Now on the one hand the fact that everyone has to stay at home might/should mean the hall is free from coats, shoes and schoolbags and the detritus of modern family life. On the other hand the fact that everyone has to stay at home probably/does mean the hall is full of all the stuff you cleared out in an attempt to declutter before you realised the tip/dump/charity shop was closed and the stuff that is just accumulating because no-one can quite summon up the energy to put things away or find a new home for them. Not looking at The Mad Husband at all. Well, maybe just the tiniest side eye.
It goes without saying that the hall is the first thing you see when you come in. Now it’s not just about first impressions for visitors but crucially, it’s about you. How does your hall make you feel? Is it welcoming you in with a sympathetic smile? When you stagger in with plastic bag wrist (those deep red welts from where it has cut into your flesh), a dripping umbrella, uncomfortable shoes and a slightly shameful desire for a large drink before you can even think about taking your coat off/ dinner/kids/netflix, does it say: “Come on in. Put your shoes here, your coat there and get rid of the brolly. Don’t forget to put your keys here so you don’t lose them. Now then, why don’t you go through to the kitchen and find a drink and a comfy chair?”
Or is it shouting: “Where the hell have you been? What do you think you’re doing trying to jam your coat on that peg, can’t you see it’s full. No there’s no room for shoes there. Mind the bike. If you put your keys there I’m telling you they’ll be gone by the morning. Told you that bike was in the way.”
Does that sound familiar? I suspect most of us are probably somewhere between the two. So what are the elements of the perfect entrance hall?
Often I talk about storage when it comes to hallways but on the basis that the shops are shut and you know you need to get good coat hooks etc let’s talk about the actual decor of this, usually, small space. For most of us the hall, while being the smallest space is also the most important.
In her new book, out on 30 April, Michelle Ogundehin, writes eloquently about the need to banish all clutter from the hall and focus on what you can see when you open the front door. In her case it is a view through to the kitchen and she has placed a row of wall cupboards with pictures hanging above so that the first thing she sees when she opens the door is a relaxing, beautifully curated view. She draws a parallel with the Japanese Butsuma altar (the room where a Buddhist altar is placed) and the need to see something inspirational when you walk through the door.
In my house it is the stairs leading up to the 16yo’s bedroom which is why I chosen a statement runner and disguised his door as a bookshelf. In our house the coats and shoes are stored in that triangle under the stairs by the downstairs loo. Michelle puts them in the rooms on either side of her hall way. Andrew Griffiths, who lives in a flat (pictured above) has a handy cupboard at the end of his hall and has chosen to make a feature of it.
So the first thing you can do, which when the lockdown inertia has worn off (suffering a bit from that one myself) is to have a good old sort out and work out what needs to live in the hall and what can go elsewhere. Not everyone can put coats in a living room or study as Michelle does, but you can perhaps see if there is a dead space for a small cupboard in either of those rooms. Or I once visited a house where some one had hooks on the first floor landing. And if you can’t, if everything needs to live there then you will have to work out your own discipline for how many coats and shoes you allow there at any one time.
Now back to the decor, which was the original point, the hall is your opening statement decorwise and, since it’s a small space that is only for passing through you can afford to be dramatic as well as practical.
I am a big fan of the half-painted wall in the hall since it’s a practical way of disguising the inevitable scuffs and scratches that are a feature of every hall. Below you can see how Alex Stedman, aka The Frugality has taken her halfpainted wall up the stairs as well. Her house, which was a wreck and on which she is working wonders, was packed with original features so the dado rail makes a natural stopping point.
But don’t worry if you don’t have a dado rail. You can just pick a point to stop the paint. It’s a modern contemporary look. But if you don’t fancy using two contrasting colours then consider one colour but two textures. You can see on the top image, by Farrow and Ball, the contrast between the gloss lower wall and the matt top half. Gloss is tough and easy to wipe down and that hall is one of my favourites.
Below that both Andrew and Michelle created the same effect in white paint so don’t feel that you have to do this in dark paint if that isn’t your thing.
Above, Rachel Khoo, whose clever London flat has featured on these pages before, has painted the whole of her small dark hallway in gloss blue. This is another great idea if your space is small. She even painted the doors the same so they are completely hidden and don’t distract the eye.
That’s another issue that is often common to flat living. Lots of doors off a central corridor which can make the space feel unnecessarily busy and distracting. So paint them all the same colour as the walls and they will blend in and instantly make the space feel calmer. You can do this in any colour you like – it doesn’t have to be white as mine are but could be a strong shade as Rachel has used.
Here’s another shot of one of the doors, with hooks on, opening into the room behind and see how the woodwork matches as well so the whole flat, which is small, links together.
Finally, if you don’t fancy painting your walls then what about the ceiling as Andrew has done here. Again, no-one is sitting down to watch a movie so it’s a small detail that can have a big impact. Especially for those people in houses where it can be difficult to have a fabulous pendant light as you inevitably get into the bother with how low you can hang it because of the stairs; flats have the advantage there.
But here that gorgeous green is just lovely on the ceiling and I particularly like the white stripe too and Andrew has carried that colour onto one of the doors. He has also brought the green (Little Greene Hopper) down over the top of the walls to blur the edges and make the ceiling (and by extension the hall) look wider.
So there are some paint ideas for your hallways which you can ponder now and do later or, if you have paint, and many companies are still delivering, you can even do now. It’s a good excuse to train everyone in new habits of moving things out of the hall as you can shriek “wet paint” at them for weeks before they will really even notice.