Design Dilemma #4: How Do I Make a Narrow Hallway Look More Spacious?

By nature, most hallways tend to be long and narrow; transient spaces that we pass through on the way to somewhere else. They are, however, the place that provides the first and last impression and sets the tone for the rest of our home. And because they’re spaces where we don’t tend to linger, they should really pack a decorative punch. Here are 5 tips for ensuring a narrow hallway provides the necessary wow…..

1. First, get organised

A mountain of coats and shoes isn’t a beautiful sight in any hallway, let alone a narrow one, so make sure you cut the clutter. Decide what outerwear you need close to hand depending on the time of year but keep it in cupboards where possible and use slimline, wall-hung storage units for shoes. There are some clever options available. If space allows, a narrow bench will add interest and provide a place to sit down while shoes are slipped on and off but don’t leave discarded items on display underneath.

2. Make a smart choice underfoot

Flooring in a hallway has to be practical as it will bear the brunt of muddy shoes and wet paws but the right choice will make an impact and create the impression that a hall is wider than it is. If you have the original floorboards, chances are they’ll run the length of the space and emphasise its long, narrow proportions. A striking rug will interrupt the flow of the boards and will make the space feel wider, especially if a pattern such as broad stripes that run perpendicular to the boards is chosen.


If you’re planning to lay new wood flooring or laminate, consider laying at 45 degrees to visually widen the space.

Patterned tiles will make a real statement and also detract from a hall’s dimensions. Avoid a border which will only draw attention to the edges of the space and choose a colour for skirting boards that blends in with the tiles rather than creates a strong contrast. The background colour of the tiles is a good choice for paint on the skirting and this can be continued up the walls to dado height - or beyond - to amplify the effect. A darker colour on the lower part of the wall is also less likely to show scuff marks.


As will other rooms where space is a premium, the more of the floor you can see, the larger the hallway will feel. Blinds are a good choice for hall windows or if you favour curtains, ensure they skim the floor rather than pool on it.

3. Employ some colour magic

Colour can have an amazing effect. To visually ‘square’ a long, narrow hallway, paint the end wall in a stronger colour than elsewhere. The result will be a wall that appears to advance, reducing the tunnel-like effect. If the end wall contains a window, choose a blind or curtains in a bold fabric to make the window ‘pop’.

4. Layer your lighting

The same thought should go into lighting a hallway as any other room. The key is flexibility and a ‘layering’ of light so different atmospheres are created at different times of day. If you opt for a pendant light, go LARGE as overscaling is always effective in a small space and make sure it’s on a dimmable circuit to avoid glare.


Decorative wall lights, placed at intervals, can be an effective distraction from a hall’s dimensions but if yours is very narrow, use recessed, directional downlights instead (on a separate circuit) to light artwork and catch the eye.


A table lamp on a slim console table will add further interest and a softness to a space that will inevitably be full of hard surfaces. It will also draw the eye down and away from a potentially high ceiling, effectively balancing out a hallway’s proportions.

5. Play with scale

A hallway is the perfect place for bold choices and some design fun. If you’re considering wallpaper, a large scale pattern will lend a sense of drama. Choose a large canvas over lots of small framed prints. Use oversized mirrors to bounce around available light and increase the sense of space. And to give your visitors the best send off, hang a luxurious, interlined curtain in a fabulous fabric over your front door. Guaranteed to leave a lasting impression and cut your heating bills too!