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Reader's dilemma - the disappointing hallway

Noelle doesn't like her hallway and wants our help.

"Here are a few photo's of the room ... The problem I have with it is that it's narrow, high and white. All of it. I've been thinking of putting wallpaper (that is not my bedroom btw) on the walls and painting the door a different color. Problem is, I can't seem to make up my mind. It's a 1920's house and the outside of the door can only be painted in 3 colors. I wanted to paint the staircase and all the railings white since I can't remove all of the old paint and glue. I do want some color in there and I'm tired of the white. I've picked this wallpaper because it adds color without being to dark or bright. Thanks in advance and I can't wait to hear what everyone has to say."

So what do you think? Any great ideas? I know you want to jump in and help.

Reader Comments (14)

i reccomend the trick i used in my own narrow tall hallway:) focus all the elements, that are "on the wall" on one side - in this case would be the side of the heater, as this is the element you can't easily move - table, pictures, (e.g. a heater's cover used as a table would be good here), also on this side use the coulourful wallpaper. the other wall remains empty. this way you can avoid the "corridor effect". additionally if you put a larger mirror on the wall, it creates an illusion of width.

11 Apr 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAga

Beautiful hallway, Noelle! If it was mine, I would paint the table, the railings and the door (only the inside if you can´t change the outside) a new color and I would hang a big beautiful and colorful lamp. For the new paint I would suggest yellow and blue, but I think any colors you choose will be good. And I wouldn´t use the wallpaper: white will make your new colors more vivid than any other texture!

11 Apr 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria

Easy easy.
Paint the whole hallway in dark gray, including floor, ceiling and heater. And then hang a wall-size mirror on the right wall to double the space. And keep it empty. No table or objects or hanging lamps or frames.

11 Apr 2014 | Unregistered Commenterfrancesco

I like the idea of going delicate and girly in the confined space. I love the paper -- you could pick up a lighter pastel, turquoise or rose for the entry hall, which would open them more than white does; luckily, the outside of the door doesn't need to match the inside -- go with your favorite mid-tone from the wallpaper. Don't try for a traditional 'triad' -- you'll add a bit of dynamic tension if you mix green with turquoise, or gold with a pastel yellow. There's never any point in trying to ignore a radiator -- go ahead and paint it a different pastel tones, in the same value set as the wall paint. If you can wall-mount a shelf -- preferably a narrow shelf-drawer -- over the radiator, that would visually clear the floor; paint it the same as the radiator or, if you do have to use the other wall, paint the shelf or table to match the walls, to remove as much visual distraction as possible.

My choice would be to leave the entry hall as open as possible -- stairs are meant to be lively, and that is where I would put the wallpaper, starting just past the first arch, and running only along the right-hand wall, not both. I've seen wallpaper used to face treads as well -- although there's something to be said for keeping the distractions down with white, and letting the wood speak for itself. If you paint the entire stairway, there is always the opportunity to match it simply (yet beautifully) to your chosen colors. http://www.pinterest.com/pin/218776494369623260/

After that, it's all about birds. Themes are wonderful things. One very large piece of art over the shelf -- delicate and breezy birds. Light that up with sconces. Stick a few glass bird sculptures on the shelf. Maybe get a faux-stained glass vinyl sticker for the upper window. For a touch of whimsy, and to add some visual oomph to tie the stairway in with the entry, I'd recommend mounting several beautiful pastel kites quite high, one in the entry, several strategically in the stairwell. The tails could be strings of lights! (You can ignore that, it's way late here and I'm feeling a bit silly.) :) Light up everything, using fixtures that at least trend towards the pastel. A larger, more delicate chandelier, more lights at the bottom and top of the stairs. Every natural light source you have is a long rectangle -- go with that shape for the light fixtures, it will add a wonderful touch of the modern that will complement the traditional paper.

A entry rug in sisal would warm up the tile flooring. Nothing with strong colors, or over-definite patterns. You're probably going to get a dozen wildly different suggestions -- I hope we get to see what you end up choosing to do!

11 Apr 2014 | Unregistered CommenterOregonbird

I actually like the rough look of the stairs and the white walls. I'd paint the inside of the front door a fun colour (Panetone Azure Blue?) and the hand rail going up the same then find a beautiful antique chandelier for the top of the stairs. Change the flooring (add either a long runner or get easy fit wood flooring), remove the items above the archway and get a few more pictures on the wall and space them out a bit (different frames too). You'd probably need to change the hallway light too - perhaps you can find two of the same chandelliers then you can have one downstairs and one upstairs?

11 Apr 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCiskaP

Ooohh… I nice surprise after coming home from work after a long day listening. I love my hallway. I love how high the ceiling is and how light it is considering the only light is from the front door. The staircase I hate though. But thats more because it’s so much work fixing it up and it will never be what I want it to be. The wood is just a bad cheap quality and I really can’t afford a new one. I haven’t decided what color I want it to be. I like the wallpaper because it’s feminine without being overbearing which some wallpapers are. I’ve considered painting the lower half of the walls in a pastel color that’s also in the wallpaper (probably green) as a border and have the wallpaper above that. But I also like the idea of having the entire walls covered in wallpaper. Not so sure about the archway though. I was thinking of skipping that part and leaving it the way it is.
I like the idea of having a sisal rug on the floor and I like the idea of painting the side table and a big lamp. How about this one: http://www.happylights.be/nl/webshop/grote_lampen.html#.U0gaTsaE64Y ? Having a mirror opposite the photo’s would also be a great idea.
As for painting all of it dark gray… I always love that. I have plenty of photo’s on my Pinterest account where people have painted living rooms and bedrooms pitch black. But I think in that narrow space it would make me feel like I’m in a coffin. ;-)

Thank you so much for all the great ideas. I appreciate it. And Kim and Jo.. thank you for putting my dilemma on your blog.

11 Apr 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNoelle

I actually like this hallway as I think it creates a bit of a mysterious passage to the main part of the apartment. A kind of 'what awaits me' feeling. So, I'd play that up and not reveal too much too soon. I'd get rid of the table as it doesn't seem to have much purpose and is also creating a visual 'pinch-point' in its current location. There are also a lot of little decorative pieces that aren't doing much to create any kind of style. I think you'd be better off with one dramatic piece like the mirror others have mentioned. (A big one - if you live in N. America, try buying a 5 foot X3 foot Bathroom vanity mirror at Home Depot or Loewe's. You can make a frame for it with the moldings they sell there and then just paint it. You can also hang it by itself with the mirror hooks they use to hang them in bathrooms and paint a 'frame' on the wall) I would hang it on the wall over the heater to keep all the elements on one side. To up the drama, a strong light fixture (chandelier or something modern) would be gorgeous. The wallpaper you chose suggests you may not be into modern but it could be a strong counterpoint to the roughness of the stairs. Chose a complimentary light for the one above the stairs. Leave the stairs as they are and either strip the handrail or paint both it and the door the same color. If you are opting for a more traditional palate, leave the walls white, try a dark gray handrail and door juxtaposed with both the mirror and the lighting fixtures in gold. As for the floor, it looks like you might have enough clearance at the front door to lay an engineered wood floor over top. If so, a dark wood could be quite attractive.

Good luck with it all!

Good luck

11 Apr 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCoco

Please, please, PLEASE...don´t touch the stairs! I would keep them in this rough look and use it as a focal point, playing with very little details in every step front. Remove every piece of furniture (make it look even smaller).Use different tones of the same color to accent the different two parts of the hall ( entrance and stairs área) and I agree with CiskaP: use a fun color in the door! The same with the rug ( maybe two, REALLY different in the two áreas) This hall it´s the first impression of your home...play with it, make it interesting and fun! You have the rest of the house to stay serious...

11 Apr 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAna

I would get rid of the table and small pics, and add a really large interesting mirror and place a skinny bench underneath the mirror. I would also add a new wow factor chandelier or different lighting. That's really all it needs!!
I love Francesco's idea of painting the walls and floors the same color, but I would not go to dark!

12 Apr 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

We know the owner of this hallway likes the sort of Victorian look with her choice of wall paper. I do not think dark grey or anything modern or contemporary is going to work for her. I love the chandelier in the hall as it is now. I would only do the upper or lower half of the wall in wallpaper and choose a not too bright color (maybe a pale green) for the other half. Maybe some chair rail to divide. Maybe a Victorian runner down the hall. Definitely fix up those stairs, paint, runner or clean up and stain.

12 Apr 2014 | Unregistered CommenterInny Dhla

I agree with first poster....lose the table and then but a very shallow shelf over the radiator or build a radiator cover...so you'll have somewhere to put keys, mail, photo frame etc....I think this will help to open up the narrow space a bit. Good luck!!

12 Apr 2014 | Unregistered Commenterlaura

I have to comment on this. This hallway is absolutely fantastic. I would kill to have this space. Having said that, it does need a little work. Much like a powder room, this is a small space that you don't spend a lot of time in. For that reason you can go really dramatic and I definitely would… it's just paint. You get tired of it in a few years, just repaint and you're changed the whole mood. I think if you use that wallpaper, it might look a bit grandma. I would choose a really intense color for the stairs. Something like a magenta, hot pink. I might even do the walls in orange or saffron… and I would do it in a lacquer finish. I think I would get a more interesting hanging lamp. There are so many out there that make beautiful shadows and dancing light on the walls. I think mirrors are a great idea too, if just to check yourself out before you leave the house.. And I would spend the money and change out the ceramic tile on the floor… it's just plain ugly and it's such a small area it won't cost a lot to change out. Good luck. Don't be afraid, just do it.

13 Apr 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMargery

The problem isn't the walls. The problem is the floor, or more specifically, the fugly tiles.

Replace them with a neutral carpet, floating hardwood boards or parquetry and it will lift the whole hall.

13 Apr 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBlanders

Go, Margery!

13 Apr 2014 | Unregistered Commenteroregonbird

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