Mad About . . .

Five Ways To Revamp Your Hall

3rd August 2017

Every year in August I take a break from blogging five days a week and we revisit some of the archive posts. This gives me time to recharge my batteries and gives you the opportunity to either catch up with things you may not have had time for the first time round or to read pieces that might suddenly appear relevant as they might relate to jobs you are doing in your homes now. First up in my mini-series was five ways to revamp your hall.

Part of my mini-series Five Ways to Revamp a Room(rapidly) and this week we are going to the hall. Often neglected as just a passing-through place and a dumping ground, the hall is, in fact, one of the most important rooms in the house. It’s the first thing you see when you come downstairs in the morning – or walk through from other rooms of your flat – and the last thing you see before you go to bed at night. Not to mention, and perhaps more importantly, the first place you see when you come home from work or leave to go out.

The hall sets the mood for the rest of the house so it’s really important to make sure it’s doing its job. I have written before about this but it bears repeating: basically when you come in you want the hall to welcome you, to give you a place to put your bag, your coat and your shoes and not to be shouting at you to get the hell out because it’s dark, dingy, messy and there’s not enough storage.

hall stairs in the mad house image by James Balston

hall stairs in the mad house image by James Balston

Most of us have small halls. Mine is particularly narrow and there is no room for any furniture. We hang the coats at the far end in an alcove which leads down to the cellar and is tucked under the stairs. The only thing in our hall is a mirror and a radiator. Which means it has to work even harder to be interesting and welcoming. So we have made the STAIR RUNNER a real feature. We have the dotty carpet from Alternative Flooring which I still love as much as the day it was installed seven years ago.

But you can buy a plain carpet and have the edges overlocked in a contrasting jolly colour – dark grey with neon orange for example. Pale grey with a dark green border. Then get the paint out and paint the bannisters to match the hem of the runner. Yes it’s a faff but you’re basically sitting down for this one so you can do it in batches.

pink hall door by nichol naranjo

pink hall door by nichol naranjo

The next easy makeover is to PAINT THE DOOR by which I mean the inside – in a happy colour as instagrammer Nichol  Naranjo has done here. This is definitely on my revamping list for my own hall as it’s currently all white and once you’ve come down the spotty stairs there’s really nothing to look at apart from white walls and a white door. I plan to paint ours to match the bannister – which is Farrow & Ball Brinjal by the way.

I was visiting a client a couple of weeks ago whose hall was painted grey and she had painted the inside of her front door in F&B Yellow Cake and it looked fantastic. Such a cheery way to greet the day. That really is a big change for a small price.

dark skirtings and door frames via savills

dark skirtings and door frames via savills

Finally, on paint, you can also consider HALF-PAINTING THE WALLS. This can be a really practical decision as the lower half of the wall tends to get scuffed from bikes and bags and dirty hands, so painting it dark will hide a multitude of sins without making it much darker. If you’re worried where to stop you can go to the top of the stairs on the wall side and then leave it at that. You don’t have to go all the way.

Now, on dark paint – if your hall is dark and windowless anyway, then there’s not much you can do about it. Having the light on all the time will just emphasise that it doesn’t have enough natural light so you might as well embrace that and go dark. The first point is that if the doors to the other rooms are open, then they will feel brighter when you enter from a dark space. The second is that no-one lingers in the hall anyway so you can afford to be bold and brave with your decor. If you’ve always had a secret hankering for some amazing wallpaper this is the place to try it out. It’s not like you’ll have to sit there for hours every day or wake up to it every morning.

H&M patterned rug as seen in on instagram

H&M patterned rug as created by Jo Leevers on instagram

So we’ve dealt with painting and papering in various different ways. Next up we need to talk about STORAGE. The key point to make here is discipline. No you can’t have all your coats and all your shoes in the hall at the same time. You just can’t. Filter, triage, sort. That is the first thing. Then there are options. Consider decorative hooks such as the Muuto dots. You can arrange them in a pattern of different colours and sizes so they will look good when empty – which I know will never happen.

If you have small children then consider hanging pretty baskets on these hooks and putting small shoes, gloves and scarves in them. Give each child a basket, or two, and encourage them to put their own things away. You can also hang these hooks low enough for small hands to reach and, because they can be arrange in a pattern, they won’t look silly when the kids have grown too tall.

muuto dots in metal can be arranged decoratively

muuto dots in metal can be arranged decoratively

Another idea is to create a long low shelf along one wall – unless you have a radiator (curses) with another, slightly narrower, one underneath. Store shoes along the bottom one and use the top one to sit on when putting said shoes on. That way the shoes are slightly hidden by the top shelf. Paint both to match the wall and they will disappear. You can also use the top one for plants, books, a basket of post etc. You can determine the width of these depending on the length of the longest shoe and the size of the largest bottom.

So now you’ve thought about the stairs, repainted some or part of the space and considered your storage, it’s time for the accessories. Again most of us won’t have room for furniture so you need to get clever with other pieces that will work hard and look good.

large mirror from graham and green

large mirror from graham and green

Buy the biggest MIRROR you can afford. Propped up against the floor won’t take up much room and it will bounce the light around and reflect back the light from other rooms. I am wondering if it would be a heating own goal to have one this large in my hall in front of the radiator? The heat would come out of the sides no? And do bear in mind that an angled mirror appears to shave a few pounds of your reflection which may, or may not be a good thing. I had an angled mirror in the bathroom for years and when I finally saw myself in a flat one I had to go on a diet. But, hey knowledge is power so I’ll give you that knowledge – it’s up to you how you feel about it. On the upside I left the house every day for three years thinking I looked AMAZING and that can’t be bad. If a floor mirror’s out of the question then a big wall-mounted one will work just as well.

Ikea have a fabulous walnut one in their Stockholm range and M&S will have a large brass one in the autumn so there are options out there.

hall painted in worsted and peignoir by farrow and ball via karen knox of

hall painted in worsted and peignoir by farrow and ball via karen knox of

I’m not going to get into lighting here as I am trying to give you some ideas you may not have thought of, but one thing you can do if the space is dark is to add a NEON light. This brings in an element of fun and will boost the light if you currently only have an overhead pendant. Try Bag and Bones  or Rockett St George.

Finally, if budgets are tight – and when aren’t they, you will see the stair runner by Jo Leevers in one of the images above. She cleverly made that from cheap stair runners from H&M that cost around £25 each. She simply nailed them in place. If you wanted to really push the boat out you could invest in some underlay for cushioning as well. And the talented Bianca Hall created a hall carpet in a similar way – using gold upholstery pins to fasten a kilim to the floor and stop it slipping.

zebra stair runner by alternative flooring

zebra stair runner by alternative flooring

I hope that has given you all some ideas for your own halls, landings and corridors. Next week the final post in the series – five ways to revamp the bathroom which will feature some photos of The Mad House which were taken by and for Soho House.


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  • Anna 27th May 2017 at 10:13 pm

    Our hall is dark, no windows. No art. No storage possible, so I painted a basket white that stands by the front door and stuff gets put into it that is either on it’s way out or temporary. The ceiling has lights set into it but it’s low and six doors lead off this hallway. How to improve the space and create a feeling of light? Answer a bevelled mirror 5ft high by 8ft wide professionally stuck to part of one long wall and for under £300. The thickness of the glass with a mirror this size matters I purchased one of 6mm thickness, the bevel is about an inch wide all around. That’s the size I needed. It’s placed an inch from the ceiling and comes two thirds down the height of the wall. This is an area we pass through and we take little notice of the mirror now but it has transformed the feeling and is a great success. I would suggest hunting for the best quote as the first quote was more than double what I eventually agreed to.

  • Helen 26th May 2017 at 1:45 am

    Hello, I’ve been reading avidly every day for three months, ever since I discovered the blog. I absolutely love your writing, which makes me smile, and your excellent taste that reflects (but way supersedes) my own! This post has just helped me so much. Our hallway is a disaster and I’ve always been defeated by its challenges but now I’m feeling determined. I was just wondering whether you knew where that console table in the penultimate shot is from. I have been googling around but everything I find is pretty twee. I did check on Karen’s blog, but no luck. Thanks ever so much for all the inspiration and practical know-how.

    • Kate Watson-Smyth 26th May 2017 at 12:16 pm

      Hi Helen, I’m so glad you like it. There’s a similar one at Swoon Editions which might work – and the drawers are handy. Or this is very similar and a two piece from Wayfair or this which is industrial but marble so a little more refined from French Connection Hope one of those can work XK

      • Helen 28th May 2017 at 1:22 am

        It’s very generous of you to reply with so much information. Thank you so much. I love all these options, and am especially loving Swoon Editions. I’m moving back to the UK after ten years away and am so out of touch. Thanks again.

  • Emily 25th May 2017 at 2:16 pm

    How would you handle half-painting a wall in a hallway where you also have artwork? I have a long thin hallway with no windows (and a lot of bike scuffs on the wall!) and have been thinking for a while about half-painting it, but have a few big paintings in the hallway as well and worry that having them hang across two different wall colours might look really odd!

    • Kate Watson-Smyth 26th May 2017 at 12:19 pm

      I think actually it might look amazing! Depends on the colours etc but I think it could work – probably one third above the line and two thirds below. Or you could not do a half painted wall but a third and two thirds? The key is to make it look like you meant it so perhaps the frame of the art is the same – or a slightly paler version – of the frame so that it all links. Or the bottom half is a colour that is in the painting. Yes I know we don’t normally match our art to our decor but this is quite a specific case.

  • lauren 25th May 2017 at 10:35 am

    Hey Kate…. I’ve just been looking into fixing runners together to create a stair runner… Much like the H&M Jo Leevers one. Any ideas how she did this? was it a ‘professional’ carpet person (I’m sure they have a more official name than this) or just with carpet tape? It looks likes she has lost the border at either end of the runner so I’m thinking it must have been a professional job… but where on earth do you start in finding someone?! arrrrgh

    • Kate Watson-Smyth 25th May 2017 at 1:46 pm

      I’m pretty sure she did it herself but if you have a local carpet shop – we do – you can ask them for the name of fitters. Or whatever the yellow pages has turned into now. Try

  • Jill 25th May 2017 at 9:24 am

    really good ideas and inspiring pictures, thank you!

  • Reena 25th May 2017 at 9:16 am

    I love this post Kate! I don’t have a hallway as our stairs at some point over the years were moved to the landing but I am definitely going to explore some of your ideas and suggestions for the staircase colour and overlooking the carpet! Also going to paint my front door. What’s the best paint to apply to a front door that’s made of UVPC? X

    • Kate Watson-Smyth 25th May 2017 at 9:37 am

      Thank you! And, er gosh, I don’t know offhand. Anyone? There seem to be some solutions on google – prime with a upvc primer and then on you go. Perhaps not too difficult but a bit faffy!

      • lauren 25th May 2017 at 10:38 am

        What about Everlong paints?! Give them a call directly they are so helpful. I’m sure their paints don’t need prior sanding priming or waxing- what a dream!

      • Tara 28th May 2017 at 11:01 am

        Hi I used Bullseye 123 primer, you can get it from Screwfix and then Sadolin, great job!

    • Shruti 25th May 2017 at 10:28 am

      Hi Reena,
      If it is the inside of the door you want to paint, then chalk paint by Annie Sloane could work. I had some old fixed wardrobes in the master bedroom that were a faff to remove and had melamine doors. So I just painted over them in a 2-tone (frame a lighter colour and door front a darker shade) and even after 5 years they are still good. Just use the paint thick, as it comes. But be prepared to do several coats. Hope it works for you.

  • Elaine Thomas 25th May 2017 at 9:12 am

    Hi Kate
    I love those propped up mirrors, I have an old wardrobe door I use. But just a word of caution. If there are small children around, they need to be fixed to the wall to avoid potential accidents.
    Love the blog and read it every day.
    Elaine x

    • Kate Watson-Smyth 25th May 2017 at 9:38 am

      Yes good point well made. Mine are teenagers now. I did think it while I was typing but didn’t actually add it in. FIX THE MIRRORS PEOPLE IT’S IMPORTANT.

  • Emily 25th May 2017 at 7:28 am

    Thank you for your posts everyday! I always love reading them on the morning commute or the times I can’t get myself out of bed on time (like this morning!)
    We are currently in the process of deciding what to do with a stair runner at the moment on a budget! But please could you tell me what paint you have used in your hall?
    Thank you
    Emily x

    • Kate Watson-Smyth 25th May 2017 at 9:40 am

      Thank YOU for reading! My hall is the boring one of these – it’s wimborne white by Farrow and Ball and is a flat chalky white – in north facing. Can go more creamy in south=facing so watch out for that. The bannisters are Brinjal and so, soon, hopefully, will the back of the door be…. Husband currently raising his eyebrows in exasperated fashion but hasn’t actually issued the veto. Yet. Better do it quick before he does…

      • Emily 25th May 2017 at 10:54 am

        Ah, I will try this one. I have been trying to find a pale grey but I have bought so many samples but all look blue/ green or lilac so I give up now, before my partner looses it! We used Pink Ground and Cromarty in two other rooms and these were soo much easier (and cheaper) to choose! Thank you

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