Barring the basement, hallways are probably the most neglected spaces of your home. But unlike the basement, your hallway sees a fair bit of traffic—whether it’s a front hall or even a long corridor connecting upstairs rooms. But how do you decorate a hallway? And what can you do if your hallway is too wide —or worse, too narrow?
We spoke with several top designers to bring you all of the details on how to decorate your hallway—whether it’s narrow, wide, or somewhere in between.
How to decorate wide hallways
Having a wide hallway can seem like both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, you’ll be able to squeeze in a few key pieces of furniture. On the other, how do you decide what to place and where?
Long pieces that naturally conform to the shape of your hallway (e.g., benches and bookcases) are always a good place to start—as long as you’re able to customize them and keep the space from feeling like a hotel lobby.
To do this, David Charette, principal for Miami-based design firm Britto Charette, suggests creating displays of curios (e.g., favorite travel souvenirs) along your hallway.
“Make a trip down your corridor interesting—a place where you and your family want to be,” he says. “Think of the foyer or hallway as an opportunity to tell a story: family, travels, career, hobbies. By personalizing these spaces, you get your family—and all those guests you entertain—out of the kitchen and exploring and engaging with different spaces within your home.”
Wide hallways also allow you to get a bit more creative with the decor on walls and ceilings, especially since the extra space guarantees guests won’t be bumping into things along their journey down the hall.
“Wide hallways provide a great opportunity to go all out and create a rhythm with a grouping of wide chandeliers in a bold accent color,” Charette says. “We also really like using groupings of pedestals of varying heights with sculpture or artwork. Think monumental scale—a long, wide hallway can be the perfect place for large-format items like black-and-white photos.”
How to decorate narrow hallways
The narrow hallway might be the trickiest space of all to decorate. Unlike a wide hallway, which can benefit from a few select pieces of furniture or artwork, the narrow hallway doesn’t seem to have space for much of anything—which is why you’ll have to rely on tricks of color and light to style it.
“A great way to make a small space look larger is to illuminate it,” says Jennifer Coates, owner of JL Coates Design. “Be specific in the lighting you select so that you can adjust and target the darker areas of the space.”
Try installing wall sconces to illuminate your dark hallway, or add a few slender floor lamps to brighten up any dark corners.
You should also make the colors of your walls and ceilings work in your favor, selecting light colors that will help the space appear even brighter.
“Ceiling treatments are another option and can be achieved for minimal cost with a soft accent color paint,” Charette explains.
A final trick to keep your hallway feeling as bright (and wide) as possible: “Paint out” door moldings and baseboards.
“Use the same light hue as what’s on the wall—this will create a lighter visual look,” says interior designer Sam Jernigan of Auburn, CA.
Then consider what you place at the end of your narrow hallway.
“One visually widening technique is to use a horizontal pattern on the hallway's end (focal) wall,” Jernigan says. “This can be accomplished with striped patterned wallpaper, or application of a wood wall—either painted or stained in an accent hue to help anchor the space.”
She also recommends placing a long piece of furniture at the end of the hallway—something horizontal like a library table or console. Much like horizontal patterns on the wall, pieces like these can also work to make your cramped hallway feel much wider.
Solutions for any type of hallway
No matter how wide your hallway is or isn’t, endless collections of shoes and bags aren't going to win you any decor awards. Make sure you incorporate some thoughtful storage in or near the hallway to keep clutter at bay.
“Curio cabinets, Japanese medicine chests, and old-school dentistry cabinets are stylish and work really well for keeping odds and ends organized,” Charette says.
You can also keep things organized by adding storage to the furniture you already have.
“Anytime you have a bench, cubbies, or bookshelves in a space, consider using decorative baskets to keep everything organized and neat in a simple and sophisticated way,” Coates suggests.
However you choose to decorate your hallways, keep it minimal, she adds. “Remember this simple rule in interior design: Less is more.”