Narrow hallway makeover!
February 23, 2013 9:53 AM   Subscribe

Looking for some help making my narrow hallway a little prettier and more interesting. Bonus bookcase wood finishing/painting question inside!

So we've got the standard narrow hallway in a 1950's cottage connecting the bedrooms and bathroom. (As one of my old professors used to say "shitty little rooms at the end of shitty little hallways" -- Heh, I digress.) It's 3' wide x 14' long. The trim is flaking off so that is spurring and entire re-painting. I primed the end of the hallway to cover the dark purple/brown that was there but am somewhat stymied about what color to paint it and feel like a splash of something would be good there. There is no natural light in the space. I keep thinking about putting artwork on the walls but the space feels too narrow. I also keep thinking that this might be an alternate kid play space (we have a small house and there's not much play space) -- but what would make it fun?

• Here's the view West, toward the kitchen with the linen closet and kids room on the right (has one bright orange wall) -- the artwork stays as does the bookcase* (maybe). The frame I'd like to swap out or paint. I just painted the kitchen and it's a nice, bright white. I keep coming back to neutral grey for that end wall or maybe doing a wallpaper but for some reason I'm just stuck. The runner you see there is from IKEA, it could stay or go.

• Here's the view East, toward the bathroom -- the master is at the end on the left. Colors there are light beige and a khaki/olive color. The bathroom is grey/purple.

Things I've thought about: crisp white for the whole hallway with the same color for the ceiling as the walls and trim. I still really think that end wall needs to be an accent color so -- neutral grey or some exciting color which would "go" with the orange in the kids room for that brief moment when you see both. That's not as important, though. I've also considered going nuts and painting the end wall + ceiling + bathroom entry wall the same color. Would that make the space feel really, really weird? I've seen and enjoyed ceilings which were painted something other than white but they were all higher ceilings.

I also need a new surface mount light in here -- standard 8' ceilings -- what is your favorite surface mount that doesn't look cheap and boring?

Here's the really creative idea: how could this space be fun for a kid? I've got a two-year-old -- if the sky was the limit, remembering that we still have to walk through this hallway (though I'm fine with toys that can be drug out and then put away) -- what could I do in this space that would turn it into a place for imaginative play?

*Oh, and final bonus question, should I paint or refinish this bookcase? Paint it glossy white or refinish it to give it a darker wood tone? The bookcase is solid wood and it fits and works fairly well at this hallway end but I don't like the color of the wood and it's a bit beat up after about 35 years of use. Best refinishing/painting tips welcome!

Please help me make my shitty little hallway less awful!
posted by amanda to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Since you call it a cottage, I assume it's one story. Have you thought about putting in a tubular skylight to bring in some natural light at a reasonable cost?
posted by ShooBoo at 10:01 AM on February 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

That carpet is not good for that space. It draws the eye downwards with its busyness and it looks quite dingy. If you need a runner then I suggest something very plain that doesn't attract attention.

Pot lights that cast cones of light downward can really liven up a dark passage, sort of like streetlights. It's not great to try and fully light a passageway, you want people to move through by seeing the brighter rooms beyond.

With cones of light cast onto the walls, you'll have the perfect places to hang some family photos or bright, colourful artwork.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:10 AM on February 23, 2013

There's an adorable DIY/Decorating blog I've discovered (a 20-something art student living in Brooklyn with his boyfriend and two dogs), and there's a series of posts on it about what he did with a similarly skinny hallway in their new place. He doesn't address making it fun for kids, but - he actually does address "ways to fix up bookcases" (one of the hallway posts also addresses a fix he did with an Ikea purchase). Check it out, and browse around on the rest of the blog as well for other refinishing-furniture ideas.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:13 AM on February 23, 2013

I would suggest you want to make sure that the hallway colour compliments the colours in the adjacent rooms: orange, olive/khaki and purple/grey. I would think a cream, yellow or grey might work. I definitely think you're on the right track with a bright, all over colour.

I would paint the bookcase and treat it as an accent piece. You might want to anchor it to the wall, if you haven't already.

You could make this an art zone for your kid with either white boards or a big roll of paper for drawing on a wall. Above the creative space, or on the other side you could have clips on a string for hanging family photos and art like garlands.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 11:13 AM on February 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

This might look weird not hung over an entry table (which is how I've usually seen it done) but mirrors are a great way of opening up a small, dark space. Something like this, but flipped on its side so it's running horizontally across the wall. And you could paint the frame a bright, fun color.

What to do to make it a play space:

-Get toddler-friendly bowling pins and bowling ball (something like this) and turn the hallway into a bowling alley

-Long playmat that looks like a road for toy cars/trucks/etc. (Or to push around a baby doll in a stroller, or take a toy dog for a walk--you get the idea.) Really, playcarpets in general are a quick and easy way to jazz up a space into a kid play-zone. You can make it even more interesting if you make or buy backdrops that you can hang or lean against the hall wall. Forests, cityscapes, farm, sky for airplanes--whatever caters to the interests of your kid.

-how necessary is it that the bookshelf contain books? When I was a kid, one of my favorite things to do was turn my bookshelf into a house for my dolls and small stuffed animals.
posted by tan_coul at 11:41 AM on February 23, 2013

Chalkboard paint might be fun. Either on the bottom half of the long wall (with a piece of trim covering the edge) or on the accent wall.

Paint the bookcase a lighter color. Put a small lamp on it to give the space some soft lighting besides the overhead ones.

Tack up trim on the long wall and place pictures on it that you could change out every so often (kinda like this).

Seconding a less attention-grabbing runner.
posted by E3 at 12:18 PM on February 23, 2013

I have a similar hallway.

Paint - I kept the paint neutral matching the adjacent living space. You may want to check out Maria Killam who has many posts about selecting color and undertones. As your trim is already painted I would paint it the same color as the walls (or match the rest of the house) to keep the eye from stopping at the trim. I paint all my ceilings the same as the wall color, sometimes slightly lighter as in I mix some white with the wall color. In the hall I'd go with the same color as the walls. Consider if you want the same sheen as ceiling paint is usually flat and you may or may not like a sheen. I find in darker rooms - hallways, bathrooms - I don't notice the sheen on the ceiling that I do notice in the more lighted parts of the house.

I much prefer a gallery style art hallway than plain walls. Something similar to this but with various art instead of all matching and not centered on a horizontal line. Originally I had mismatched frames but then preferred them all to be the same and painted them black. Spraypaint is your friend here. I take care to hang something eye-catching and centered across from each door so as you exit that room you look at the art or a mirror would work too.

I'd paint the shelves the same color as the walls (priming it first) and add a larger brighter piece of art above it instead of painting that wall an accent color. Even a blank canvas wrapped in a fabric or scarf you like would bring a large pop of color. You could add a light pointed to the art to further highlight and draw the eye.
posted by RoadScholar at 1:08 PM on February 23, 2013

if you're willing to try something fun and odd, what about getting a bunch of interestingly shaped unframed mirrors and put them up all over the place - if you get ones that lay flat to the wall, they won't make the hallway any narrower, and would create some depth and interesting light effects - also, if you place some of them opposite each other, you can get some of that infinite-reflection thing going on, which would be a lot of kid fun. depending on the shapes of the mirrors the design can be as weird or as normal as you like - if you stuck with just circles, for example, it wouldn't be too kooky.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 6:02 PM on February 23, 2013

Lots of great ideas and things I hadn't thought of! Thanks, y'all! I'm inspired to get started!
posted by amanda at 7:33 AM on February 24, 2013

This is more involved but I'm going to be doing it to my hallway.

Picture a half pipe running the length of the hallway, the sides running just above the door trim. Painted dark blue/navy, with holes drilled throughout. A bright spot light placed between half tube ceiling and real ceiling.

It should look like a sky with stars, the light shining through the drilled holes. Lots of holes w/varied diameter (1/4", 1/2", 3/4"?). Drill from front face to back. Big cut out at the fire detector to access easily.

For the half tube...luan, bent to width of hallway. 1"x3" strapping running along both walls, lengthwise, a few inches above door trim height affixed to wall. You'll screw the luan to the strapping w/ edge of luan flush with the wall.

Luan is cheap, thin plywood, for a smooth paint finish, you have to apply plaster (premixed CGC) in a thin coat to hide the grain and screw heads. Sand, primer paint and 2 top coats navy color.

This, depending how handy one is...
posted by alicesshoe at 11:26 AM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

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