Mad About . . .

Five Ways To Revamp Your Hall (Updated)

5th February 2019
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The thing about publishing as often as I do is that I’m never quite sure if everyone sees everything. Or it might be that a post that didn’t interest you at the time suddenly becomes relevant a couple of years later and, the search facility on this blog not being all that, you can’t find it again when you want it. So, with that in mind, and with a little too much on my plate at the moment, I thought I would revisit my 5 Ways series that first came out in 2017.

bisque radiator in hall via madaboutthehouse.com

hall at madaboutthehouse.com

We’ll start with the hall. Which makes sense as it’s the first place you come to when you open the front door. Often neglected as 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.

pink and blue hallway by Sophie Robinson

pink and blue hallway by Sophie Robinson

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.

stair runner by Kersaint Cobb in the home of Jess Hurrell of Gold is a Neutral

stair runner by Kersaint Cobb in the home of Jess Hurrell of Gold is a Neutral

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 spotty carpet from Alternative Flooring which I still love as much as the day it was installed nine years ago.

Or 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.

hadley lime stair runner by Roger Oates inthe home of Erica Davies

hadley lime stair runner by Roger Oates in the home of Erica Davies

The next easy makeover is to PAINT THE DOOR by which I mean the inside – in a happy colour.  We finally got round to painting ours last year in the same colour as the stair runner and while you can’t look at both at the same time, it does make the space look more interesting and pulled together. But you could, of course, choose a completely different colour to contrast rather than tone.

let your radiator make a statement by bisque

paint the front door a contrasting colour to the walls

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.

Another, really practical idea is to half-tile the walls. This is even more practical as you can just wash off any mud and they won’t scuff either. If you don’t have a dado rail, as I don’t, then you can use those edging tiles along the top.

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.

hall painted in worsted and peignoir by farrow and ball via karen knox of making-spaces.net

hall painted in worsted and peignoir by farrow and ball via karen knox of making-spaces.net

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. think about hooks arranged in a pattern all over the wall so they will look good when empty – which I know will never happen. A high shelf with hooks under will allow you to store a box of gloves and scarves when they’re not in season.

oak console table from rowen and wren

oak console table from rowen and wren

If you have small children then consider hanging pretty baskets on 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 arranged in a pattern, they won’t look silly when the kids have grown too tall.

farrow and ball worsted via making-spaces.net

farrow and ball worsted via making-spaces.net

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 window pane mirror from graham and green

large window pane 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. And do bear in mind that an angled mirror appears to shave a few pounds off 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.

There’s a lot of neon around these days but it can be a good way to add a little more personality and light to a dark space. Even better hang it opposite the mirror to double your lighting.

I hope that has given you all some ideas for your own halls, landings and corridors.

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  • Heather 7th February 2019 at 11:40 pm

    Hi Kate I love your podcast, and have just started reading your blog it’s so helpful. I have a question about my hallway. I have a little very muddy porch full of coats and boots with an inside door and then a downstairs hall that is open plan with my kitchen. I have farrow and ball railings on the banister and a complimentary geometric wall paper on the wall leading up the stairs. But what colour should I paint the walls and the inside of the front door? Railings is almost black so I feel in a big open plan hall it might be too much.

    • Kate Watson-Smyth 10th February 2019 at 12:37 pm

      It’s hard to say without seeing it but you could do the inside of the front door in a totally contrasting colour – burnt orange or bright yellow or emerald green. for the walls you could half-paint them in Railings to tie the whole thing together? As I say, without being able to see either the space, the floor or the wallpaper it’s a shot in the dark! But I would almost certainly go with a contrast on the door. Otherwise you could leave the walls pale but do all the woodwork – skirtings and door frame in Railings to bring it together?

  • Grace 5th February 2019 at 10:42 am

    I love your book Kate and just discovered this blog which I’ll be reading a lot! We’re moving house on Friday and I can’t wait to get stuck into decorating each room. The hall is first, I love the geometric vinyl/tiles in the first picture could you tell me where they’re from? I’ve found a couple online but pretty pricey. Do you think a Victorian pattern would work with a 30’s house? It has some green stained glass details in the landing window so was going to find some flooring with a hint of green to tie in.

    • Kate Watson-Smyth 5th February 2019 at 4:15 pm

      The first picture is my hall and it’s wallpaper with books on at the top of the stairs – if you mean that it’s from MineHeart Design. If you mean the blue and white tiles in Sophie’s hall floor in the second picture they are from Claybrook Studio.
      Yes I think those tiles would be great although see Erica’s hall with the green carpet and black and white and grey tiles – that also works really well.

  • Betty 5th February 2019 at 9:29 am

    Well timed article. I’m just thinking about decorating the hall which is currently grey carpet, beige walls, no windows – so any and all advice is much appreciated.

  • 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 ratedpeople.com

  • 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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