Making an entrance


The hallway is the most neglected room of the home. Compared to bathrooms, bedrooms and kitchens, hallways always seem to struggle to get attention and are often left alone for decades; but they set the mood and tone of the house and therefore deserve just as much attention.

Nowadays we use hallways as transitional areas; we rush through them and don’t really take much time to think about the décor. We throw down the post, keys and sunglasses, hang up our coats and head for another room in our home.

In the 18th Century, it was considered appropriate to make hallways as restful and tranquil as possible to help soothe travellers after a difficult journey. Hence the simplicity of the traditional black and white tiled floor that is often seen in hallways. But since we’re no longer quite as physically challenged on our journeys these days, the hall can have more of a welcoming wow-factor.

You have to work with what you have and sometimes very little can be done to change the basic shape and layout. As it’s one of the busiest areas practicalities are as important as decoration, something to keep in mind at the planning stage. Getting the interior design right is a challenge but with careful consideration you can create a fabulous entrance to your home.

Practical Considerations

Planning is essential and that means practical considerations, not just where to have statement wallpaper!

Make an impact
Before you begin to think of flooring and other essentials, consider what the focus of attention will be. You only need one point of impact, so carefully consider what and where you want it to be to make it a good one. A console table or floating shelves or even a well designed radiator cover can provide a perfect starting point. This is the place you want to create maximum decorative effect and set the scene when you enter the hall. It’s where you will put fresh flowers or position a plant, or perhaps leave eye catching accessories alongside a pair of lamps (or wall lights if space is restricted). It’s also the right place to add scent, such as a diffuser or candle.

Once you’ve dealt with your point of impact then tackle your awkward areas. The ever problematic space under the stairs can be turned into a style haven with an alternative console such as trunk or chest, pop in a quirky antique sofa or a modern statement chair. Even add a lamp for evening ambience and you’ve created another mini impact area!

Many hallways are lacking in natural light and rely on borrowing it from other rooms. Your aim is to achieve a decent layered lighting design scheme, broken down into two zones.

Think of the upstairs and the staircase as one lighting area and light it from above with large feature pendants. Downstairs there is a need to light upwards and have a variety of light sources such as recessed spots, smaller dimmable pendants and lamps. These are the basic rules, but as with lighting in any room you can make this more complex with wall washers, lighting on stairs, etc. but this is entirely a matter of taste, and providing it fits in with the home’s overall interior design. If you have a very modern architectural home then layers upon layers of lighting may accent this beautifully but if your home is a simpler affair, stay away from fancy integrated lighting notions.

Flooring in a hallway needs to be practical and able to endure a lot of traffic. Stone, tiles and wood are all good choices. Wood plank flooring will need yearly maintenance and it won’t cope very well with soiled shoes so if you do choose timber, think of installing a sunken mat or tiled entrance area to catch the mud.

Using the same or similar flooring in the hall and leading it into other rooms can create a connecting flow and creating the illusion of a more spacious interior. But this doesn’t apply to all homes. Sometimes a statement carpet or Victorian floor is the perfect contrast your home needs.

Carpeting halls had in recent years become an unpopular choice but with new modern designs and refreshed classics, plaid carpet, stripe carpet and all manner of patterns and plains with borders have come back in vogue. Unless your home has only light traffic then it is best to reserve the carpet for the stairs and landing areas.

Rugs are another excellent addition to hallways. If you have a large open space then a rug can help zone off the areas, create a cosier environment and make a huge design statement. But beware of possible slips and trips with older people and toddlers. In lounges my advice is to always have the rug touching the furniture but in the hall, the opposite is true. Beyond that there are no other rules. A rug that takes up most of the floor space helps the hallway feel more like a room or a runner with a border can add great definition. It’s also perfectly acceptable to go rug-less.

Hallways can be a magnet for all sorts of clutter. Shoes, school bags, coats, deliveries, post, a telephone directory that has yet to find a home and the list goes on! No matter what style credentials you envisage for your hall, if you don’t address your storage needs it will never quite live up to your expectations.

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About Shauna Stewart

An experienced interior designer with over 15 years in the industry, Shauna Stewart specialises in residential new homes and major renovations. She is passionate about making good interior design approachable, and, as mum to two small boys, has a special insight into the needs of families. 30 Mullaghboy Park, Magherafelt BT45 5GU. Studio: 028 7963 1999 Mobile: 07737 244789 Email:

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