Narrow dark hallway? Even wondered if there’s even a solution on how to lighten a dark narrow hallway? Suffering from a dark and seemingly tiny hallway space is actually one of the biggest hallway gripes that homeowners have. You aren’t alone, and neither was I.
No-one seemed to do it like the Victorians, and Victorian terrace houses in the UK in general have a narrow and dark hallway like an iconic stamp of the times.
Whilst lack of light will be the most common cause unless you undergo structural alterations, with a bit of illusion and careful styling, you can lighten a dark narrow hallway and make those first impressions count as you step through the door.
Let’s delve right into how to lighten a dark narrow hallway, whilst I show you actionable steps and before and afters on how I did the same with my Victorian terrace dark narrow hallway.
The Before – Victorian Terrace House Narrow Hallway
As you step into our home you are instantly greeted by a very long and narrow hallway. The photos below show what it looked like when we moved in, there was a door that divided the entire length by the kitchen and there was 2 lots of glass panels overhead restricting the flow of light.
There was lots of clutter (previous owners) and there was a a dark grey perimeter running along the entire house on the skirting boards.
The flooring had a light grain, yet poorly fitted, there was visible electrical trunking, and badly fitted architraves where doors had previously been.
With barely any natural light flowing through, it felt damp, cold, uninspiring and not welcoming after you stepped through the front door.
So, we had a number of ‘structural’ areas to fix before we took a look at the aesthetics. When it comes to lightening a dark hallway, form and function are hugely important.
Because our hallway is so long, you notice the entire stretch as you walk in the door, so taking that into account, what you see at the very end is just as important as the first 5m or so. Here’s what we tackled to help with getting more natural light into the area.
- Removed The Glass Window Panels – We knocked down the 2 glass panels, the first was just inside the door where there used to be another door which had been removed at some point, there was absolutely no need for it to be there and it was only inhibiting the light available. There was another glass panel between the hallway and kitchen, we also removed this, along with the door. The door was majorly restricting the flow of light and it stopped the home flowing having it bang in the middle of the hallway.
- Removed old architraves – there was at one point another two doors in the hallway, I guess someone really loved doors, hey? The old dark grey architraves had just been left, absolutely mad. So, these came off straight away.
- Rewire – trunking of electrics is often a cheap way to do a rewire, you often see this style of electrics in an office, but come on, not a home. It is ugly, and a nasty shortcut. The first thing we did was get a rewire, there was lots to make good again afterwards as channels had to be cut into the walls, but it made the biggest difference having well, normal electrics not stuck to the wall.
- Flooring & skirting boards – the flooring and grey thin skirting was all ripped up to make way for warmer laminate flooring, and high, Georgian skirting boards to give the illusion of a higher ceiling.
- Removed pegs – at the very end of the hallway there was a set of pegs, I get that it’s by the back door, but it’s also next to the bathroom and it’s the first thing you see as you step into the hallway. It was an inauthentic place to hang coats, and it had to go.
With the main structural issues sorted, more natural light instantly started flowing through. It was then time to look at how to lighten a dark narrow hallway with the right colours and styling.
- Bright White paint – If you’re an avid reader of my design posts you’ll know that I’m not an advocate of bright white paint (more about the best hallway colours later), but we went for bright white on the walls and a continuation from the skirting boards so your eyes aren’t distracted as you walk in. This isn’t a forever home so we also had to be mindful of a colour that people could just move into without having to see past colour choices.
- Painted the beam – I noticed that we had a beam across the ceiling and had the idea to give it a wood stain look to make it look as if it was actually an authentic wooden beam. This completely changed the game as it instantly added what felt like a piece of character and depth to the all white hallway.
- Styling – we added a runner rug for colour and warmth, swapped the light fitting for a rattan shade to soften the space, added a vintage mirror painted in sage green to soften and reflect light around the room, created a shelf above the radiator to disguise the radiator somewhat and add some decorative elements. We made a simple wooden peg board by door and wall art placed mid height to draw the eye up and add colour to the hallway. We also focused on styling in the utility room as this is where your eyes instantly dart to as you step into the house.
Here’s the finished look…
How To Lighten A Dark Narrow Hallway
So, now that I’ve shared my dark narrow hallway I wanted to share some actionable tips to help lighten a dark narrow hallway which don’t involve structural amends.
Structural changes like the ones we made were effective, but they can be costly and messy, these simple styling tricks will help to make your dark narrow hallway feel lighter, airier and most importantly, more welcoming.
When it comes to small hallways, the darker the paint, the smaller the space becomes. Neutral paints like white and cream will generally make a space feel lighter, but bright white is not a great choice in a heavy traffic area as it will show every mark, piece of dirt and scuff.
Dark hallways act in a similar way to North facing rooms, and with little light available it will only reflect and bounce around the little light available which means bright white doesn’t automatically mean a lighter, brighter space.
Opting for whites with yellow or pink based undertones are a better choice as they’ll bring warmth with them too.
Use the same wall colour on your skirting boards, this part is SO important in a narrow hallway. If you start using a different colour on the skirtings in a narrow space, it will make the space feel even smaller and chaotic as your brain is trying to take in the different colours you meet.
One colour from floor to ceiling will draw the eye up and give the illusion of a bigger space.
Whilst darker colours should be avoided on the walls, you must bring colour in through accessories to add depth and texture to the hallway. An all white hallway will end up feeling flat and boring.
A great way to do this is with the addition of a runner rug. Running one down a partial length of the hallway will make it seem longer than it is, and it will bring some much needed softness and warmth to the hallway.
Adding artwork to the walls is an absolute must, but there’s some considerations to make in a narrow hallway to avoid the space feeling even smaller.
Use artwork on one side only and place it at a mid to high height so the eye is drawn up. Don’t overload a narrow hallway, a couple pieces is enough to bring in some definition and colour.
Add A Mirror
A mirror is one of the best ways to make a space feel larger and more inviting as it will help to reflect and bounce light around the room.
Don’t prop one up on the floor as it defeats the object of its purpose, place mid to high height on the wall. A longer, rectangular mirror will work best but curved or arched mirrors can help to soften the space too.
Always go larger than smaller, as a small mirror will defeat the object, it’s all about proportion here.
Think of The Line of View
A hallway isn’t just about what’s immediately in front and on either side of you. You need to think about the full line of view as you step into a hallway so you can style and put in remedial measures.
Is there clutter right at the end? Move it! Can a mirror be added to the end of the hallway to help reflect the light better? A hallway should focus on everything in its path from the flooring right up to the ceiling and lighting.
Focus On The Lighting
Lighting becomes even more integral in narrow places. Downlights are not the solution, although they can form part of a layered lighting scheme.
Don’t go for pendant lights with a long drop, opting for natural materials like rattan will soften the look of the hallway, whereas enamelled, dark pendant lights can make the space feel darker.
Track lighting is one of the best solutions for very dark, narrow hallways as the lighting will help to reach harder to reach areas, and extend further than a standard pendant light would.
Don’t choose bulbs with an orangey colour temperature as it will accentuate the small space, instead opt for a warm or bright white bulb which will make the space feel lighter and more welcoming.
How to lighten a dark narrow hallway can be a fun, and simple process with the right approach. If you can make structural amends then do, but carefully considered styling will help to breath some light and space into an otherwise narrow hallway.
This post is to show that narrow hallways are not a lost cause, they can be beautiful! If you need any further advice on styling as dark narrow hallway, please leave a comment below and I’ll come straight back.