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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.