The hallway is frequently one of the most overlooked spaces in our homes. More often than not, overlooked because you just cant bloody see it due to an avalanche of anoraks and a piled up tower of shoes. To be honest, I’m being generous here, if your hallway is anywhere near as narrow as ours was, it’ll just be packed full of the despair you feel when you wake your sleeping baby for the 345464 time clattering past that colossal 1980’s radiator, to throw your coat and bag with the others on the dining room table, to then reverse the pushchair back into the hallway where it lives because you have nowhere else for it to go. Such a special time.
This tale of woe is not an uncommon one, not enough thought is put into designing our hallways or entrances as an integral part of the home, and, as they usually link all of the different zones together, they can be a tricky space to get right.
“We wanted to create an inviting hallway that would be a pleasure to come home to.”
The aim should be to create a warm and inviting welcome, a space that will give you a big hug when you walk through the door and take you by the hand as it gently leads you into your home, ideally taking your coat and shoes on the way.
The problem is, most of us in the UK aren’t blessed with a grand hallway. I can’t even bring myself to call ours a hallway, it’s essentially a corridor, so I’ve now re branded it the “Smallway”. I’m not knocking it though, we’ve made a few small changes to our Smallway that have improved it for the better – it’s now a corridor with benefits, one that gets a lot of compliments from strangers that come to our front door I’ll have you know. So, if you too want to impress your Amazon delivery man, here’s what you can do.
“Just because the hallway you have is narrow or small doesn’t mean it can’t create a big impact.”
It seems obvious doesn’t it? The hallway is the first thing that we see when we open our front door. It’s also the moment that defines the inside space from the outdoors – we need it to be a smooth transition, linking the two, whilst also giving us a taster of what’s to come.
An effective way to achieve this transition is using floor tiles. You can see this technique used in a lot of Victorian properties, where they would traditionally use encaustic tiles to lead you in through the gate, up the garden path and all the way into the entrance of the home. This is a method that is just as popular today – it’s a stylish but also practical solution for high traffic areas, where trampling in muddy footprints is just another thing to take into consideration.
The dream right? But what if, like us, you’re not lucky enough to have inherited any original Victorian features in your home? We’d already decided at the very beginning, while planning our renovation that we wanted to have the same wooden flooring throughout the ground floor of our house, to make the rooms flow and feel more spacious, so this wasn’t really an option for us anyway.
As with a lot of houses with narrow hallways, the first thing that you see as you walk through the door is the staircase – I wanted to try and recreate a focal point there instead but as we ripped up the musty green carpet that came with the house we did not reveal the wooden staircase of my Scandi dreams, but rather an old beaten MDF one that Handy Andy probably knocked up with the house doctor in 60 minutes flat – I’m mixing up my 90’s home makeover metaphors now but you get the picture.
I had an idea, I’d seen a lot of tiled staircases in the Amalfi Coast whilst on our honeymoon and I loved the idea of doing something similar and tiling the risers or our stairs so as to add some much needed pattern to the entrance and hide all of the damage caused by a few decades worth of MDF abuse. I found some tiles that I not only loved, but that were also the perfect depth for the risers – it was clearly meant to be! They’re super practical and wipeable for pets and small children too. As the wise poets Blue once said, “all rise”. Amen to that my friends.
If you’re renting or you just prefer a less permanent option to actual tiles, there are some pretty convincing removable decals on the market that will enable you to get the same look without the grout. These ones are from Etsy and they’re pretty convincing hey? You can also find tile stickers to update any unsightly inherited tiles that you don’t have the budget to remove… AND, for the more patient among us there’s the trusty stencil. They’ve come a long way since the days of Linda Barker and her trusty sea sponge, and with a steady hand and a bit of creativity you can create something fabulous.
Cheque yourself, before you wreck yourself.
Another brilliant idea for creating impact if you prefer the feel of warm wood beneath your toes as oppose to tiles, is to paint a striking chequer print onto your floorboards like the wonderful Emily Wheeler has in her hallway. I LOVE this idea because it would look amazing whether you live in a period property or a new build. In fact I love this idea so much that I can’t stop thinking about if we should do the same thing in the Smallway, thus keeping the continued oak flooring that runs throughout the ground floor but adding a bit of extra punch.
The great news is, if you are planning on giving something like this a go, you can head to her Instagram Story highlights for a useful step by step guide to find out how.
Find her in Instagram ‘@emilywheeler.interiors‘ and search for the story ‘DIY Floors‘ to find out more.
Put it away
There’s no point in creating all of those beautiful focal points if you can’t appreciate them though, right? So what can we do when we’ve been lumbered with a girthless hallway that doesn’t quite have the inches to satisfy our needs. Well, you find storage elsewhere, that’s what. It’s important, REALLY IMPORTANT for a happy household to factor in that vital storage into your design, right from the very beginning. It’s not enough to just think, I need some storage. What is it precisely that you need to put away? Think about it. Write it down. Measure it if you need to as otherwise your builder could knock you up a cupboard that ends up falling short.
There are the obvious items of course; coats, bags, shoes, buggies (a short term issue for those with small children but it will soon get replaced by scooters and bikes etc when the time comes)…and my favourite one…the tent. Yes we have a cupboard for our tent and camping equipment and I’m not even sorry. A place for everything and everything in it’s place as they say. Now, that’s not to say that you won’t open up a cupboard and get taken down by a tumbling table tennis set that has been used less times than the spiraliser I just couldn’t live without, but the house on the surface is tidy and that pleases me no end and makes me much easier to live with.
We used the space under our stairs to create the much needed built in storage that we were lacking in the Smallway, and built a cute little reading nook above it.
If you are desperate for even more storage though, you could of course fill the entire space with full length cupboards like this one by Stryntrappa that is quite frankly exciting me way more than storage should.
Just because it’s narrow, it doesn’t mean you can’t hang the odd bag and scarf out on show. You may not have the width to play with but you do have the wall hight, so you should use it. You want your hallway to feel cosy and lived in. I’m definitely not saying that you should overload some pegs with the entire families coats and bags (take note Mr Woodenhill) but, there should always be somewhere to put your keys or sunglasses – making them easy to pick up on your way out.
There are some incredible options out there for smaller spaces, such as this cleaver Hallway Tidy from Urbansize who make compact furniture for urban living. They’ve thought of everything; a neat little drawer to store your wallet and keys, handy hooks for your bag, a full length mirror so that you can check your lippy on your way out AND a shelf for a welcoming scented candle and a vase of flowers. Genius.
Another recent discovery for me is Verti Copenhagen who have designed these innovative muti-purpose storage jars, all made out of compostable plant based materials. ‘VertiPlants‘ is a simple and smart wall jar with a streamlined design that can be used for different purposes such as a wall light, a handy storage shelf or a plant pot for that much needed injection of greenary. They are perfectly streamlined for smaller spaces and versatile too – music to my ears.
If you’re going to opt for a traditional peg shelf or coat hooks, the main rule of thumb is to go high up on to the wall so that there is plenty of head clearance, and make sure they’re not too obstructive when you walk through the door as you could be left wrestling with a rebellious rain mac every time you come home from work.
We used to have a peg shelf in the Smallway but I overloaded it with one too many plants and it ended up loosing the will to live, giving us a rude awakening when it came crashing down at 2am in the morning.
To be honest we’re lucky that no one was hurt. It kind of freaked me out a little bit so we decided not to put it back up in the end and opted for these Scandi inspired coat hooks instead from Laredoute. They work really well and I actually rather like the cleaner more minimal look that they create. I still have somewhere to hang a piece of art and the hat that I will never have the balls to wear by the door, what else do you need?
Now, I’d like you to cast your minds back to the sorry tale at the beginning of this blog post? A story about an ugly step radiator that would sabotage my baby’s sleep on a daily basis with it’s rusty ribs of despair. Well, as you can see from the image above, it is no longer. Gone, but NEVER forgotten. We couldn’t wait to see the back of it, quite literally, so we decided to replace it with underfloor heating and set the wall and my sanity free – a great solution but a pricy one, and not always possible unless you’re embarking on a full renovation like we did.
One cleaver lady who decided not to remove their rad but incorporate it into some creative design instead, is the super talented Becca aka Malmo and Moss on Instagram. She has chosen a radiator that is small but perfectly formed, and has built a modern rustic bench seat out of reclaimed scaffolding boards on top, that will not only keep her bum toasty but will create countless Scandi styling opportunities too. It’s an absolute show stopper but I’d be worried I’d get too comfy and never want to leave the house again.
You can find out more about this stunning hallway makeover in Becca’s blog here.
If replacing or removing the radiator is not an option for you, Urbansize are back again with another cleaver design to save the day and help you disguise it beneath a useful and stylish Plywood console table.
You had me at plywood.
A little taster
Finally, adding a little taster of whats to come in the rest of your home is always a good idea. Just because your hallway or entrance is small, you do not want it to feel separate or disjointed as the rooms won’t flow. If your home is eclectic then don’t be afraid to embrace that in your hallway too – you could do this with your choice of art or a bold wallpaper if you don’t have the space to fill it with stuff. You could be much more subtle by being cohesive in your use of colour or your choice in materials. We did this by creating our banister posts out of the same red cedar that is fast becoming the red thread that runs throughout the design of our entire home. You can read more about how we created this in a previous blog post detailing our full home renovation here.
I hope you’ve found some useful hints and tips to help you create a functional and stylish hallway – regardless of it’s girth you can make it work for you.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to give my trainers a scrub. What a slob.