It’s easy to obsess over the design details in your kitchen, bathroom or living room. But what about your hallways? Many of us forget to decorate them – and it’s a missed opportunity.
“Nobody ever thinks about those passages, but you’re in them more often than you realize,” he said Allison Lind, an interior designer in Seattle. “Why not use every inch of that space for something personal and interesting?”
Decorating your lobby will not only make you feel like more of a destination, but also enhance the feel of your home, he said David Frazierinterior designer in New York: “Dressing helps it feel like it’s not just a service space, and it also elevates all the rooms that open off of it.”
Ms. Lind, Mr. Frazier, and other designers share ideas on how to make your hallway—and, by extension, your home—a more welcoming place.
In bedrooms and bathrooms, wallpaper is valued for its ability to make a big statement while adding a sense of coziness. He can do the same in an empty corridor.
When Ms. Lind designed a Manhattan apartment with a narrow hallway leading to the bedrooms, she installed Cavern wallpaper with a graphic pattern of black arrows. “This hallway is right in your line of sight when you walk in, and before that it was an all white, bland hallway,” she said. “So we were really looking for something that would engage you and make it a ‘wow’ moment.”
When choosing wallpaper for a hallway, a larger pattern is often best Phillip Thomasa New York designer who used scenic wallpapers by Gracie and de Gournay depicting large trees, flowers and birds.
“People are nervous that putting a big design in a small space will overwhelm the space,” he said. “But a large pattern can actually help open up a space, even though it seems counterintuitive because you create the illusion of more depth.”
Use painting creatively
If you prefer painting over wallpaper, you don’t have to default to Decorator’s White, Benjamin Moore’s ubiquitous shade. Vivid or dark colors, which can look overdone on paint, can create a dramatic mood in the hall. Even painting just the trim, doors or ceiling a rich color can make a big difference.
In one white hallway, Mr. Frazier painted the ceiling and door a high-gloss black. “We wanted to bring some depth and character,” he said. “It creates a little more intimacy.
Mr. Thomas painted the ceiling of one hallway a shiny sky blue and the other a metallic gold. The best part? Black, blue or gold costs the same as white, making it an economical design choice.
“Just thinking about the choice of finishes can really transform a space without affecting the budget,” said Mr Thomas.
Add a mural
If you’re stuck choosing between wallpaper and paint, you can split the difference with a painted mural. Options range from blocking out a simple DIY geometric design with masking tape to entering an experienced mural artist implement something more sophisticated.
Or you can do what the ancient Romans did and add a fresco. “What makes a fresco a fresco is that it is painted with earth and mineral pigments suspended in water, which are applied directly to freshly applied lime plaster,” he said. Mariel Capannaan artist who teaches the medium at Williams College and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture.
Ms. Capanna recently completed a hallway mural for a family in Palo Alto, California, depicting elements of their daily lives—furniture, clothing, vehicles, flowers and more.
Compared to paint, the fresco is “a very different texture,” she said. “You can get really rich color, but also a very matte, chalky quality.”
Create a gallery
Hanging some framed artwork or family photos is another easy way to decorate a hallway; if you group multiple pieces together as part of a gallery wall, the results can be stunning.
Mr. Frazier sometimes fills the hallways with pictures arranged in strict grids. In the Denver home, he placed a selection of family photos in identical black frames and mounted them wall to wall, floor to ceiling. For a house in Alys Beach, Florida, he used the same technique, but with antique illustrations of marine life in white frames.
From a distance, these installations almost resemble wall coverings. Up close, they invite discovery. “Every time you walk down the hall, you notice different pieces,” Mr. Frazier said. “Or when you’re coming out of one of the rooms, you have a different perspective, which makes it interesting.”
Create a point of contact
A long, narrow hallway naturally draws attention to what’s at the end, so if your hallway ends with a blank wall, you might as well take advantage of that.
One option is to hang a single piece of art, but a favorite piece of furniture or a mirror can also do the trick. In a Manhattan apartment with arrow-pattern wallpaper designed by Ms. Lind, she installed an antique armchair at the end of the hallway. The chair, which she painted red and upholstered in black and white fabric, serves as a functional sculpture.
In Denver, Mr. Frazier placed a modern leather hanging chair under the dissecting equipment. At Alys Beach, he set up a campaign chair in front of a full height mirror.
“Especially in these cases where you have a very strong fly,” he said, “you want something to focus on.”
Furnish the hall as a room
Narrow hallways usually don’t have much space for furniture, but wider ones, or corridors with niches, can often fit a few pieces. When there’s room, many designers add a console to display sculptural objects, books, flowers and lamps, often under a wall mirror or artwork.
“When you have guests, it’s a great place to welcome them with beautiful flowers and candlelight,” Mr Thomas said.
Kate Marker, an interior designer in Barrington, Illinois, uses shallow chests and long benches in hallways. “If it’s appropriate for the space, we always try to put in a piece of furniture,” she said. “It makes it feel more like a room than a passage.”
Mrs. Marker usually rolls out a long runner the length of the hallway. “We love old rugs, so we usually have a special, one-of-a-kind runner that we put in almost like a piece of art,” she said. “It adds color and texture and brings a little warmth.”
Bring in the light(s)
As in other rooms, hallway lighting offers an opportunity to set a certain mood by celebrating sculptural lighting fixtures. “Beautiful lighting always adds a little jewel to a space,” Ms. Marker said.
In long corridors, he uses eye-catching fixtures in multiples to ensure even lighting and emphasize the directional nature of the space. Sometimes he uses a lamp-like accessory, for a traditional feel; other times he uses sleek pendant lights for a modern touch.
Either way, she said, the goal is to make the hallway feel warm and inviting. A dimmer can also help by allowing light levels to be raised during the day and lowered at night.
“This is the area that takes you to the bedrooms,” said Mrs. Marker. “So you want it to be a feel-good moment.