Small Hallway Design and Decorating Ideas

LAST UPDATED: Sep 29, 2020 | PUBLISHED: Mar 01, 2019 | By: Julie Blanner

Get unique ideas for decorating your hallway that will add light, function, and character. 

hallway with wood floors brass light

One of the quickest and easiest ways you can update your home is to start small – choose a small area that has maximum impact. In our home, that’s the hallway.

It’s a heavily traveled space in our home that leads to all of our bedrooms, two baths, and laundry room. Yet updating it isn’t quite as overwhelming of a task as a living room or kitchen.

small hallway with white walls and brass framed photos

How To Decorate Your Hallway

It’s funny, isn’t it? A long empty hallway is both exciting and intimidating when it comes to decorating. So much empty wall space is the perfect opportunity to add personality!

And yet, where do we begin? How do we add light, character and perhaps even the illusion of more space?

Thankfully, I have learned a few things in our homes over the years, and I’m excited to share with you. First I’ll share a before and after photo of the same angle for reference.

upstairs hallway in a home with a lot of doors

Let’s start at the beginning. While I don’t have a true “before” photograph, I have one just after we painted days after we moved in.

Dated and dark hallway in a vintage home
BEFORE

You can see from the photo above just how dark it was. It lacked character, the carpet was tired and worn and it was covered in return vents. (We relocated one just to the left so that it is out of view as you can see in the process shot below).

When we moved in, the hall was covered in white but not-so-white carpet. It was victim to the heavy traffic that halls tend to receive.

The Biggest Changes

When we purchased our previous home {referred to as The Colonial}, we removed the carpet on the stairs, but replaced the carpeting in the hallway. Despite taking our shoes off and frequently vacuuming, we also had to frequently clean the carpet.

We made two big investments in this space that changed everything! One was the floors, and the next was replacing the doors.

Those two decisions truly improved this space right away – the difference was remarkable!

dated and dark hallway in a vintage home, carpeted floors and dark doors
BEFORE

Hallway Flooring Upgrades

Rather than re-carpeting the hall in this home, we decided it would be best to replace it with wood floors and add heavy molding. I had them stained a color close to the banister.

The wood floors added much needed character and a lot of function. They wear much better than carpet in a high traffic area and are easy to keep clean.

It is one of my favorite decisions we have made in our home to date, because it is much easier to maintain and visually appealing. 

small hallway doors to bedroom

New Doors

Our hall isn’t too large, but boasts eight doors. The original hollow core dark stained doors felt dark, dreary and cheap.

Rather than just painting them, I decided to replace them with custom two panel shaker doors. I’m not going to lie. It was an investment, far more than I had originally anticipated.

I searched everywhere online and couldn’t find them more reasonable – until I visited a friend’s home a month after they were installed. Why does life work that way sometimes?

hallway renovation taking place in a vintage home
DURING

Replacing the doors added charm and reflected light which made a significant difference in this once dark hallway.

When we replaced them the hall completely transformed. For added bonus, the doors have also reduced the noise, which used to help the girls nap through Dusty’s constant barking a bit better. 

A white hallway door with a glass knob, opening into a white bathroom.

There was definitely more light when I took the “after” photos, but the most significant difference in light was made by the doors and that we painted them in a white semi-gloss to reflect light.

I always recommend using a color with great LRV (light reflective value) and of a semi-gloss sheen. Rather than a hall filled with dark doors, it became a hall full of white doors which gives the illusion of space.

A white door opening into a white bedroom

Hallway Lighting

What was once the dreaded “boob light” fixtures were gone, I knew this space deserved a major upgrade.

Read all about these pretty aged brass lanterns here. You can find these lanterns direct from the source, too!

Door Hardware: The Jewelry of Your Home

New doors offered architectural detail typically found in older homes, restoring integrity to our Tudor.

Bonus? The hardware changed the entire feel of our home. Since a hall doesn’t consist of much, I wanted to pay careful attention to details.

White door with a brass and glass knob.

I ventured to a local door hardware store and fell in love. I know a lot of people prefer to shop for jewelry in a jewelry store, but this was pretty much my heaven.

One of my favorite unexpected elements in our hallway design is the addition of these stunning brass door knobs. It’s truly the little things in life, isn’t it?

These pretty knobs act as jewelry for our doors, adding sparkle and charm in this small space. It’s just one more way to draw attention to the details you love!

White hallway door with brass knob, looking into bedroom.

I selected these knobs for the bedroom doors because they felt warm and full of character. I love the understated elegance they add.

make the most of a small hallway with details like brass knobs

Since it is a hall of doors, I wanted to differentiate the bathroom and hall closet, especially for guests. Doing so breaks up the monotony and adds interest.

With that in mind, we used a crystal and brass knob for those two doors! They’re a nice added hall decoration!

A white door with a brass switchplate and a glass knob.

These gorgeous crystal door knobs on a rectangular rosette really elevated our hallway. I particularly love the discreet way they love with just a simple pin.

hallway in the upstairs of a home, painted white

Above is the same view as the before photographs!

Light Switch Plates

Utilitarian elements can be beautiful too! It’s what takes a simple space up a few levels in sophistication.

In a small space, every detail counts.

A cream painted wall with a pretty white wooden double light switchplate

A favorite detail that I added were these simple light switch plate and outlet covers. They’re discreet, but compliment the floor molding and are an upgrade from standard plastic light switch plates.

The Best Art Ideas For Hall Decoration

One of the most popular ways to infuse your home with personality is to add a gallery wall of family photos.

The hallway is often the perfect place to try this look, as you have an open stretch of wall space just begging for the perfect decoration ideas. A hall is also a more intimate space, often leading to bedrooms, which is perfect for family photographs.

upstairs hallway in a vintage home, wood floors and white paint

I prefer to group photos by color, style, or subject. When we chose images for this gallery wall, I used three photos (one of each of the girls). They are taken in the same location, and they feel cohesive with the black and white portraits and brass frames.

To achieve an artistic aesthetic, I selected photographs from our vacation in Michigan where the girls weren’t looking directly at the camera and were off at a distance.

I had them professionally printed and framed. Framing became another one of my obsessions because craft store frames looked like just that and I couldn’t find a lot of thin, gilded wood frames.

brass photo frames of children on the beach

Once framed, I also hung them artistically – evenly spaced, just a few inches apart at the same height. I’m absolutely in love with them! In fact, if you come over, don’t be surprised if I drag you upstairs to the hallway to admire the photos of the girls.

A gallery wall is also the ideal decor to draw attention away from the features you don’t like. While we’ve made many changes to this hallway, we still have popcorn ceilings (not ideal but as I always say: progress over perfection).

Thankfully, these charming, personalized framed photos distract from the less pleasant features of this narrow hallway.

Progress over perfection.

A white hallway with brass framed photos on the wall

Hall decorations can be kept to a minimum. Simple, yet thoughtful.

Small Hallway Ideas That Will Change Your Home

Can’t afford to change your hallway flooring at the moment? Perhaps adding a cozy vintage rug will add a charming layer of texture and warmth. Not to mention, hallway floors take a beating with constant foot traffic. A rug is always a great way to hide less than desirable flooring.

A white upstairs hallway with a vintage rug on the hardwood floors

I love vintage rugs because they add instant character to a space. When an item isn’t perfectly “new” it feels a little less precious, too.

It’s difficult to find storage solutions for narrow hallways, especially when there are often so many doorways breaking up the space.

We are lucky to have a linen closet for storage. It’s the perfect place for organizing necessities! You can learn how we maximized space in the linen closet as well!

A hallway linen closet organized with bedding etc

How Do You Make A Small Hallway Look Bigger?

If your small hallway feels dark and dreary, it’s so important to prioritize adding light. In fact, I’ve got an entire post about ways to add light to your home.

A small hallway with a white door opening into a bedroom

You can do this in your narrow hallway in a few ways. First, is your overhead light adequate? Consider changing the bulbs, adding new fixtures or even charming wall sconces if the budget allows.

We replaced two lights (whose nickname I won’t mention – see the above before photo for reference) that had frosted glass and 2 bulbs apiece with two new brass lanterns. Each has 3 bulbs and provides an abundance of light in this little hallway.

A light filled small hallway in the upstairs of a vintage home

The simplest way to to add light to dark hallways? Paint! Read on for my best paint color suggestions.

As I mentioned before, in a small space, make every detail count! The light switch and outlet plates in this hallway (less than $5 apiece) add another architectural element.

What Is A Good Color For A Small Hallway?

If you’ve seen other photos of our home, you know that I prefer a soft, creamy neutral backdrop to our lives. I want our loved ones to be the focal point in our spaces!

You can read all about my favorite paint colors right here. I love discussing paint colors and I have so many suggestions.

A white painted upstairs hallway with lots of doors in a vintage home

Our hallway is painted in Benjamin Moore’s Soft Chamois. It’s such a perfect warm cream color, as it reflects light and truly gives the illusion of more space in this narrow hallway.

Other favorites? Navajo White and Zurich White are both great options for adding light to small hallways.

A white painted upstairs hallway with lots of doors in a vintage home

For more details and hallway ideas, take a tour of our traditional hallway in the video below. Don’t forget to click to subscribe for more design ideas!

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mini loaves of bread gift wrapped