Do you have a narrow hallway? If you do, it’s likely that you find choosing the right paint colour for the space notoriously difficult.
During our own dark narrow hallway transformation in our Victorian terrace house I learnt a lot about the right paint colours for smaller spaces, and you might be surprised that a bright white is not one of them.
I’m sharing some of the best space expanding paint colours that will bring a light, airy and open feeling to a narrow hallway without reconfiguring the space.
The One Colour You Should NEVER Use – Why Bright White Is Not The Answer
When it comes to decorating any small space, it has been drilled into us that white is the best colour for making a space feel bigger.
Well, I’m here to tell you to ignore everything you’ve been told before, because it’s not true of dark, narrow spaces that receive little light.
Now, bright white can be a good colour if you have a very light space as it will bounce around the available light it has, making the space feel even brighter.
But what happens when you have a dark, cramped space with little to no light available (especially hallways with no windows) is that the white paint can only bounce around what light is available, which in this case is nothing, and this can make the colour feel flat, and drab in the space.
The other angle worth mentioning about bright white in a hallway is that it is the worst colour for a transitional room, and arguably one of the busiest spaces in a home. It will endure wear, tear, scuffs and marks, and you betcha’, bright white is the least forgiving colour. You will spend almost every weekend repainting parts of the wall, which let’s face it, no one has time for.
Off-whites are not off the menu though, we’re just talking about bright white paint shades. Plus, a bright white can create a really clinical, personality-less feel in any interior.
Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule book though. When a bright white is used in the correct way, it can give the illusion of a bigger space. For example, by separating colour with a dado rail and painting the upper half and ceiling in bright white, it draws the eye up and makes the space feel bigger.
The Best Space Expanding Narrow Hallway Colour Ideas
So, before we get stuck into the best paint colours for narrow hallways, it’s important to take consideration of the natural light available in the space.
If you have no windows in the hallway, and very little light that reaches the space from other rooms, you need to technically treat the space as if it’s North facing. It will be dark in nature, and any light it does receive will feel cold.
If you have a narrow hallway, but a living room door that brings in a lot of natural light throughout the day, you can be a bit more selective about the colours you choose.
A Warm, Modern Neutral (Off-white)
There are 100s of off-whites to choose from which can lead to decision fatigue. So, it’s best to start looking at what undertones you prefer.
Yellow or pink based whites are best for colder, darker spaces as they will introduce subtle warmth and brightness to the hallway. I would recommend opting for this colour of undertone over grey or blue undertones as this can make a space feel much cooler.
Off-whites can often look more like warm, modern neutrals, so they feel warmer in the space, but they’ll still make the space feel more approachable, and larger in size.
Here are some of my favourite off-whites for narrow spaces;
- Dulux Egyptian Cotton
- Dulux Timeless
- Dulux Natural Hessian
- Dulux Natural Calico
- Dulux White Cotton
- Farrow and Ball Schoolhouse White
- Farrow and Ball Shaded White
- Farrow and Ball Slipper Satin
- Farrow and Ball Off-white
- Farrow and Ball Skimming Stone
- Farrow and Ball Ammonite
Always purchase a tester pot and try in your space before committing as colours can look vastly different due to the light that the room receives.
This hallway is shown here with Egyptian Cotton by Dulux and a bright white on the upper half and ceiling.
Warm, Colourful Shades
You shouldn’t shy away from using thoughtful colour in a hallway, it’s one of the best ways to create that first lasting impression that’s warm, friendly and visually interesting.
The colour doesn’t have to be used throughout the whole hallway, you could use it to zone a space, such as behind a console table, use on a half wall panelling look, or just use on your doors and woodwork.
Try to avoid trends, and go for colours that make you feel good, you can go slightly louder in a hallway if you want because it is a transitional space.
Pinks, reds, greens, yellows and purples are great choices for a hallway, they’re warm and available in a huge myriad of shades that can totally change an interior design style.
Shown here with Farrow and Ball Calamine on the walls, this gorgeous colour is warming, inviting yet not overly feminine.
It’s a great alternative to an off-white and it is beautifully defined by the staircase which is painted in Pitch Black.
A pink/red can be a gorgeous addition, especially with wallpaper on the other half. Just be mindful about what pattern you use if your hallway is really narrow as it can make the space feel even smaller.
This fun look brings a splash of colour to the hallway yet is well balanced by the white bannister and neutral stair runner.
The half wall panelling colour shown here is Lick Red 04.
Sage Green Hallway
I’m a huge fan of sage green in an interior, full stop. It has such a soothing and restorative feel and pairs well with a huge range of colours.
My top tip for narrow spaces if you opt for a look like this is to take the colour all the way down to the skirting board too, doing this will make the walls feel longer and it will avoid that feeling off there being a band of colour floating in the middle.
This gorgeous hallway features Dulux Overtly Olive on the panelling with Egyptian Cotton on the upper half of the wall.
Think About Two Tone Painting
Two tone painted walls are a great idea for narrow hallways, it allows you to introduce colour, but doing it in such a way that it makes the space feel more expansive.
You can introduce a two tone scheme by using a dado rail, half wall panelling or just by painting a clear and crisp divide.
Use your contrasting colour on the bottom half, this will ground the space and deliver warmth whilst creating balance and depth. There’s not necessarily any colours off bounds for the lower half of the wall, but I would avoid using white, we need that for later.
On the upper half, you need to use a contrasting colour that is either lighter, or more defining. For a narrow hallway, a lighter, neutral colour does work best because it draws the eye up.
Use the same colour on the ceiling to for a continuation of colour. This is the only occasion a bright white works really well in a narrow hallway.
GoodHome durable walls & ceilings paint in pimlico is featured in this two tone look.
I know what you’re thinking, yellow, really?
Yellow has matured a lot over the years, and I’m not suggesting a banana yellow colour, but a heritage yellow is mature, warm and perfect for bringing a touch of warmth to a hallway.
Add a dado rail 2/3 up the wall and finish with a bright white up and over the ceiling, it adds such a gorgeous brightness despite there being no windows in the hallway.
Paint colour used here is Tuscan Sunshine by Graham and Brown.
Lean Into The Darkness
Whilst many want to create a light, airy aesthetic as they step through the front door, if you have a dark entryway, you can use this to your advantage by instead leaning into the darkness.
We’re talking about shades such as navy blue, black, charcoal greys and even dark rusty reds. These types of colours will typically make the space feel smaller if used on every wall, but it can make the space feel super cosy if styled correctly.
The trick to nailing this is by leaning into a specific look, darker colours like this are heavily used in interior styles such as maximalism, dark maximalism, eclectic and even whimsigothic interiors. You can also opt for a two tone look like this hallway, it’s defining and effective yet doesn’t feel oppressive.
Embrace the darkness with these colours and introduce colour with accents in the space, this will create intrigue and better visual interest than using the same dark tones throughout the space.
This hallway uses Downing Street by Valspar on the lower half of the panelling.
Paint Your Doors A Different Colour
If you still want to keep your walls fairly neutral, an effective way to introduce another colour into the space that will bring warmth and light is by painting your internal doors a different colour or keeping them in their natural state, as shown in this hallway with these gorgeous oak doors which add a really rustic, natural feel to the space.
I recommend this for any hallway or home, whatever the size. Adding a different colour to the doors and architraves creates instant visual interest, designed to be a complementary colour it will contrast in the right way with the paint colour on your walls.
Not sure what colour to paint your internal doors? Use your wall colour as the base and work from there. If you have an off-white, warm neutral you can take it any way you want, be it a sage green, pink, earthy green or even black. Just make sure you feature that colour somewhere else in the space so it ties the room together.
Have any other questions about using colour in a narrow hallway? Please leave me a comment below and I’ll come back with my advice, from one narrow hallway owner to another.