The essential guide to entrance halls
From the lighting to the flooring to the where to put your shoes, here’s our comprehensive guide for achieving a smooth-working, stylish-looking hallway
As everyone knows, first impressions count, and one place where making an entrance is essential is your front hall. ‘Your hallway is like your handshake – it sets people up for the rest of their visit,’ says feng shui expert Gary Hawkes, who counts Donna Karan and Madonna as past clients. ‘So if it’s light, warm and welcoming, then visitors will instantly feel relaxed and at home.’ And yet, despite the fact it sees more traffic than anywhere else in the house, the hallway is often left as an afterthought – a dumping ground for brollies, wellies and ancient anoraks.
During the festive period in particular, there’s more than the average footfall over the threshold, so before you begin to think about decking your hall, it’s essential to ensure it really is holly worthy. While some homes may be blessed with grand dimensions and an abundance of architectural features, others may need a more studied approach to maximising space, optimising storage and letting the light in. We’ve consulted the experts for all their tips and tricks, so you can stun the carol singers, amaze the in-laws and impress first footers with a bright, well-thought-out space that really wows as it welcomes.
‘Keep your hallway as clutter-free as possible,’ advises Gary Hawkes. ‘Avoid sharp edges, intrusive plants or anything that interferes with its flow.’ Carefully planned storage is a must, particularly in period homes, where space is often at a premium.
HOW TO MAXIMISE YOUR SPACE
o If you have an understairs cupboard, be ruthless. Chuck out those broken bits and bobs that you’ll never get round to mending, and don’t let it become a dumping ground for homeless items.
o If yours is a footwear-free house, make sure there’s plenty of storage next to the front door. A sturdy trunk is a great place to stash shoes and boots, and can provide a place to perch for easy boot removal. A bench with built-in storage is also a clever idea.
o Create a wealth of storage without sacrificing too much floor space with a bank of floor-to-ceiling cupboards. A bespoke design means you can plan for everything from sports stuff to pet paraphernalia.
o A piece of furniture, such as a bureau or console, will make a hall feel ‘inhabited’, and a room in its own right. It also means that there is a proper home for keys, phone chargers etc so they don’t go astray.
Hallway decoration and display
‘I strongly believe you only have one chance to make a good impression, so it pays to be bold,’ says interior designer Tara Bernerd. ‘It’s essential, even in a hallway, to create some sort of focal point.’
HOW TO MAKE AN IMPACT
o Even if space is an issue, you can add the wow factor with a bold piece of art. Alternatively, create your own gallery with several smaller pieces or photos.
o ‘A dark hall won’t be made brighter simply by painting it a light colour,’ says interior designer and BIDA member Mary Leslie. ‘Much better to have dark red, teal, pewter or bronze.’ Choosing a darker shade will give the illusion that the rooms beyond are brighter and airier.
o Painting woodwork the same colour as the rest of the walls will visually blur edges and give the impression of more space. And you can make a narrow space appear squarer by painting one of the shorter walls in a darker shade.
o Think about how the hall connects to the next area. If space allows, double or sliding doors can create a dramatic flow through to the rest of the house.
o Why not go wild with an opulent wallpaper? If you have a picture rail or dado, paper underneath only, as this will stop the design feeling oppressive.
o Add a mirror. Not only will it enable you to check your hair before you leave the house, it can help a small space seem bigger and bounce light around.
Hall floors must stand up to a vast amount of wear and tear, but durable doesn’t have to mean dull. ‘The hall is often a smaller area to cover,’ observes Tara Bernerd, ‘so you can consider bolder or more dynamic flooring.’
HOW TO CHOOSE A SURFACE
o Introduce colour with a stylish runner. For stairs, buy an extra metre, which can be tucked under and the runner moved up periodically to even out wear.
o If sealed correctly, wood flooring, whether solid or engineered, is a hardwearing option. Go traditional with warm oaks, or choose paler or extra-wide boards for a more modern feel. Reclaimed boards or parquet add real character. Visit salvo.co.uk for a dealer.
o Moroccan tiles will add a splash of colour and pattern. Try Dar Interiors for a good selection.
o From slate to limestone to travertine, stone is an elegant choice. When laying new tiles, consult a structural engineer to check the floor is strong enough to take the weight, as it may need extra joists.
o A decent-sized doormat is a must. ‘If possible, sink your mat into a shallow well,’ suggests Mark Dyson. ‘This prevents it slipping and catches any extra dirt.
‘The perfect lighting will create the illusion of a bright and voluminous area, even if it lacks natural daylight,’ says Rebecca Weir, design director at Light IQ. It’s a delicate balance, however, as too much illumination can make the space feel stark, whereas too little may make for a rather gloomy greeting.
HOW TO GET THE LIGHT RIGHT
o Flexible lighting is key, so fit dimmers, as they allow for low-level lighting in the evenings, and brighter task lighting on busy mornings. Put lights on switches at both ends of the space so you’re never in the dark.
o Layers of light work well in a hallway. Downlighters can help widen a narrow space, uplighters are great for highlighting interesting architectural features and low-level lights will cast a warm glow across the floor.
o ‘Fluorescent light sources are a good option as they can be hidden from view but provide a wonderful volume of light,’ says Rebecca. ‘They’re energy efficient and come in lots of different “temperatures” of white, from warm to cool and bright.’
o Decorative fittings, such as a statement chandelier, can create impact as well as adding sparkle. Team with table lamps for a welcoming glow.
o Maximise natural light by adding glazing to the front door or a skylight to the stairwell. ‘Many Victorian houses have a rear window at their half landing,’ says architect Mark Dyson, ‘and it’s possible to enlarge this to full height without planning permission.’