If hallways could talk, they’d shout “pay attention to me!” on an endless loop. Often the most neglected, under-decorated parts of the house, these transitional spaces deserve some design TLC. Knowing where to start can be tough, so we’re laying down the do’s and don’ts of corridor decor. Those hallways will be whispering sweet nothings in your ear in no time.
Published August 25, 2019, Updated April 17, 2021
Do Make a Statement
Decor websites are always encouraging readers to go wild with bold print wallpaper in small spaces like powder rooms – and guess what? That’s exactly what we’re advising you to do with a plain, style-starved hallway. Embrace colour and pattern to create a major design impact; it’ll put a smile on your face each time you walk through.
Don’t Forget to Decorate
Is there anything more tragic than blank white walls and a complete lack of adornment, embellishment or personality? In real life, yes, of course there is – but in the world of hallways, this is the most sad. Hang some artwork! Choose a bold paint colour! Throw down a rug or two! Don’t neglect your transitional spaces like that.
Do Keep it Bright
By their very in-between nature, hallways often lack natural light and darker paint colours tend to compound the problem. Unless you’re going for a cavelike vibe – hey, to each their own – be aware of light sources when choosing paint shades. Keep the sheen in mind, too: eggshell, satin and semi-gloss finishes will reflect more light than flat finishes.
Don’t Be Afraid of Colour
Or pattern. Or texture. Or mixing it up a little. People are often hesitant to make bright, bold decor choices because they worry they’ll tire of them. That’s exactly what makes hallways – the only spots in the house you’ll never spend much time in – the perfect spaces to experiment with different design styles.
Do Paint Strategically
The walls in your front hallway are an easy target for scuffs and marks caused by shoes, umbrellas and bags, but there’s a better way to protect them than by using bubble wrap as wallpaper. Try painting the lower half of the walls a dark colour; not only will you be saving yourself from daily cleaning sessions, but you’ll also be making a chic design statement. Win-win.
Do Make Use of the Space
“I simply have too much storage space,” said no one ever. Don’t think of your hallways as just a means to get from A to B; maximize the space as you would with any other room in the house. Built-in bookshelves are the dream, but you can also DIY the look with inexpensive store-bought units and sturdy wall anchors.
Don’t Let Clutter Take Over
It’s so easy for a front hallway to become a dumping ground for shoes, coats, kids’ gear and all the random stuff you don’t know where else to put – but opening your door and walking right into a mess is just plain stressful. Install some chic hooks or a homemade pegboard entryway organizer, put out a basket or two and find a permanent home for everything that doesn’t need to be there. Schedule regular clear-outs as needed.
Do Create a Gallery Wall
We can practically guarantee there’s at least one hallway in your home that’s begging for some visual interest and a gallery wall is the obvious answer. Whether you go for matching frames or an eclectic mix, hanging up your favourite photos and artwork will give you something to notice each time you walk through the space.
Don’t Underestimate the Power of Great Lighting
You’ve got a stunning vintage chandelier in the dining room and fabulously modern pendants in the kitchen, but the light fixtures in your hallways are a big yawn. Don’t treat corridors like second-class citizens; they deserve statement lighting, too. Create a focal point by choosing fixtures that’ll make you stop and stare.
Do Make Use of Mirrors
We all know that mirrors are incredibly handy tools for making a space feel larger. What could benefit more from that design trick than a narrow hallway? Choose one with a jaw-dropping gorgeous frame and the mirror will double as a work of art – talk about bang for your buck.
Do Go for the Gold
Besides mirrors and light-reflective paint, installing metallic wallpaper and accessories is an easy way to brighten up a dark hallway. Bonus: gold, silver and bronze accents add instant glamour to any space.
Don’t Overlook the Floors
So many homeowners spend countless hours – and dollars – obsessing over the perfect living room rug, then leave their poor hallway floors sad and bare. We say it’s time to cover up. Stylish area rugs needn’t be expensive and when it comes to adding design value – colour! pattern! texture! warmth! – they pay dividends.
Do Make the Most of Design Opportunities
If your home is blessed with open, airy, wide hallways, it’s your duty as a design aficionado to treat them like mini-rooms and decorate accordingly. Think seating, artwork, console tables, greenery, lighting. The sky (and by “sky” we mean “square footage”) is the limit.
Do Maximize Smaller Spaces
On the flip side, hallways that are less “grand foyer” and more “tiny landing strip” still deserve your attention, too. A few carefully selected, beautifully designed accessories – like this teensy stool and carved wooden artwork – can completely transform a space while hardly taking up any room.
Do Keep it Practical
The front hallway sets the design tone for the rest of the house, but it also serves a practical purpose – it’s where you take off your shoes, hang up your coat and drop your bags at the end of the day. Add storage benches, hooks, an umbrella stand – whatever you can comfortably squeeze into the square footage – to make the space useful.