The way we see it, there are three kinds of hallways. The first is the entry hall, which isn’t really a hallway per se. It’s more of a drop-off zone for keys, shoes, and bags, which means it needs to be functional as well as stylish. For tips on how to make an entry hall shine, check out our master class in designing your entryway. The other kinds of hallways — the ones that are often ignored completely — are the ones found throughout the interior of your home, usually connecting rooms and open living areas. Some are long, dark, and narrow. Others are bright with a generous amount of natural light coming in from windows on at least one side. If yours is lucky enough to be bathed in sunlight, you’re basically only working on one wall; you’ll want to be careful not to overdo it, especially if the view outside is worth a look.
Either way, there is so much you can do with a hallway to keep it from being boring. It’s a high-traffic area, so you’ll have to take that into consideration, but that’s even more reason to invest a little time and money into making it beautiful. Here are seven ways to design your hallways that make the most of the space.
Create a Gallery Wall
This works best with wide hallways that are well lit, so anyone walking through can stop and enjoy each piece of wall art. For a modern vibe, a symmetrical gallery wall filled with black and white family photos is perfect. For a more relaxed, boho vibe, mix photos, paintings, and prints with structural wall decor that’s three-dimensional, like these adorable ceramic birds from Fy. If your hallway has walls on both sides, keep your gallery to one side, so it doesn’t feel overwhelming. When hallways are dark, a bit narrow, or both, having distractions on both sides can feel like the walls are closing in on you.
Make the Ceiling Pop
Sometimes the best way to forget that you’re walking through an enclosed space is to draw the eye up. Depending on the style of your home and your budget, tin ceilings, horizontal wood beams, or even a coat of paint in an eye-catching shade can do the trick. Since this isn’t a space where anyone is going to spend a great deal of time in, it’s the perfect place to push the envelope. If you don’t want to commit to anything that can’t be easily undone, try peel and stick tiles, paint stripes in fun shades, or if you’re artsy, draw a simple mural or something abstract on the ceiling. If it doesn’t work out you can easily remove it or paint right over it.
Create Recessed Shelves for a Mini Library
If you’re building a custom home or you’re able to do some light remodeling to go with your decorating, it’s fairly easy to create recessed shelves on one side of the hallway. If you’d rather not stuff it with books, place a few decorative objects and pieces of artwork on display and use the books to prop them up. This is a particularly great idea if you have a door or wall vent on the other side of the hallway because all the attention will automatically swing to the other side.
Show Off a Lighting Installation
While the word installation may sound fancy, it’s really simple to make lighting the focal point of a hallway. The natural shape of most hallways — long and narrow — makes it easy to make the ceiling fixtures the focal point. Even if your hallway is boxy it can still benefit from a show-stopping light source. Instead of choosing just one beautiful chandelier or pendant, try hanging several in a cluster in the center of the hallway. Grouping several fixtures in the same style but different sizes adds the polished look of a true lighting installation. That said, a more linear, cohesive approach with a row of lanterns or other ceiling lights along the entire length of the hallway can be just as beautiful.
Go Bold With Wallpaper
Nowadays there are so many simple peel and stick varieties, there’s no reason not to play with wallpaper. Whether you go the removable route or with a paper that is more traditional, the options are endless. If you’ve got a contemporary vibe in your home, try something interesting but simple, like a geometric design. For an earthy, organic look, there’s nothing like a botanical print to set the mood. Still not sure about wallpaper? Finding the right wallpaper for you can be fun, just request several samples before you commit to one. Paper can look very different than it does online or even in decor books. The textures and colors aren’t always captured accurately. Try taping it to the wall (or ceiling) for a day or two to see how it looks in the overall space, especially as the light shifts throughout the day.
Create a Hall of Mirrors
By reflecting whatever light streams in, nothing brightens a space like a mirror. Another major bonus of opting for mirrors in the hallway is that they can make the space look much bigger than it is. It’s also a relatively easy way to create some visual appeal in this otherwise boring space. Similar to the look of a gallery wall, try hanging mirrors in different styles or sizes along one wall. If your home is more casual than formal, go for an eclectic mix of mirrors in a variety of styles and perhaps even colors. More modern homes would benefit from the cohesiveness of mirrors in the same color or general style, but not identical.
Make a Runner the Star
When all else fails, never underestimate the power of a runner to make a hallway feel welcoming. A runner automatically softens this pass-through space and draws you forward. Most runners are two to three feet wide and vary in length. For the best look, measure your space first, making sure to leave at least four to five inches of flooring on both sides. Choose a low-pile texture — that’s not a potential trip hazard — so it’s easy to walk comfortably. Cotton, nylon, and propylene rugs are the most durable for high-traffic hallways.
With just a little imagination, it’s easy to turn the hallways in your home into visually stunning spaces that are fun to walk through every day.
Ana Connery is former content director of Parenting, Babytalk, Pregnancy Planner and Conceive magazines as well as parenting.com.
While editor in chief of Florida Travel & Life magazine from 2006-2009, she covered the state’s real estate and home design market as well as travel destinations.
She’s held senior editorial positions at some of the country’s most celebrated magazines, including Latina, Fitness and Cooking Light, where she oversaw the brand’s “FitHouse” show home.
Ana’s expertise is frequently sought after for appearances on “The Today Show,” “Good Morning America” and CNN. She has interviewed the country’s top experts in a variety of fields, including U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and First Lady Michelle Obama.