Mini Hall Makeover

This makeover of the hall is one of the rooms that gives me most pleasure now it is done. Read on (again) to see why it’s so important to take care of the first space you see when you come in. Get this right and the rest will flow naturally on from there. 

Regular readers will know that if there is one room in my house I regularly complain about it’s the hall. It’s so narrow there’s no room for any furniture and, since there is a suspended floor, there is no underfloor heating either. For the last eight years it has been a white door, white walls and an ugly white radiator.

bisque tetro radiator volcanic image by madaboutthehouse
bisque tetro radiator volcanic image by madaboutthehouse

Now it wasn’t all bad – there was the fabulous spotty stair runner greeting you as you came in but it wasn’t exactly a hall that revealed much about people who live here. And, as I have said before (many times) the hall is arguably the most important room in the house. It’s the first thing you see when you come in and the first thing your guests see. So it needs to count.

It needs, as I say in my book, which has a whole chapter devoted to the hall, when you come in your hall needs to welcome you. “Come in, put your coat here, your bag there and head on through to the kitchen where there’s a large gin/cup of tea waiting for you.” That is what it should be saying to you when you open the door.

let your radiator make a statement by bisque
let your radiator make a statement by bisque

Does your hall say that to you? Or does it snarl: “You again, mind the bike, oops too late, might as well chuck your coat over the handlebars, watch out for the shoes… oh. Look, just move along will you there’s no space for you here.”

If that’s the welcome you get from your hall then it’s time to do something about it. Last year I wrote a mini series on five easy ways to revamp each room in your house including the hall. But my own hall was sadly lacking in some of these tips. Yes it was tidy, no, there was no clutter but it was a little devoid of personality.

hall with bisque radiator
hall with bisque radiator

But gradually we have been working out what to do with a space that doesn’t have room for anything other than a radiator and a mirror on the wall. And that was the lightbulb moment.

The first thing was to paint the back of the front door to add some more colour. This was done in Farrow & Ball Brinjal which matches the bannister and the stair carpet so while you can’t see both at the same time there is, at least, some bold colour at both ends.

dark grey radiator by bisque

Then when Bisque approached me about working together I suddenly realised that it was all about the radiator.  Match it to your wall or contrast it with the wall I wrote a couple of weeks ago. And finally I had worked out what to do in my own hall. It’s one of those – if you can’t beat ’em join ’em scenarios. Hiding the radiator wasn’t working and nor was it adding any personality to this narrow space. Painting the hall dark wasn’t an option. Yes it can be a brilliant idea for all sorts of reasons, but I have a dark sitting room leading off it so I didn’t want to add more darkness. The only solution was to make the radiator the feature of the space. And suddenly it all came together.

bisque radiator in hall via
bisque radiator in hall via

So now there is a dark grey radiator which looks great, adds some personality and, a bonus this –  while smaller than the old one pumps out twice as much heat. The old one was a single radiator, this one, despite being only a couple of centimetres thicker a double so it’s much hotter. So much so that the Mad Husband returning from work the other day remarked that it was the first time he had felt the heat on opening the door.

It’s made from aluminium (although it looks like cast iron) but this means it’s lighter and slimmer and heats up and cools down faster than cast iron – in around 15 minutes, which given the weather we’ve been having is a bonus.

view from kitchen
view from kitchen

And while I’m on the subject of heating; if you live in a house (rather than a flat) the hall radiator is arguably the most important one in the house as the heat will funnel up the stairs. Our heating engineer told us that in order to make the house properly warm you need a big hall radiator and to keep the doors closed all the way up the stairs. That way the rooms will be heated by their own radiators and the hall one will push the heat up the stairs and keep the landings warm. We never quite manage to keep all the doors shut as well –  cats and teenagers – but on the rare occasions we have done it does make a difference.

bisque radiator tetro anthracite
bisque radiator tetro anthracite

Finally, after an afternoon hanging pictures and unpacking the new umbrella stand – which had to be replaced after the 17-year-old tripped over the first one and smashed it, the hall feels like it has the personality it deserves. And I have practiced what I preached.

view from stairs
view from stairs

If you want to read my earlier post on Bisque colour matching radiators – for some seriously inspirational photography too it’s here.



This radiator was given to me as part of my collaboration with Bisque radiators. I paid for the installation and you know, by now, that I am picky about who I work with and choose only brands I believe in.  

Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.


  1. white paint and radiator stand combination looks fabulous.Aluminium work is such a different good choice and umbrella stands along with radiator are lovely. Thanks!

  2. I love the dotty stair treatment!!! I just wonder if you could share with us how it is installed that we can’t see any metal bars etc
    Visited London recently and came back to Poland happy with your book!

    1. Hmm good point – it’s stapled on so you can see any fixings and it has underlay. It’s been perfectly in place for eight years so it must work! So glad you like the book x

  3. looks great, what paint do you use for the floorboards? is it normal gloss for the walls? tks

  4. Your hall is beautiful – aspirational, to me. But, where do you put your keys/handbags/coats??? It has taken me years to get family members to put their keys on a shelf in the hallway, eliminating the mad screaming panic of lost keys…and having a hallway like yours would make my life sooooooo much harder.

    1. Aha! Well we have the charmingly named Drawer of Shite in the kitchen just by the door so everything goes in there. The coats are at the back of the hall so you have to go nearly to the kitchen to dump coats and shoes anyway and then there is The Drawer. Although my teenage sons usually just stomp straight upstairs with coats, bags and everything else and put in on the floor of their bedrooms. So their room are a disaster but my hall is clear!

    1. They are magazine covers from a series called Le Cento Citta D’Italie Illustrate. We found some in a market there a few years ago and had them framed and have since found more on ebay.

  5. Bookending the space by Brinjal-ing the door was the perfect idea and the brolly stand is VERY Fornasetti.

  6. Fantastic renovation, as always! A faded vintage Persian runner would look great in that long entrance hallway as well.

  7. You have inspired me to do something with my boring flat radiators. Can you give me an idea on how much a plumber would charge to change a radiator…?

    1. Well a day or a half day depending on how complicated the pipe work – if it’s a straight swap – which mine was – or if they need to change much. The day rate will depend on where you live and what the local rates are.

  8. I love it. Particularly the mirror incorporated into a gallery wall. Was that planned out in advance or just collected as you went along? I want a mirror as well as pictures and can’t get it to work. Where is the pendant from?

    1. The mirror has been there for years – we went round it with the pictures. The pendants are from a shop in Porto – I saw them in a shop and bought three of them back in a suitcase!

      1. Typical! I had decided that was probably the pendant I’ve been waiting for 😄 I think the problem I have with incorporating a mirror and pictures is that I don’t have as much space around it as you, either at the top and bottom or at the sides. To put the mirror at the correct height for looking into, the pictures must be squashed onto each side and the whole thing looks awkward, as though the pictures are rigidly framing the mirror. And the pictures themselves can’t be so large, but I don’t want a tiny mirror, so it’s all a bit off. I might have to forget it.

  9. We have exactly the same narrow hall and I want to replace the ugly radiator so this is helpful, thank you! We have a Bisque radiator in our kitchen. It’s amazing the difference it makes visually. I’d like to replace all our radiators but there is so much I’d like to do an limited funds sadly!

  10. It looks fab! The radiator really stands out against the white walls and you’re right, cast iron throw out so much more heat! We’ve starting replacing our old white rads with dark grey cast iron ones and not only do they look beautiful(who’d have thought you’d say that about a radiator!) but they’ve made our bedrooms so much warmer. I love your white floorboards- I assume people take off their shoes when they enter the house…or that someone enjoys cleaning! A very useful piece, I agree halls are often the last room on the decorating list, but the first ‘room’ visitors see and so no less important. I’m in the process of deciding what to do with our(all white and very small) Hall/stairs/landing and it’s been v helpful to have some inspiration, as I’m finding it more difficult than the rooms!

  11. Could you add some colour/pattern to the hall by painting out the floor? It would ground the space without darkening the area too much. A strong colour or a faux rug or, maybe, black and white diamond pattern?

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