting.
First impressions count, so getting your wall colour right from the off is crucial. While the temptation is to go light and bright, particularly if it’s a small, dark space, you don’t have to play it safe.
“White can be bright and give the perception of space but it can also be seen as cold. Magnolia is a safe but rather boring option,” says Kevin Whelan, marketing controller, Crown Paints Ireland.
The main thing to remember is that a hallway has other rooms leading off it, so it’s important to pick a colour that will go with many others. “You’ll also have to consider the amount of light in the space, the colour of the floor and even the amount and colour of woodwork. They all work in combination so it’s important you factor them into any scheme,” says Kevin.
“You can use tones of the same shade, such as Crown Naughty Step, Monday Blues and Blank Canvas, which can look very striking and contemporary when complemented with white. Classic greens and off whites lend themselves particularly well to older homes while neutrals, like Crown Sneaky Peak and Warm Welcome, will ensure your hallway feels light and welcoming.”
Fake it till you make it
Tips to make paint work for your walls
How you use colour and where you choose to paint can also have an impact on how your hallway looks and feels. An on-trend fifth wall (or as it’s otherwise known, the ceiling) painted in a bold shade can give a plain hallway an unexpected lift. This look works particularly well in rooms with taller ceilings.
In smaller hallways, the two-tone effect can be used to heighten the ceiling. Simply paint a deep, dark horizontal band on the lower walls, including the skirting, with a lighter, complementary hue on top.
If your hallway is awkward and narrow try painting the walls in horizontal stripes which are great for drawing the eye through. You can even play around with their widths. In longer hallways, break up the space by painting a feature wall in a contrasting shade.
As hallways are high traffic areas, Kevin suggests picking a durable paint like Crown Hall and Stairs Durable Matt Emulsion (€30 for 2.5 litres) which is 20 times more scrubbable than normal matt emulsion.
You most likely won’t have a lot of space to play with so you’ll have to think cleverly and creatively when it comes to choosing furniture and storage.
“Nothing ruins the first impression of a home like a cluttered mess in the entrance,” says Miranda Lyons, communication and interior design manager at IKEA Dublin. “Finding the right storage solution is key and must be one that not only suits the space but works for you and your family’s needs.”
Where space is tight she suggests assigning a wall hook and storage box to each member of the family. That way everyone has a place to put their coat, bag and shoes. If you’ve room for furniture she advises maximising vertical space with a tall unit with adjustable shelves and a mirror for that last-minute glance before heading out the door.
“IKEA’s Kallax range is a great option and can be built to suit your space – vertically or horizontally. You can have doors to hide the contents, add drawers or even Drona storage boxes which fit perfectly. You can also add inserts to customise the shelving to suit your needs,” says Miranda.
While practicality is key, she cautions against sacrificing aesthetics for functionality and suggests adding texture and interest with beautiful pieces like woven baskets. Fruit crates, tea chests and trunks can also make for alternative solutions and are a chance for to show off your personality and upcycling skills.
“The main area to work on is the space under the stairs,” says Miranda. “We always suggest making a plan for how to organise what’s inside. Do you want full-width drawers or half? A shoe rack or storage boxes? What about a shallow depth drawer to store smaller items? Organisation tools such as hooks and a pegboard can maximise all the space available.”
Hallways are high traffic areas so it makes sense to go for something hardwearing that’s easy to maintain and will stand the test of time. Carpet can be difficult to keep clean, given the amount of wear and tear it will get, while wooden floors are practical and look inviting too.
Continuing the same flooring in the hall throughout the downstairs is an option, and will make the space look and feel wider, plus it will give a greater connection to the other rooms. You may be tempted to lighten the look with something pale underfoot – but restrain yourself.
Interior designer Roisin Lafferty of Kingston Lafferty Design advises against playing it safe and suggests making a flooring statement that’s bold and deliberate.
“The attention in a hallway doesn’t always have to be on the walls,” says Roisin. “Creating an inset rug effect with tiles is very on trend and can make a striking impression. You can maximise its impact and draw the eye downwards by painting the walls in darker tones.”
Mixing the finishes of flooring in different areas of the hallway can also be really effective. Painted treads or wallpaper-covered stair risers can look modern and elegant paired with original boards or tiles, though they can be noisy, particularly if you don’t enjoy the sound of kids’ feet plodding up and down them.
“A beautiful runner is a stylish alternative and can make even the most standard stairs look high end,” says Roisin. She advises painting the visible treads (which should be a maximum of 100mm on each side of the runner) in a darker shade, such as charcoal grey, Hague blue or rich green, to make a real feature of it.
LIGHT IT RIGHT
Good lighting is crucial in a hallway for practical reasons but also for creating a welcoming space.
“Combining a mix of different light sources is a great way to add interest and personality,” says interior designer Emma Chambers, from Neptune’s Belfast store.
She suggests wall lights to highlight furniture or artwork. Uplighting offers another source of light and can be both practical and stylish, while table lamps on top of consoles will provide a soft glow and can be accessorised with colourful shades.
“Hallway lighting doesn’t have to be strong or stark. I always advise the use of dimmers to create ambience and drama,” says Emma.
When it comes to ceiling lighting, she suggests homeowners embrace their adventurous side with statement pieces. “As a hallway is a place you pass through rather than spend any amount of time in, if you go dramatic you won’t tire of your choice the same as you might in other rooms,” Emma says.
“In landings, especially because of the extra ceiling height you can get away with bigger pieces such as chandeliers, oversized shades or contemporary pendants with a long drop.”
The hallway is usually the least accessorised space in the house and any attempt at decoration is predictably safe and boring. While rugs, textiles, plants and flowers are great for adding colour and drama, interior designer Jackie Carton of Style My Room recommends approaching the space with confidence and to be unafraid of expressing your personality.
“Hallways are typically small but that doesn’t mean you can’t go big. The temptation is always to choose small accessories but they can get lost and lose impact,” Jackie points out.
“Mirrors are a great way of reflecting light and can also give the impression of space. Play with scale with an oversized mirror or create the illusion of an endless hallway with a full-length mirror on the furthest back wall.”
Jackie suggests using prints and artwork to inject colour and personality, creating a gallery wall with personal images in complementary frames, or running them up the stairs.
“Wall murals can make a huge impact too and can look great at the top of a landing,” she says. They’re very on trend and inexpensive. For just €250 you can get one of your own images digitally blown up and put onto a feature wall.”
Panelling is another huge hallway trend and can really elevate the space from simple to sophisticated. “Depending on the level of detail it can be expensive, but a good carpenter will help you work out the right proportions for your space,” she says. “You can make your own panelling –though you might be best sticking to simple tongue and groove or Shaker style panels.”
- Caseys Furniture , 65 Oliver Plunkett Street, Cork. Tel: 021 427 0393 & Raheen Roundabout, Raheen, Limerick. Tel: 061 307 070. Caseys.ie
- Hedgeroe Home. Carrickmines Manor, The View, Dublin 18. Tel: 01 294 8932. Hedgeroe.com
- Ikea, St Margaret’s Road, Ballymun, Dublin 11. Tel: 01 541 3300. Ikea.ie
- Kingston Lafferty Design, 48 Eastmoreland Lane, Dublin 4. Tel: 01 551 4836. Kingstonlaffertydesign.com
- Neptune, visit Neptune.com for Irish stockist details.
- Style My Room, Interiors by Jackie Carton, 52 Woodstown Drive, Knocklyon, Dublin 16. Tel: 01 494 8150/ 087 225 7904. Stylemyroom.ie
- Ventura Design, Unit 12 & 13, Block 8, Blanchardstown Corporate Park 1, Dublin 15. Tel: 01 820 8480; Unit F, Deansgrange Business Park, Kill of the Grange, Blackrock. Tel: 01 207 0702 & 45 Main Street, Kinsale, Cork. Tel: 02 Blanchardstown & Kinsale, Cork. Tel: 01 820 8480. Ventura.ie
- Woo Design, Tel: 087 7611 698. Woodesign.ie
- Zin Zan, Tel: 1800 989 550. Zinzan.ie