8 Tips for How To Decorate a Hallway

Updated: Dec. 19, 2022

Dark, narrow, complicated, awkward. It can be hard to know how to decorate a hallway, but they're a great place to showcase your creativity and style.

Sunny and bright entry hallwayFOLLOW THE FLOW/GETTY IMAGES

Hallway Decorating Challenges

To me, hallways always seemed like a functional piece of the house, not a fashionable one. But then I moved into a true loft with a long lead-in hallway to the main room, and I really wanted it to have some wow-factor. I took what felt like an impossibility — decorating a small, narrow, dark space — and reframed it as a challenge.

In the end, I had a robin’s-egg blue hallway, narrow bookshelves I didn’t have space for anywhere else, and a gallery wall with a red carpet runner. It felt like a modern take on a fancy home library or museum, and created an exciting entrance to the living space. Now I see hallways as an opportunity to add some real style in any home.

Here are some common hallway challenges:

  • Little natural light, leaving the space dark and unwelcoming;
  • Narrow, so furnishings must have a slim profile;
  • Tricky continuity with lots of doors and trim;
  • Low ceilings that make the space feel boxed in.

The following are eight solutions for how to decorate a hallway.

Woman painting a wall in a hallway
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Create Visual Interest With Paint

For a clean-lined hallway with visual impact, or to fill out narrow spaces where furnishings won’t fit, consider creative painting. You can create faux wainscoting with a darker paint below and a lighter tone waist-high and up.

Consider painting the ceiling in a bold color. Extend the edges down onto the top of the wall, then finish the walls with a lighter paint. Or access your inner artist and consider a distinctive pattern.

Wallpaper the Ceiling

Adding visual interest to the ceiling serves two purposes. It draws the eye upward, creating the illusion of height. And it draws the eye down the hallway for a broadened sense of space.

Wallpapering the ceiling fashions an unbroken visual statement with a strong impact, whether you go light and elegant or bold and dramatic. Paint walls a coordinating color and you’ve got a polished look that will surprise visitors.

Classic Crystal Sconce Or Lamp On The Wall, On The Background Of The Wallpaper With The Light On. Copy Space For Text. Selective focus.
Aleksandr Zubkov/Getty Images

Add Light With Sconces

If your hallway is dark and gloomy, light the way without taking up too much real estate by installing wall sconces.

Because they’re positioned high on the wall, they’ll stay out of the way in heavily trafficked areas. Plenty of stylish options even sit flush to the wall.

Grand hallway in a renovated Victorian style home in Melbourne
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Lengthen With a Runner

Create coziness underfoot with an inviting statement runner. Rugs that run the length of a hallway help draw the eye forward, making short hallways appear longer.

One element that adds texture, color and pattern all in one can liven up an otherwise “dead” zone. Vintage kilim rugs add warmth, color, pattern and a lived-in feel that can transition from traditional homes to modern ones.

hallway with round mirror, patterned rug and patterned wallpaper
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Trick the Eye by Mixing Patterns

Mixing patterns is an art, but can yield amazing results when done right.

Pattern-on-pattern exudes an expansiveness of mind and space, and it can trick the eye about dimension. Small transitional spaces are a perfect place to really go for it, especially if you’ve been shy about decorating with color and pattern. It’s easy enough to swap out when you tire of it.

A general interior view of a hallway with a white front door, coats hanging from coat hooks, mirror above a shelf decorated with small artificial potted plants and a grey patterned tiled floor within a home
John Keeble/Getty Images

Hang Mirrors to Create the Illusion of Space

Make your house a fun house — sort of. Using mirrors to create the illusion of more space is a go-to decorator’s trick.

Narrow hallways? Hang thin profile mirrors so they don’t get knocked off the wall. If you’ve got wiggle room, consider mirrors with more ornate frames that will add style, plus the feeling of more elbow room.

frames on wall with black and white photos
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Create an Art Gallery

Even narrow hallways can usually accommodate framed art, and there’s no need to stop at one or two. Hang your favorite photos, kid artwork, thrift-shop paint-by-numbers or whatever appeals.

Though hallways are often small and dark, design doesn’t have to play small. When you go maximalist in small spaces, you create the feeling of abundance.

Old chest of drawers with objects on the background of a pink wall. Next is a flower in a pot
Aleksandr Zubkov/Getty Images

Furnish With a Console Table

For hallways where you need a place to leave keys, mail and other small items, a console table works without taking up too much space. The smaller profile is thinner by design. It sits flush to the wall, with legs that won’t trip passersby. It’s an easy fit that combines function with good looks.