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What to do with my hall and stairs

I'm happy with my colour choices for the living room and dining room (not telling yet) but they are dark and they have thrown my entry hall, stairs and landing plans into disarray. I want to paint the walls white with black trim and black doors. I have always loved black gloss doors in an old house. Having said that I mean the upstairs doors that are already painted. If they were still in their original shellac finished cedar like the downstairs doors I'd live them natural. Don't get me wrong. I don't mind painting wood but the downstairs doors and some trim have survived 150 in the original state and I get a kick out of that.




My problem is that you will be looking from a dark room through a bright white hall into a dark room. Solution ... paint the hall dark. Yay! Problem ... there is no real "end" to the wall. No obvious place to stop. The wall continues up the stairs and then up a double height to the floor above because I have a floating landing. Hope you understand the pictures. I've included my original video of the house as we moved in to give you another perspective.


If I painted the hall dark where do I stop? I had thought that I would colour block up that downstairs wall and across the ceiling while the white started at the front door wall and continued up the wall along the long flight of stairs up to the top landing and along the "Mary" wall until it met the block of colour coming up from below. Then I thought that would be just strange and contrived. I could be dark all the way up. A grey or brown or blue but that would spoil the drama of individual rooms if everything was dark dark dark. Or maybe not. My bedroom will be dark. LOL. Dark is my darling at the moment. Was thinking black but now I'm leaning towards the indigo in the previous post. Across the hall is my office/studio and this is the room I want white with a scandi boho feel.  Open the black door and bam! bright and white and colourful with art. This is the room that gets the morning sun and leads out to the front veranda. A beautiful place to create and blog. I'm so lucky I know. Don't you hate me!


So back to the hall and stairs. My solution at the moment is to wallpaper the bottom hall. Book wallpaper is tickling my fancy. Here are some examples.

Deborah Bowness

Seen here in Lyn Gardener's Daylesford house.



Library by Andrew Martin

Young & Battaglia's Vintage Bookshelf and White Bookshelf that I have found online here.

OK now it's your turn. Go for it. Pull no punches. Give me your two cents worth. Paint or paper? Dark or light? Where do I stop? How do I stop?

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Reader Comments (32)

I say go with a bold wallpaper to break up the dark solid colors of the rooms. Maybe even something that has the colors of both rooms in it? And definitely black trim paint.

11 Jun 2011 | Unregistered Commenterkath

I love the idea of a bookcase wall paper, my suggestion would be to use bold oranges and reds to also link to the color on the staircase. What also could look kind of cool is fake plaster, imagine that you're uncovering Michelangelo walls smothered under white plaster for centuries, that would allow you for a free form around the doors, flowing to completely white on the staircase. Totally agree with you on leaving original frames with shellac, they are beautiful .

11 Jun 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPatrycja

I freaking ADORE that Young & Battaglia wallpaper. And I love white and bright hallways. And I love black trim and doors.
That all being said, I think you should use that wallpaper in that nook (not sure where it should end) and then do white everywhere else. If you're going to have all these really dark rooms (mostly) and then dark hallways and it's a really old house it may end up looking like something out of a horror flick.
(Hi Mickey you cutie patootie! )

11 Jun 2011 | Registered CommenterKiM

OK, maybe this is going to sound a little boring...BUT...what if you chose a neutral color (Benjamin Moore Manchester Tan looks good anywhere) in the hallway. THEN, just got some of the wallpaper and framed with with trim almost as large pictures. Would that work? OR, keep the neutral paint as I suggested, and use framed pictures with dark colors to tie in the two rooms you plan to make dark. Maybe?

11 Jun 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHeather

I would totally go with a paper, but one with a graphic print (light and dark to create a connect) that you can trim out in an interesting way where you would like it to stop. I'm completely in love with all the trove papers right now...http://www.troveline.com

11 Jun 2011 | Unregistered Commenteranne-marie

how about a 6" painted border on the walls above base boards and around doors say sand colour. Then burlap or grass wallpaper in a neutral matching tone throughout?

11 Jun 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGlen

Good ideas everyone! Thanks :)

Anne-Marie those trove papers are gorgeous and large! Love the nyx, the ciel and the auva. Burlap or grass wallpaper is a great textural idea too Glen.

12 Jun 2011 | Registered Commentermidcenturyjo

I'm throwing some dissent into the mix: there's nothing wrong with a white hall from which the darker rooms can be seen. If anything, it adds to the drama.
I LOVE the idea of the dark rooms, but you may find having a dark hall will give you just too much of a good thing.
How I'd love to see a 150-year-old anything in this mining town of ours!

12 Jun 2011 | Unregistered Commenterlesley

I have a similar but spiral case and I wallpapered it all the way up with a classic print. I did do the entry with wide planks and a top moulding ending about a foot and a half under the entry ceiling if that makes sense. Wallpaper above it and all the way up...

12 Jun 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLs

Is there a way you can open up the stirs going up? Can you afford to break out the structure (without losing the architectural integrity) to bring in more light? To me it just feels better to walk into a space and have a sense of openess, with hints the coziness is around the corner.

12 Jun 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnnie

I think that a wood paneling that covers half of the wall would be perfect for your small rooms. You can make it following the previous owner walpaper, and in the same color than the doors (and I would sugest also to paint in the same color the wood from stairs and window), from bottom hall till the end of stairs into the first floor hall.

I would use the library wallpaper in a more spacious room and on the rest of the wall, I would go for vertical big stripes (painted or a striped wallpaper). I think two shades of grey (one matte and one glossy) can be just perfect, and gives a sense of continuity. Or maybe black and white.

And you can use a nice black/dark runner and carpet for a more dramatic effect on your rooms, with some dark iron rods on the stairs.

And please do not forget to add some mirrows on the entrance and a wooden coat hanger!

12 Jun 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbeatrice

Wow, that is gonna be an amazing house. I agree with lesley's comment above, I don't see anything wrong with a light hallway leading into dark rooms. I think if you make the hallway too dark it'll take away from the drama of the contrast. I would'n necessarily go with white all around but maybe a grey or olive-green kind of colour (with black trim).

I love the idea of the bookcase wallpaper though I personnaly would get annoyed by the repetition of the pattern... The white bookcase-paper is cool, maybe you can find that in a different colour?

Can't wait to find out what you decide. Good luck!

12 Jun 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHanneke

Wow it's so interesting to see how other people would do this space! Thanks everyone for your ideas.

12 Jun 2011 | Registered Commentermidcenturyjo

I think that the wallpaper is very nice but not the right choice for the space you have here. I would definetely go for one neutral colour all way up (not dark though). Grey and olive-green from the comment above is a great suggestion I think. If you decide for white all way up maybe you can put the dark colour (or some interesting darker wallpaper) on the hallway ceiling...it would make the ceiling lights pop out and complement the dark rooms...just an idea i got from looking at these pictures...good luck:)

12 Jun 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTina

Jo, I loved how you captioned the photo with previous owner's stuff!! Like you would write Desire to Inspire in such an uninspiring space! Too funny.

Having had the privilege to see your place up close and personal, I could see the book wallpaper working very well in your home. It has a Goth vibe which I really like. But you could paint the entry and hallway white. I don't think it will matter greatly about seeing the white from your darker living room or dining room. It will give you more light which I think is important in a hallway. It will allow a continuity for the two separate levels. Your white upstairs room will still have a wow factor because of all the natural light which streams through.

Anyway, that's my two cents thrown in. You will get a feel for it when it is all undercoated. Maybe get the painters to do that last on the list. You will know definitely what to do by then. xx

12 Jun 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrismod

hi- here's thoughts from experience. I live in an apartment with exactly that wood trim. I think of it as a dark place already, compared to the apartment below where the trim is all painted white. So in a way, a pale hallway with dark trim is a great transition from light OR dark rooms. I get a kick out of the place as it is. I might even paint two tones in the hallway- one paler for the bulk of the wall, one less pale for the graphic stripe where the wallpaper was and also where the carpet was on the stair. Then I'd take advantage of the use of the space to darken it up, but I don't know what it's function is so I can't suggest anything- can you put more dark wood shelves in there and store things? I guess I'm a more form follows function girl. I would never have imagined using those wall papers, but see using them as a genuine creative approach, and I think they are lovely.
Heather suggested BM "manchester tan" .. my old home had that throughout with "sailcloth" trim. It reads green more than tan, and it was a complex color so when the light hit it, it changed color and that was the best part of it. So I think that's an interesting option. I feel it was more of a "Martha Stewart" move, and today I'm more into Gustavian rooms and the subtle changes of pale neutral tones one might find in Farrow Ball paints. More Grijs, if you know what I mean. So I'd say: what would Grijs do? Along with keeping that lovely trim, and painting the rest shiny black which I think sounds awesome.
thanks for asking us to play along.

12 Jun 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSara

I also think some contrast would be a good thing. Leave it light to add emphasis to the dark rooms. :)

12 Jun 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKarla

This place would not do it for me exactly, although intellectually they have some of the themes going that I mentioned above. They have that rich dark stained floor tying things together, so that seems to be their "program" piece, and the rest they changed from area to area.

12 Jun 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSara

Just after I read your post I went to http://eclecticrevisited.wordpress.com/ and Maureen posted some wallpapers from Thibaut. Most of them have a dark and light contrast - and some pretty awesome papers. Worth checking out. Love your old natural wood. And your dog!

12 Jun 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCathy

Well, I guess I'm the lone dissenting voice on the "book" wallpaper but in MHO I think it's gimmicky and will date very quickly. There are some beautiful wallpapers on the market but I think with so many architectural and structural "interruptions" i.e. doors, stairs, windows, railings etc. any kind of wallpaper will just fragment the space even more. A light hallway and stairwell would be a stunning contrast with your rich, cozy dark rooms but I think white would be too stark. Lavender, celeriac or pale, pale grey would be great.

I'd also caution against painting your woodwork black unless it's in pristine condition and even them I don't think it's the right look for your house. Hollywood Regency? Early Deco? Yes, perhaps. But Arts and Crafts? No, the black trim just doesn't work for me.

One more thought: if you decide to go dark in the hallway, consider having the floor tiles re-glazed or painted glossy white in the hallway.

12 Jun 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLin

My idea: go with Young & Battaglia's white-on-white book wallpaper and stop it at the nearest edge of the doorway. Chose a white mid-tone from the wallpaper and paint the remainder of the wall that color. Cut out blocks of, and random, books from the wallpaper and paste them in positions above and to the right of the doorway on the painted background, so they appear to be tumbling over the door into space on the right. That would "taper the paper" into the black space as it becomes empty at the wall's end.

12 Jun 2011 | Unregistered Commenterholland

I'm going to be the Debbie Downer here I guess. My suggestion is to keep everything as neutral as possible. The more stuff you put in, there is less opportunity to appreciate the bones of your place. Also, a stairway is interesting by itself, so you don't need to add anything. So, in a nutshell: paint everything one neutral color and be done. If you NEED to have something else, then do a detail or one wall (preferably the one that serves as a landing) and just have one focal point and the stairs.

This is the least expensive option and the one you will be able to live with in five, ten and fifteen years down the line.

12 Jun 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTerry

I am with Terry (above) so NOT a Debbie Downer! All I would add is a suggestion to have the neutral colour a mid tone, rather than a light tone. Because you are going dark, light to dark again, a slightly more mid tone shade would still appear really light.
I agree that the stair is a feature by itself and as a hallway/ passage is a smaller more vertical space, a neutral colour would work really well.
Good luck with sorting through all these differing suggestions! I am sure whatever you choose will look lovely.

12 Jun 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSamantha

Ha! So many ideas my head is spinning. Thanks everyone. I am more at peace with my original "white" idea but perhaps tweaked a little with some of the suggestions above. Tell you what, though, wallpaper is not cheap :P Why does Andrew Martin paper have to be over $300 a roll? LOL and that's without a wallpaper hanger and I'd need more than one. The Young &Battaglia paper is well over $100 a 3 meter (yes 3) roll and that doesn't include shipping. And don't get me started on the price of Deborah Bowness panels. I need lights and rugs, a new bathroom and kitchen before I need a couple of grand dropped on a hallway and surrounds. I think I panicked and dumped my original ideas. Those of you who have cautioned waiting until things start getting painted may be on to something. And greige? Hmmm.

13 Jun 2011 | Registered Commentermidcenturyjo

In my opinion, the white bookcase wallpaper at the top of the stairs ( it will make your heart sing every time you go up the stairs), white on the walls with soft grey woodwork on the door jambs and up the middle of your stairs ( leading to that fabulous wallpaper). It will be yummy!!

13 Jun 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

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