How can I make my long and dark front entrance feel welcoming?

May 17 |
Use these tips to take your hallways from dark and dreary, to bright and happy.
Use these tips to take your hallways from dark and dreary, to bright and happy.
I need some help making my front entrance feel more inviting. My front door opens up into this narrow hallway that's nearly 20 feet long and only 3'7" across. The first five feet are tiled, but after that, it's all dim lighting, off-white carpeting, and a terrible taupe colour that continues on through the rest of the entire house. Currently there's a super-old pink rug down, but it's not helping the look of the hallway at all. Coming home after work most days, my first impressions of home is just blah, and I'm sure that's all guests feel too.

I'd love to make my entrance feel bright and more welcoming, but I've been struggling to find a good way. The home is a rental so I can't go knocking down walls, but painting is an option so long as it's easily covered. -Alexandra

Oof, you have a seriously long and dark hallway sitch going on. But lucky for you, I have some tips and tricks you can use to brighten it up and make your smile every time you walk through the door. Check out my "happy hallway entrance" inspiration board while I show you some tricks:

Clockwise from left: Hallway runner, mirrored birds, hallway table, tree decal, round mirror, framed mirror

Light wall color

Ditch the wall color you don't like, and go with light paint color that you do like. Light colors fool the eye and will make your small space seem bigger. I recommend a light blue that'll remind you of wide open skies.

Light wall color and mirrors.
Light wall color and mirrors.

Mirrors

I see that you already have mirrors on your walls — good thinking. Mirrors bring in more light, and once again trick the eye into expanding small spaces. You can get creative with your mirrors like using these bird mirrors (pictured above). Imagine those guys "flying" all the way down your hallway. Or use framed mirrors, but make sure they come in light frames, like the Kichler mirror with the un-imposing swirly white frame. Or this round wall mirror with a polished frame. Or take mirrors you already have (or found at a thrift shop) and create frames, or spray paint already existing frames in light colors.

Hallway runner

Infinite Helix runner
Infinite Helix runner
Find a runner that is also light-colored. But not a solid light color, because that will show ALL the dirt that gets tracked in. Get something light but with a pattern. Like any of these:

Branches Wall Decal
Branches Wall Decal

Wall decor

Since it's such long and skinny space, a big repeating pattern may seem too imposing. But such a long stretch of space just begs for some kind of decoration. If you don't have mirrors on hand to hang, you could invest in a wall mural.

The Branches Wall Decal or the Tree Trunks and Colorful Birds decal feel like a perfect addition. Light in color, pretty, and it brings in a touch of nature to remind you of the spacious outdoors.

Tables

Metal and glass hallway table
Metal and glass hallway table
Front entryways can benefit a LOT by adding a hallway table. Those long skinny surfaces are great place to put your keys, leave notes for roommates, or place a vase full of flowers to instantly brighten up the space.

For super-small hallways, you want to use a mirrored hallway table, or one made of glass and metal, like this one.

What are YOUR tips for making long, dark hallway entrances lighter and brighter?

  1. yep – mirrors mirrors mirrors.

    i would be tempted to buy cheap self adhesive square mirrored tiles (about a foot square) and do an entire row down one side – probably the left (or both!) at eye level. I think it would look quite cool plus really do a job of opening it up.

    8 agree
    • My first thought was a sky blue wall with and the mirror tiles, but turned to a diamond and checkered along an entire wall. I have no idea how much they cost, so it may be too much, but it would open things up a lot and reflect the light. Then you could put your shelves and/or a vinyl decal on the other wall. Add a pretty floor runner and the space would have colour and light.

      1 agrees
  2. Mirrors down both sides to make infinity hallways! I like the runner idea. I can't tell in the picture just how narrow the hallway is, but I know that I regretted hanging a piece of art in my hall that protruded a few inches from the wall. I ran into that thing every day for six months until I finally broke down and moved it.

    1 agrees
    • It's about the width of a door. We have shoes and junk piled down it, so I might squeeze a table over it, but I'd be cautious about anything protuding from the wall.

      0 agree
      • as narrow as it is, i'd worry about even a skinny table, but narrow shelves could be perfect. i'd do wall-mounted shelves rather than a bookcase for a smoother effect, but either will give you somewhere to put all the shoes and junk, and it kind of enforces that they can only stick out from the wall as far as the shelf.

        3 agree
  3. My entry hallway isn't quite as dreary as yours but we had the same problem.

    Putting up some shelves and art made a HUGE difference. If you can find some narrow shelves you can display some things. I dislike too much symmetry in a hallway, it feels too stuffy and since it's a high traffic area hang anything three dimensional higher than you would in a wider space.
    If you can get some cool alternative light sources in there that would help too, twinkle lights can be fun, I'd stick with the clear kind or pick a colour that coordinates with what you choose.
    Look at it as a design challenge rather than as a space you hate. Also if you can designate a space for the stuff you're storing in there now. Even some benches with storage will tidy it up and make it look more welcoming

    1 agrees
    • Benches with storage could be excellent, since its really the only good place to put on shoes.

      1 agrees
  4. I see there's an outlet? If you do get a hallway table, add a small lamp that gives off a lot of light. It will help brighten up the area, as well!

    1 agrees
  5. 1) how on earth did you even move in there?? Can 3'7" even fit couches? Amazing.
    2) it's been mentioned casually a few times in the comments but lighting lighting LIGHTING! You can't change that it is a long hallway but you can change the "dark" part. If you own it, get a new fixture immediately! We got one that ended up looking like gallery lights but only uses a normal light fixture. We have another one that hangs from two sides of the wall and has adjustable slidey gallery lights, no fixture needed.

    If you rent, talk to your landlord about whether you can deduct part or all of improvements from your rent. If you buy a better light fixture, that is a selling point for the next renters, so many landlords will either chip in or allow you to make beneficial changes without making you restore the place back to normal before you move. Make sure to get any agreement in writing though!!

    1 agrees
  6. I have a long dark hallway too! *internet five* I have a big purple basket by the front door which holds umbrellas, laundry detergent, etc. Mirrors are an excellent solution. If lighting is an issue, maybe try tea light holders?

    1 agrees
    • Oooo, those are pretty! A big basket could be handy too. My fiance considers it a life hack to have a box by the door to dump junkmail in (especially since we have a door slot for mail). It could definitely use an upgrade.

      0 agree
    • Hehe, that's even the Toronto skyline where I live! Tempting!

      1 agrees
    • This is great. Draws the eye to the wall and away from the end of the corridor. Also if you get a new runner get one with stripes across the hall as this will make the hall feel wider.

      0 agree
  7. If you have some other space for storage I would suggest moving the shoes and junk elsewhere. It's not the most welcoming of sites.
    Maybe a small shoe mat to keep one pair each for running out the door but try to rehome the rest elsewhere

    5 agree
    • They do get rehomed fairly often, but we have 4 people in here, and its really the only place to put shoes on. It's also a natural junk collection spot.

      0 agree
      • Maybe you can find some narrow shoe closets that would also provide a place to set some knick knacks, or a mail basket, etc. without having the width of a table.

        These are the ones I was thinking of – don't know if they're available in Canada:
        http://www.ikea.com/de/de/catalog/products/40216908/#/20169559
        http://www.ikea.com/de/de/catalog/products/40216908/#/60156121

        They actually hold quite a few shoes. There are also a lot of other styles that look more modern, etc. – at least here in Germany.

        Then, above it, you could make a little "I just came home" space with some hooks for hanging keys on, maybe a whiteboard or calender, or just a piece of art or something. You could even hang some baskets, like for said mail, scarves, hats, etc.

        Maybe it would help break up the length of the hallway (I would put it, say two-thirds of the way down) so it wouldn't look so long and thus wouldn't look so narrow. But of course you'd have to really check the width – like maybe "build" a box in the size out of cardboard to see if it's feasable. I'd try the same thing with any table to be sure.

        0 agree
        • Ooh – one more thing – for putting on shoes, it would be super awesome to have some chairs seats that fold down from the wall (you would have to mount them on the wall) next to the shoe thingies. Of course they shouldn't be deeper than the shoe things, but then people could sit down to put on their shoes! :-D No idea where to get something like that… I'm thinking simple curved wood. (Movie-theater style would be too deep.)

          0 agree
  8. How about art on the ceiling? Something easy to put up with pins or double-sided tape – a series of art posters set up like your own Sistine Chapel.

    A friend of mind took her long hallway to the dramatic extreme – she put up "scene-setter" wallpaper in a stone wall pattern and installed gothic candle sconces so that it looked like you were walking down a secret passage in a castle. Perhaps not that outrageous, but maybe you can have fun playing up the fact that it is a long narrow hall.

    2 agree
  9. I agree that you should really try to keep junk/random STUFF from piling up along the side there. We have a short hallway where this happens unfortunately too often (and it's not even as long or dreary as yours!) and I just breathe so much easier when it gets cleaned up and moved elsewhere.

    Also, I will add to the lighting discussion… Do you think you could set up track lighting, that can go all the way down the hall? You wouldn't have to add a socket or anything, just change the fixture, and it would add SO much light down the hall without having to put lamps or other things that would take up space. I think Ikea has a lot of track lighting that can go for great lengths, and then you can point it at mirros and things on your walls to lighten it up even more!

    3 agree
  10. Oh, and I would also suggest using the kind of light bulbs that are supposed to make it look like "daylight". They are less yellow, more white, but not quite that ugly neon/fluorescent look. I think that would brighten things up and make it seem like more natural light is getting in.

    3 agree
  11. Check out the blog Manhattan Nest http://manhattan-nest.com/2012/11/16/hallway-part-2-2/

    The designer had a very very similar issue and the pictures of the before and after are huge. Good lighting, bright and light colours and art were really key in his foyer. I would say lighting is a big big deal for any tight narrow space, so if you can change out the lighting for something brighter I definitely would. It doesn't cost much, but it makes a huge impact!

    2 agree
  12. Would battery-operated tap-lights help? I'm guessing installing more lighting is not a good option, but some kind of extra light would be good.

    0 agree
  13. Do you own? If so, how about carving some holes out of either wall and doing recessed shelving instead? A built in would give you the space + the needed shelving and cabinetry you need to hide all of that stuff.

    If you can't, I would add some hooks or some vintage metal wall file holders to stash shoes and such in. Preferably in bright colors like this: http://st.houzz.com/fimgs/7341ed8e0d029a21_1000-w268-h486-b1-p10—desk-accessories.jpg They won't take up much space plus you can put mail & such in them.

    0 agree
    • Not an option, we rent. Would have been a good solution though.

      0 agree
  14. Lighter paint colour! I did that for my very dark foyer and it has helped quite a bit. I was surprised by how much of a change to the light levels was made by changing from a grey with a hint of maroon to a pale silvery green. I have a huge circular embossed piece of brass hanging in there, which is awesome because the little bit of light catches it nicely and reflects back into the space. It's very thin, so we don't run into it. I also have a wall of mirrors that I hated when we first moved in, because they're so dated, but they really lighten the space. Currently thinking of changing the rug to a lighter colour, because the tiles are black, and working on a storage hack for the useless brick indoor garden.

    1 agrees
  15. We've added a huge, spikey (Ikea) lightshade to our hallway and it really adds some oomph! Putting in a stronger lightbulb helped too.

    3 agree
  16. I looove all the ideas given!
    I would also suggest taking a look at what is at the end of that hallway – if you've got this glorious redecorated hallway, you want something equally exciting as the destination! Particularly as this is the natural focus as you look down it, think about maybe co-ordinating the colours you use or having something bright and happy at the end :)

    1 agrees
    • The end of the hall actually is where it gets hard to redecorate. Its not terrible as it is, but if we were to try to repaint, the wall just merges to the living room wall to the kitchen. But it's not bad in the beige, there's cool art and books everywhere.

      0 agree
  17. Okay, I know you want to go light, but how about the opposite?

    Go for an awesome dark theme. Make it like Halloween all the time or turn it into part of the Chamber of Secrets. It's so much easier to take dark and narrow and turn it into fun and spooky. Your guests will be slightly freaked and highly entertained, plus it provides a great contrast to the rest of your house (I'm assuming).

    1 agrees
  18. Rope lights, like theater or airplane aisle lighting?

    1 agrees
  19. This is silly, but I'm not really a fan of mirrors or pastels. But! I fully support embracing the darker aspects of that space with some light for contrast. Maybe some star lamps? Here's metal: http://www.mydanilo.com/star-lights
    and paper: http://www.lunabazaar.com/paper-star-lanterns.aspx
    If you're not a fan of the dark and spooky entrance, paint the walls off-white and add a horizontal stencil. Maybe incorporate some hooks to hang things (keys, scarves, hats) so that clutter doesn't gather on the floor. Narrow spaces = maximize floor space! Particularly for clumsy people like myself who are forever tripping and walking into things.

    2 agree
  20. Though the "light paint and runner" idea is good, I would go in a slightly different direction: get crazy!

    Such an unusual space could be a great place to experiment with a color you like but wouldn't want in the dining room. Turquoise, orange, purple, or lime green! Sunrise mural with paper lantern lights. Chalkboard wall, or magnetic steel. Medieval theme with house "banners" or swoopy fabric panels hanging from the ceiling. Animal print runner in hot pink. Rainbow glitter paint. Funky barnyard signs. Get some vinyl wall sticker "frames" and make an art gallery of children's art. Cover the walls with faux leather or comfy old quilts. Put up rock posters or LP album covers.

    Think of something you've been drawn to, but thought you "could never do something like that!"

    Think about giving your guests (and yourself) a smile as they enter.

    2 agree
    • When I showed this to my family, my husband said, "Every other room in the house has to be really functional. This is just a canvas you're going to walk past."

      0 agree
  21. What about making a fake window?!
    http://www.geekologie.com/2011/11/fake-blinds-do-hide-light-but-no-window.php

    It might be kind of deep so you'd definitely want to make sure you wouldn't be walking into it, but you could probably just use some of that styrofoam moulding around the edges to make the "frame" (or wood of course to be sturdier and earth-friendlier) and then some diffuse light source (like a flourescent bulb along the top of the moulding – preferably hidden slightly behind it) and of course some translucent curtains in front of it… Just make sure nothing gets too hot from the lamp/bulb!

    1 agrees
  22. I think it's screaming for a plant. Either in a plant stand or on a table or something. Things that are alive always make a space seem more so. :)

    0 agree
    • Don't think there's enough sun to keep it alive. It's super dim. Also, it's a bit narrow, it'd probably get knocked over by people or cats.

      0 agree

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