As the first area of the home you are greeted with, the hallway is more important than it is often given credit for. It establishes what awaits beyond, but it also has a practical role.
Your hallway needs to be able to cope with a number of tasks. First and foremost, it should provide a buffer zone between outside and inside to protect the living areas from the cold. Additionally, it should be able to withstand muddy shoes, as well as providing a space for both them and coats to be stored. The more space you can get into your hallway the better, to make getting large items such as pushchairs, deliveries and furniture in and out of the house easier.
The flooring you choose in this area of the home needs to be durable and easy to clean, and for this reason hard floors are best. Both wooden flooring and stone look great in this area. Hardwood flooring withstands heavy traffic better than softwood. Although not quite as easy to clean as hard flooring, natural carpet is pretty hardwearing. Coir is particularly durable, whilst the slightly waxy nature of seagrass makes it stain resistant.
One of the most common problems that people face when designing a hallway is how to get natural light into what is often a room with few windows. Installing a glazed door, or one with glazed sidelights or a fanlight above is an easy way to ensure light penetrates. In addition, lightpipes, which bring light down a reflective tube from the roof, are a neat and simple solution.
When it comes to artificial lighting, wall uplighters and downlighters are good in narrow spaces, highlighting the ceiling and floor to distract the eye away from the fact that the space is confined.
If you are self-building, give some thought to the hallway and aim for a more square-shaped hallway as opposed to one reminiscent of a corridor. This way you will easily be able to include storage units and hanging space, as well as give yourself some breathing space. However, just because you might have the space available, do not make the mistake of designing the hallway to be overly large — it should remain in proportion to the rest of the house. Those renovating a smaller house with no hallway – common in compact Victorian terraces – should consider building in some form of lobby, to provide a space between the front door and the reception room, ensure enough space to take off shoes and to shelter the living space. Even erecting a partial stud wall to create some division is a great idea.
There are plenty of storage options designed specifically with hallways in mind, from corner units to shoe racks and mirrors with hooks. Consider one of the newest trends for ‘storage staircases’, which can include a bottom step/storage drawer or those with open treads designed to hold shoes, books or whatever you need to store.
Does this American interior design standard work as well in our homes?
One of the most recent house design trends in the UK – and one that has been around for some time in the US – is to eliminate the separate entrance hall altogether, combining the entrance with another room of the home, commonly the dining room — hence the term ‘dining hall’. The idea behind this layout is that much circulation space in the home (hallways, landings, corridors etc.) is wasted space that could be put to better use. However, the success of this setup largely depends on the lifestyle of the homeowners and also on how well the design is executed. Dining halls work best where plenty of space is available and when a sense of grandeur can be achieved. In small spaces, having the front door open directly into what is essentially a living area can feel intrusive and also be impractical in terms of muddy shoes, hallway clutter and that unpleasant blast of outside air that will enter the room every time the door is opened.
In order for a dining hall to work well in a smaller space, some form of division is necessary, be it a central fireplace, a change in floor levels or in ceiling height, a partial wall or even a moveable room divider/storage unit.