The hallway is the first impression you get of your home, so it’s important to take time to plan and decorate it so as to make it warm and welcoming for your family and visitors. It also sets the tone for the rest of the house. The hall, stairs and landing are the connecting spaces, through which you view all the other rooms therefore they require careful attention. Before you start consider what style you like—contemporary look or a more traditional one eg. a country cottage. The period in which the house was built should be taken into consideration, but shouldn’t limit you. Your likes and dislikes as well as the practicalities, such as a farm house or will children be using it, need to be considered.
Highlight features which are good and disguise the bad. A floor with a regular outline, could be emphasised by using a border in a contrasting colour on the flooring covering, If the ceiling height is right, a cornice or a border could be used to enhance the line where the ceiling meets the wall. Or a well placed window could be treated to a bold curtain/ blind treatment and become the focus point of the space. An interesting shaped window on the stairs can often be shown-off to its best by fixing the curtain or blind within the reveal. A single curtain draped to one side looks better than a pair of curtains hanging half-way down a wall on the stairway. If you have a beautiful shaped staircase show it off to it’s advantage and try not to lose it’s impact by over-decorating the space around it. You can use stair rods as a decorative feature and also to insure your carpet is well attached to the stairs.
You can disguise features by fading them into the background eg. painting pipes the same colour as the wall. But remember this same pipe in a contemporary setting could be highlighted in a contrasting colour and become part of the decor. If the area lacks features (which is often the case), you may have to create some eg. with pictures, mirrors, furnishings, etc. If you are lucky enough to have a fireplace in this space, you can give it star treatment eg. with well thought-out lighting.
When it comes to colour remember the hall, stairs and landing lead off each other and need to be linked eg. having the same carpet or the walls painted the same colour. Also you don’t want the colours to clash with colour-schemes of the other rooms. But this should not stop you going with bold colour-schemes as long as you link it. Where there is a lack of light you can use light colours, mirrors and reflective surfaces (eg. glass-top table) or instead use the darkness—paint rich dark colours and use lighting effects etc.
Surfaces—Wall & Floor covering
Floor and wall covering need to be hard wearing as they deal with a lot of traffic and if there are children or pets the surfaces need to be extra robust. So leave the delicate wallpaper treatment you always wanted to do, until they are older or consider installing a dado-rail and use a paint finish below the rail. A tongue and grove wall panelling to dado height and with a striped or geometric patterned wallpaper on the upper part of the wall will give a period look to a hall. If you are splitting the wall into two different colours with a dado rail use the darker colour on the lower level. If you use the lighter one on the lower level it should be repeated again above the picture rail and ceiling to give a balanced effect.
If the walls have attractive angles and shapes, paint all the one colour or tones of the same colour to enhance the effect rather than using patterned wallpaper which can confuse and distract the eye. Bear in mind that silk and satin finish paints reflect more light than matt ones and are a good idea if there is a lack of light.
Wood, stone, marble, terracotta and vinyl are all good choices and look stunning in a hallway. Both stone and terracotta tiles are warmer than ceramic tiles. If using a carpet, use a heavy domestic type and with twist and loop pile instead of cut pile. Have a doormat at the entrance, which is within a well and flush with the rest of the carpet to stop dirt being trampled all over it. Also natural floor covering such as sisal, coir and seagrass are popular in the last few years. Rugs add that extra touch and can introduce colour but keep safety in mind. A wooden floor can be painted in a variety of patterns and also stencilled and part of the pattern used on the walls.
You are often limited when choosing a piece of furniture for these areas, because of lack of space, also they will stand-out, so choose wisely. You don’t want a piece too big and will take from the overall decor. Remember it will be seen from different angles depending on where it’s placed and must not get in the way of human traffic. If space permits you could place a round table in the centre of the hall and use it as a focal point. Place books, selection of photographs, flowers etc. on it. Radiator covers help to conceal the radiator and provide a surface for placing decorative objects. You can buy a ready made cover or have it made to your requirements (more expensive) some can be painted, which gives more scope.
One never has enough storage space. There can be a lot of wasted space in halls and landings. Books only require a narrow shelving and can be accommodated easily. There also add colour and interest to an area. By placing a chair, table and light beside them you have your own reading space. Space under the stairs is often neglected and instead could be used to store wine using racks which can be stacked in different shapes. You may need space to keep outdoor clothing or baby’s buggy etc. so a door could be added to a recess which in turn can be painted the same colour as the wall and so improving the overall look of the hall or landing. The hall often acts as an unofficial nerve centre, it is useful to organise a place where you can leave messages, mail, keys etc.
Lighting is an important part of interior design and particularly in the decoration of hall / stairs / landings as it will help set the mood as you enter the house. Use it to highlight items such as a stencilled floor, a favourite ornament or a large bunch of flowers in a glass vase. Table lamps will give soft light while an uplighter behind a large plant will cast shadows of the leaves on the wall. To move through the house safely requires good lighting. Make sure any change of level is highlighted eg. the stairway. Two-way switching allows you to switch a light from different positions eg. top and bottom of stairs. External light at the front door gives a warm welcome to visitors and lights knocker, doorbell and letterbox. Exchange a solid door for a glazed one to give more light or install a fan-light above the door.
If lighting is important in the decor so is accessories. A picture gallery can be created along a stairway, while a wall-hanging can form a major part of the decoration. Mirrors amplify any natural light entering an area, they can be used to back recesses / niches by being cut to shape or framed sections can be hung at intervals. Attention should be paid to such items as door handles, panelling, architrave and cornices, light switches and socket plates as part of the decor. Often by just changing door handles a lift can be given to the overall effect.
Decorating a hall / stairs / landing should be like decorating any other room, it should be personal, reflecting individual tastes and choices and look like it has grown over a period of time and not put together during an afternoon in a department store.
Mary D. Kelly