How to Renovate the Hallway of Your Home
The hall is the first impression that anyone will get of your home, so make sure that it is welcoming and, above all, has a life of its own. All too often, people treat their hall merely as a transit area to the rooms beyond.
Making a Good Impression
Clever use of colour can open up a small hall or make a large one feel more welcoming. Other rooms may be in view so the colour you choose should also complement them. Although period homes can cope with classic deep greens, navy and burgundy, dark colours tend to sap the life out of most hallways and soft, fresh colours are a better choice. Warm yellows with cream and touches of terracotta will create an inviting atmosphere in gloomy halls, while pastel blues and green are very effective in light and airy spaces. Busy patterns make a small hall feel claustrophobic, whereas simple decorative mouldings in harmonizing shades will add interest but keep the overall effect neat. Remember that decoration in halls is easily damaged – sticky finger marks, knocks and chips, etc – so choose durable finishes for the walls. Dado panelling is exceptionally hardwearing.
Halls see more through traffic than any other area of the home, so flooring needs to be durable and easy to clean. It also needs to work well with the flooring of rooms that lead off the hall, rather than create jarring contrasts. Hard materials such as ceramic and terracotta tiles suit most styles of home, while solid vinyl and linoleum also create hardwearing, easy-care finishes. For a warm look without carpet, wood and wood laminates are ideal, while cushioned vinyl is a practical choice for family homes with young children. Carpet needs to be in a serviceable colour with a stain-resistant finish – small geometric patterns mask both dirt and wear and are a good solution for small areas. Durable natural matting such as coir or sisal is also a good choice. In older houses, the floorboards may be worth exposing, softened with rugs.
Open plan staircases have a distinctive style that usually only needs a coat of varnish to bring out the best, but on standard staircases treads are often characterless and always noisy. Fitted carpet or a natural matting will transform stairs with colour and texture, but if the treads are in good condition consider painting or varnishing them and fitting a stair runner instead. Most staircases are also uninspiring, but careful choice of decorative finishes can go a long way to make the structure look more stylish. A richly polished handrail, for instance, contrasts beautifully with painted spindles and stair treads, while a chrome handrail looks fabulous with blonde wood or metal spindles. Alternatively, you can replace spindles and handrails, while a DIY staircase system can totally transform a hallway for a few hundred pounds.
To benefit from as much natural light as possible, either leave windows undressed, or try to dress them simply with as little fuss as possible – lace panels, muslin and a valance or swirls of voile on a pole are all good choices. If windows are overlooked or you don’t like the view, adhesive film, Venetian blinds or shutters will afford light and privacy, while stained glass looks fabulous in halls. The real thing can be expensive, but is easily simulated by applying a specialist window film.
A hallway needs a combination of good directional light, so that stairs can be used safely, and subtle ambient light to create an inviting atmosphere. Shaded wall lights, uplighters or ceiling fittings with opaque shades that throw light up on to the ceiling all provide a good level of background illumination without glare, while a table lamp or accent lighting will create warmth. For contemporary halls, consider recessing tiny halogen downlighters across the full expanse of the ceiling and illuminating every third or fourth step with a light set low into the adjacent wall. Alternatively, you can set uplighters into the treads themselves.
Hanging space, at the very least, is needed in a hallway for coats and umbrellas, and in a family home extra storage may be useful for school bags and sports equipment – but do try to store bulky items out of sight, a curtain to draw will hide most things. Put understairs space to good use: a built-in cabinet, full height cupboard or even a box seat with lift-up lid will provide plenty of storage and help to keep the hall clutter-free. A traditional hatstand is still one of the best ways to hang up coats without taking up too much floor space. Wall-mounted contemporary versions of the old classic are also available, while Shaker-style peg rails are another alternative. Furniture also helps to give a hall its own identity but avoid chunky pieces that consume limited floor space. A slimline hall or console table 6 provides a place for telephone, post and keys, or you can wall-mount the phone and fix a narrow shelf to the wall underneath.