Dodge the errors that can leave a hallway cluttered and dull with these easy-to-adopt guidelines for a stylish space
Houzz Contributor. I’m a freelance journalist and editor writing for nationals, magazines… More
Whether it’s a tiny rectangle by the front door, the narrow corridor that’s typical of a period home, or a generous space, hallways frequently prove a design challenge. If you add to the sometimes problematical shape and proportions the fact that we also need to create storage, make a decorative impact, and withstand a busy household’s wear and tear, it’s easy to see why stumbling into the traps posed by these issues is easy to do.
Help is at hand! Take a look at the top seven hallway design mistakes – and the tactics for evading them that will give you a handsome and practical space.
Mistake 1: Choosing impractical flooring
Even with a strict shoes-off-at-the-door policy (which I’ll return to later), there’s no avoiding the fact that a hall floor is where dirt arrives and can get trodden in. Depending on how much punishment yours gets and how much time and effort you want to expend in cleaning it, there’s a descending order of practicality for hall flooring.
At the top of the chart are encaustic or patterned tiles like these, as well as plain, dark-coloured tiles, which won’t show marks and are easy to sweep, mop or vacuum. Paler tiles are more liable to show dirt and mud, but are also cleanable in the same way.
Wood – and especially dark versions – is forgiving and hard-wearing (though take care with high heels), but you won’t want to get timber very wet to clean it.
Carpet fan? Cleaning options are necessarily more restricted than with the other types of flooring (mopping, wiping and sweeping not being options), but darks, patterns and a sizeable doormat will cut down the housework.
Mistake 2: Forgetting to make walls mark-proof
In creating an impactful decorating scheme for a hallway, it’s easy to forget that all hall walls, but especially those in small and narrow spaces, may get knocked and scuffed when people, pets and things come in and out of the house. And if you share your home with small children, or they’re regular visitors, then fingerprints are another pitfall.
This hallway preserves its good looks by limiting the use of more delicate wallpaper to above-dado level, with paint in a forgiving shade below.
As well as colour, think paint wipeability and even washability. Very matt finishes might be too much trouble to maintain if little fingers or lots of comings and goings are your lot, but washable matt and paint types that have a higher sheen will be easier to maintain. Check individual manufacturers’ ranges to see how each of its paint types can be cleaned.
Alternatively, try panelling. Putting up wall panels in a hall is another way to help keep it in top condition. Panels can be up to dado height like these, or full height.
It’s easy to find panelling online in designs to complement the age of a period home, or to bring character to something newer. Simple tongue-and-groove is a winner in country (or country-look) homes, and vertical boards can suit contemporary spaces.
A beginner’s guide to installing wall panelling
Mistake 3: Leaving out shoe storage
The rest of a home will stay cleaner if shoes are removed near the door, but fail to plan in a place to put them, and scattered pairs might be the result. This hallway includes a capacious cupboard to avoid the problem.
Shoe storage that goes from floor to ceiling like this doesn’t have to be deep, so it needn’t impinge much on even a narrow hallway. Sliding doors are also ideal in tight spaces, or simply leave the shoe storage open and avoid the door question entirely.
A further encouragement to shoe removal is a place to perch to do it. The shoe storage itself can be the seating – built in, as here, or via a freestanding piece of furniture that’s stash space and seat in one.
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Alternatively, slide in a bench along one wall, as in this home. The dimensions are the perfect complement to a long, narrow hall, and shoes can be lined up neatly underneath.
Mistake 4: Not incorporating hanging space
Another issue that will render a hallway hard to move through? A stack of coats. Instead of letting them pile up on one or two hooks and block a passageway, try generous hanging space, like this Shaker-style peg rail (which has a handy shelf above for other outdoor essentials, too) that extends along the hall’s length and will ‘dilute’ the collection of outerwear.
For square and rectangular halls, hanging rows of hooks or peg rails one above the other will do the same job – kids’ coats can go on the lower rail.
A small home for a couple or single resident probably won’t need as much coat-hanging space, but don’t omit it. Here, a set of hooks positioned above the elegant radiator is a space-efficient use of the wall, and it leaves room for a seat and artwork adjacent.
Mistake 5: Being colour-shy
It’s easy to think a small hall means white walls are a must-have to make it look as large as possible. They’re definitely an option, but in a light-starved space, they often won’t look their brightest and best, resulting in a gloomy entrance.
Confident colour, on the other hand, can be uplifting. In this space, a vibrant yellow creates a sunny and welcoming atmosphere.
Even light can transform a hall from timid to tremendous. Here, LEDs bathe the area in bright and beautiful shades.
And while using colour – whether that’s via paint, light or wallpaper – might seem to run the risk of shrinking a hallway, in fact the opposite can be true. How? Colour will often make a space distinct, so the strategy can help your hall feel like an extra room, rather than just a set of walls by the front door.
Mistake 6: Sticking with a single light source
A solitary pendant is the downfall of many a hall. It can leave much of the space in shadow, which will make it feel smaller than it really is, plus it doesn’t allow changes of atmosphere.
The hallway here has ceiling spots that create good ambient light for the entire hall, plus a table lamp that can offer a homely glow when the owners don’t need the whole space illuminated.
In this hallway, a series of spots on a rail create a gallery of the space by lighting up each artwork.
Browse light fittings in the Houzz Shop
Mistake 7: Failing to work with the proportions
A large hall makes fitting in storage much easier, but it presents its own challenges in striking a balance between circulation space and furnishings.
Here, an iconic piece of seating – the Robin Day Club sofa – takes centre stage, but neither blocks passage nor the view to the garden. Positioning the rug in front of it also helps to indicate it’s a comfortable place to take a pew.
In a small hall, on the other hand, space stretching is the order of the day. Here, the floorboards are laid to draw the eye outwards, so that, even with dark walls, the area expands visually.
A mirror, meanwhile, is a trusty prop when it comes to cheating a confined feeling. Here, it’s creating an illusion that the hall extends beyond the mirror itself by reflecting the room opposite.
How have you solved design challenges in your hallway? Show us or tell us in the Comments section.