How to lighten a dark hallway

Is your hallway dark and unappealing? Or maybe just small and badly lit? Every hall, however narrow, dingy and unappealing has unrealised potential. Here's how to tap into it for a fresh, appealing entrance way

White, carpeted hallway by Carpetright
(Image credit: Carpetright)

Typically long, cramped and gloomy, the average hallway is a prime candidate for a makeover and there are many ways to achieve a brave new look – our guide to designing a hallway is a great starting point if you're looking for guidance.

If you’ve got the cash and can cope with a fair bit of disruption, structural changes such as removing a wall or altering the stairs are game-changers. This said, simply swapping doors for glazed versions will also capture more light. 

Small scale changes can also achieve maximum impact. It’s just a case of selecting light-enhancing flooring, lighting, wallpaper, paint and accessories and your new-look hall will lift the spirits each time you come home.

Design an open plan space

Taking down a wall is drastic but very effective. In a cramped terraced house, removing the corridor wall creates an open-plan space with an expansive feel – if that’s taking things a step too far and you still want a degree of separation and protection from draughts, consider using a glazed partition in place of the wall. 

Alternatively, you could punctuate the wall with several large slots, allowing light to stream through. Before removing any wall, check whether it is load-bearing – if it’s a supporting wall an RSJ may be needed to support the floor above. Seek advice from your builder and a structural engineer.

If your door opens directly into living room and you want to create a divide without compromising on the open-plan feel of your space, we love this Crittall InnerVision interior glazing partition from Yes Glazing Solutions.

crital glass hallway divide from yes glazing

Crittall InnerVision interior glazing partition, £4,320, Yes Glazing Solutions

(Image credit: Yes Glazing)

Open your hallway up to natural light

The addition of natural daylight can work wonders for a dreary hallway – swapping the front or back door for a glazed version is an easily achieved example. For part-glazed contemporary front doors try Urban Front

To turn plain glass into a feature, consider fitting window film – a single large-scale motif is effective for highlighting the hallway’s decorative scheme. Period properties will be enhanced by beautiful stained glass panels. Borrowing light for the hallway from an adjacent room can be achieved by replacing an internal door with a glazed version or simply removing it altogether. Check before doing so as in some properties, building regulations require a fire-proof door to make the corridor a safe escape route. 

To bring a sunny aspect to a gloomy upstairs landing, fit a skylight or try Solatube, a small dome set into the ceiling that brings in a shaft of daylight via a tube from the roof. 

Find this Frostbite Window Film at The Window Film Company.

hallway with white scheme and window film with floral design by the window film company

Frostbrite FB086 window film, £29.70 for a 75cm x 60cm size, The Window Film Company

(Image credit: The Window Film Company)

Work with the stairs

Although exchanging a traditional staircase for one with open treads takes some doing, it could be just the thing to transform your hall. Cantilevered stairs with hidden supports or open stairs with a central string, for example from First Step Designs, will open up the space. 

For extra light, treads can be made of glass and even lit with LEDs. Regulations require staircases to have a balustrade but this can be in sparkling steel and glass rather than wood. Companies such as Neville Johnson offer a makeover service, revamping existing stairs with new treads, finishes and balustrades.

industrial style hallway with lady and dog by front door

(Image credit: David Woolley)

Streamline under-stair storage

Ever wished that all the coats and outdoor paraphernalia, not to mention the vacuum cleaner, could be spirited away at a click of your fingers? Bespoke cupboards and drawers tailored to fill the redundant space under the stairs are a dream come true, allowing you to maximise hallway storage.

Gliding out on heavy-duty runners, they provide easy access to items stored right at the back. The budget under-stair solution is modular cube storage, such as that from Store. This can be stacked in ever-increasing heights to dovetail with the under-stair slope.

If space is at a premium, this storage unit from Roundhouse ensures you make the most of what you do have. Find more clever under stair storage solutions in our feature.

RoundHouse Designmatt lacquer bespoke under stair storage in Farrow & Ball Ammonite

(Image credit: Roundhouse Design. Photography by Billy Bolton)

Choose furniture for looks and practicality

When introducing furniture into a hallway, aim for a piece that is both compact and beautiful. A slimline console table is a great option; for a lighter look select one on fine legs with a chrome or brass finish. 

Top it with a mirror or painting, add a couple of lamps and you’ve got that all-important focal point. A radiator cover can do a similar job to a console table, and won’t protrude as far.

We love this Industrial console table from Cox & Cox.

Cox & Cox industrial iron console table with mirror and plant life

(Image credit: Cox & Cox)

Bring in statement light fittings

In a hall with high ceilings a pendant light adds drama, whether you pick a single statement fitting or a cluster of bulbs. Wall lights are practical for spaces with lower ceilings. If the hall is long, make a visual break partway along by using a directional spot to light a picture or console table. Or top the table with a lamp for a soft glow. Layering lighting, for example with downlights, a pendant, wall lights or floor washers will create a sophisticated effect. Read our guide to lighting your hallway to find out more.

Find these Natural Suspension Lamp Shades at Nedgis.

large hallway with dark wall and statement lighting by nedgis

(Image credit: Nedgis)

Opt for reflective surfaces

The art of illusion never fails in a hallway, where a mirror will not only up the sparkle, but can make narrower spaces seem wider or appear to double the length. On trend metallic wallpapers make a great alternative; Graham & Brown has a good selection. 

Equally, fresh paint colours for hallways are an easy fix if you’re on a budget. Light and Space from Dulux claims to reflect twice the amount of light of other paints. If you’re worried about the hallway getting scuffed, choose one of the pale shades from the Hall & Stairs Durable Matt range of super scrubbable, durable paints from Crown.

We like this combination of a satin wall finishes, light colours, mirrors and a monochromatic scheme. Columbus Greek Key carpet by Carpetright.

Carpeted hallway by Carpetright

(Image credit: Carpetright)

Select the ideal flooring

A pale finish will certainly bring a lighter look to a hallway floor, but the lighter the shade the more the dirt shows, so choose with care. Wood floors are easily swept clean. Select a naturally light wood type or go for one with a limed effect to achieve that Scandi look; try Kährs

Stone flooring is smart but needs occasional sealing; as an alternative consider porcelain tiles and luxury vinyl such as Amtico, both of which come in both stone and wood effects yet are easy-care. If carpet is your choice, rather than a plain one choose a stripe or pattern. Not sure what kind of flooring you want? Our guide to choosing flooring is here to help.

Find this Sloane Steel Carpet, 50 per cent wool and 50 per cent polyester, at the Boucle Neutrals collection, Cormar.

hallway with light colour scheme and small console table and runner carpet by cormar carpets

Sloane Steel carpet, 50% wool/50% polyester, £20-£25 per sq m, from the Boucle Neutrals collection, Cormar

(Image credit: Cormar Carpets)

Pay attention to detail

To complete the hall, add a colourful runner, hang framed photos on the wall – using our guide to displaying photos and pictures – and switch dull door handles for gleaming versions. 

Find this Masai Emerald Flatweave runner at Roger Oates.

Striped runner up stairs

(Image credit: Roger Oates)

Looking for more hallway design inspiration?