Use decorators' tricks to make the hall feel wider.

How to Visually Widen a Narrow Hallway

by Linda Erlam

Too often a hallway is one of the darkest areas of the home. It may have many door openings, making it visually busy as well. If the space is dark and uninviting, a narrow hall can feel cave-like. Since a hallway often serves as an entry into the home or as a main passage through the house, it is important to pay attention to this often-neglected area. Visually widen the space with a few decorators' tricks and say goodbye to the gloomy, forgotten hallway.


Any bit of contrast in a visual sweep will cause the eye to stop. Lack of contrast helps create a spacious feeling because the eye moves around the space unimpeded and the lines between walls, ceiling and floor become blurred. Help visually widen a narrow hallway by reducing the contrast. Paint door frames, baseboards, any crown molding and doors the same color as the walls. Paint the ceiling the same color as the long walls and use the contrast rule to your advantage by painting the far wall a contrasting color. It will visually advance, and the long walls will recede in proportion, making the hall appear wider. If you have pictures on the walls, help reduce contrast and visual clutter with frames and matting in a color that blends into the wall. Household clutter is the most common form of contrast. Remove anything that is not necessary or does not fit into the new plan for a spacious hall.


If you can, lay wood flooring in a diagonal pattern. Set tile in a diamond pattern rather than the typical straight-across pattern and consider that vinyl flooring can be purchased with a designed diagonal pattern. Use horizontal or diagonal stripes on an area rug or runner to accomplish the same effect if you cannot re-surface the floor. Keep the floor color a light neutral; a dark floor will increase contrast and decrease the perceived width of the floor and the hall.


Add light sconces to the long walls and use mirrors to bounce the light back and forth, from wall to wall. Use tall candle-stick lamps on slim sofa tables if you need extra task lighting, and install overhead, directed light for spotlighting art on the long walls.


Keep furniture visually light by selecting narrow profile pieces with slender legs and in low-contrast colors to the walls. Keep the contrast guideline in mind when choosing upholstered pieces, too. Find pieces that do not draw attention to themselves, but rather blend into the overall plan.

Wall Colors

Soft, warm colors tend to make a room feel larger when used in conjunction with the contrast guidelines. These colors are the pastel tints of red, orange, yellow and yellow-green. Add texture with soft-toned wallpaper in these colors or use horizontal stripes of flat and gloss-finish paint in the same color.

Window Treatments

If your hallway has a window on the end wall, either add window treatments that are simple and as unobtrusive as possible or designate the window the focal point of the hallway and make the window treatments attention-getting. If you choose to make the window the focal point, keep the remainder of the hall decor understated to prevent visual clutter.

About the Author

Linda Erlam started writing educational manuals in 1979. She also writes a biweekly newspaper column, "Design Dilemmas," in the "Lakeshore News" and has been published in "Design and Drapery Pro" magazine. Erlam is a graduate of the Sheffield School of Interior Design and is a practicing interior decorator and drapery workroom operator.

Photo Credits

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