Hallways are typically narrow features in most Irish houses that serve as thoroughfares, but
Carol O’Callaghan argues that this underrated area of the home doesn’t get the attention it deserves
I LOVE the idea of a wide hallway filled with light that filters into all the downstairs rooms, with enough space for at least some furniture, to give the hall a purpose other than simply being a thoroughfare.
We’ve been limited, of course, by what have been typically narrow halls as a standard feature in Irish houses, seen only as a way of accessing the stairs and ground floor rooms, so there’s been limited scope to do anything special with the space.
But first impressions do matter, whether it’s for guests arriving or just to make us feel good when getting home after a hard day’s graft.
Decorating is the first consideration and, frankly, it’s easy to opt for neutrals which are easy to live with.
Colour can seem challenging especially if you think you might want to change it again and have to face the logistical nightmare of accessing the
expanse of wall above the stairs.
But there’s an alternative.
Patricia Wakely, colour consultant at Fleetwood Paint, says, “Paint can be used on furniture, stairs and radiator covers to inject a sense of vibrancy, rather than just on walls.”
This can work particularly well in modern properties, but what do we do with a period property which needs a sympathetic approach?
“These hallways would commonly have picture rails, high ceilings and tiled floors,” says Patricia, “so why not try using a deeper colour above your picture rail and up onto your ceiling to create an interesting focal point.
This can give a feeling of lowering your ceiling and pushing out your walls, which these houses can take.
Ochre yellows and period reds and greens work so well in a scheme such as this, but try to use a very matt finish to allow the colour to sing and give a period feel.”
Smaller hallways, especially those not much more than a little lobby can be a challenge for the home decorator too.
“Small corridor-type hallways can be made to feel larger by the use of lighter colours as a backdrop and a feature colour as a pop,” says Patricia.
“Try using horizontal stripes to widen and broaden walls – this doesn’t have to be a combination of colours but perhaps a slightly lighter and darker tone of the same colour, adding a higher sheen value to one and matt on the other to create an interesting texture.”
But lucky you if you have a larger hallway and the scope to do something novel.
Patricia says, “Add some panelling which is very popular currently.
Why not try to use it as a feature wall rather than traditional low-lying panelling with painted plaster wall above.
Tones of green and grey are great for this type of hall.
Try deep, natural and earthy tones of green or heather and combine it with a more neutral warm grey to give a sophisticated and elegant feel.”
Once the shell of the hall is sorted, it’s on to furnishings and accessories.
In small halls where there’s no space for a table, a radiator cover is a good alternative as it will cover an unsightly radiator and also provide space on top for bowls or baskets to hold keys and post.
Where space allows, streamlined consoles offer a little more surface area to deposit handbags, wallets, phones and other lifestyle debris that gathers in our pockets, but which we want to off-load as soon as we walk through the door, and can also help counter the effects of the new and unattractive development of littering halls with shoes now we’ve adopted the European habit of removing outdoor footwear when indoors.
If you don’t have room for a basket or shoe cupboard, nominate the space beneath the console as a repository for abandoned shoes.
Not only will it cut down on the disarray but will utilise what is otherwise dead space.
To make use of the wall space above the console or radiator cover, hang a mirror as big as the space can take.
This will perform at least three functions: Firstly, it will give the illusion of the hall being much bigger than it actually is; secondly, it will reflect light and make the space look brighter; and thirdly, you can do a last minute check to see how presentable you are before running out the door.
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