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Break away from bland hallways

Flor’s Suit Yourself rug is practical (it’s made of tough sisal) yet unexpected. Its funky shape mixes things up. ($224, <a href="" shape="rect"></a>).Flor

Hallways are the most underappreciated, overlooked design opportunity in your house. Think about how many times you pass through them each day. What if they were something special?

When designing halls for his clients, Washington, D.C., interior decorator Jonathan Senner prefers more of a classic look, with neutral walls and a salon-style gallery. In hers, Seattle-based blogger and designer Cassandra LaValle likes to be bold, with patterned wallpaper and funky lighting. ‘‘Rooms should flow,’’ LaValle said. ‘‘You don’t want your house to feel like a patchwork, but there are opportunities like hallways to create something fun.’’

Whatever your preference, a hallway is a great way to put your personality on display. Family portraits are perfect here, as is a collection of postcards or Polaroids. Those with long and wide halls can think about built-in bookcases or a spot to put a writing desk. One of the best parts about outfitting a hall is that it doesn’t take much. Fresh paint, a runner, frames — that’s all you really need for a transformation, but let’s kick things up a notch.



■  A bench in a hall, whether at the end or to the side, is a great place to drop shoes or a coat if your hallway comes off an entry. If you want to hang artwork over the bench, think big. ‘‘A lot of people say you should never hang a large piece of art in a hallway because you don’t have a visual distance to admire it,’’ Senner said, ‘‘but I think a large piece of art or tapestry almost becomes the wall. It’s luxurious.’’

■  ‘‘Hallways are a chance to do something quirky,’’ LaValle said. Sisal tiles, for example, can be purchased separately to make your own configuration.

■  LaValle uses picture ledges to display objects, such as a shell collection or other mementos — ‘‘things that get put up on mantels,’’ she said.


■  LaValle likes a slight, minimal console in a hallway because it takes up little visual space and helps keep things from feeling cluttered. And Senner cautioned, “Resist the temptation to overstyle or overfurnish any part of a hallway.’’

■  ‘‘Mirrors are useful in hallways to reflect available light and to create the illusion of space, especially at the end of a hallway,’’ Senner said.

■  ‘‘If you have a longer hallway with a space at the end, it’s great to have a vignette there,’’ Senner said, ‘‘a bench with a piece of art over it, a nice table or cabinet, a wall of a different color. Having a vignette down at the end invites you into the space.’’

■  If hallways are a clutter zone, make sure there are baskets with lids on them, LaValle advised.

■  Before choosing lighting for a hallway, Senner suggests thinking about its purpose. To light your way in the dark? To ground a wild wallpaper pattern with the symmetry of sconces? ‘‘I often think of table lamps being used in hallways more for mood/atmosphere versus practical lighting; a couple of well-placed lamps on dimmers can create a really serene space at night.’’ In a small hallway, lighting can be a statement piece, whether you have a tall ceiling and room to hang a row of pendants, or a shorter one that would work better with recessed or flush-mount fixtures.

■  A salon-style gallery is a natural decorating approach to a hallway. If you’re starting from scratch, LaValle said, buy a set of frames that match, then add to your collection slowly with pieces that you love.


■  Hallways are high-traffic areas, so LaValle says to look for durable runners. Persian-style rugs and kilims are designed to be shaken out every now and then, so they’re a good choice. Pair runners with rug pads; natural fiber and 100 percent rubber pads will protect wood floors. ‘‘Don’t get something too thick, because it becomes a tripping hazard, especially for kids,’’ Senner said. He suggests keeping the thickness under half an inch.

■  Sometimes a hallway has to be a catchall more than just a pretty spot in the house. If that is the case, a storage piece with cupboards and a place to sit and put on shoes makes best use of limited real estate.

■  ‘‘Stools are a great accessory for hallways, whether under a console table or by themselves,’’ LaValle said. ‘‘They can hold a plant, a little box for dropping items into, or just [add] interest.’’

■  A wide hallway with built-in bookshelves at the end is the dream. If you can’t do built-ins, try a two-shelf bookcase and accessorize with a nice table lamp and art. Another option is to pair two along one side of a hallway, as long as there’s room to walk without bumping into them.

■  LaValle and Senner agree that the biggest mistake to make with a runner is getting one that’s too short. For extra-long hallways, consider a custom rug. Senner says that the exposed floor space should be the same on all four sides of the rug, like a picture frame.


The hardwood Windham Entryway Bench, with cupboards and a place to sit and put on shoes, makes the best use of limited real estate ($170, <a href=";AFID=google_pla_df&amp;CPNG=PLA_Furniture%2BShopping_Brand&amp;adgroup=SC_Furniture&amp;LID=700000001170770pgs&amp;network=g&amp;device=c&amp;location=9001987&amp;gclid=CjwKEAjw5vu8BRC8rIGNrqbPuSESJADG8RV0KNoP98udCS42xZ3vEwMNyKI6m4daxgw_0_K8mMPszhoC8R_w_wcB&amp;gclsrc=aw.ds" shape="rect"></a>).Target/Handout
Lidded La Jolla Baskets from Serena & Lily, made by hand with seagrass and recycled plastic, keep clutter out of sight ($78 to $168, <a href=";gclid=CjwKEAjw5vu8BRC8rIGNrqbPuSESJADG8RV0jnWBZ9j2rSWtkWTTdg8FZeZ1Qbry9H6CefusNUg0YRoCDHDw_wcB" shape="rect"></a>).Serena & Lily/Handout
The Bone Inlaid-3-Drawer Dresser is a solid foundation for a vignette at the end of a hallway ($1,299, <a href="" shape="rect"></a>).West Elm/Handout
The Thurman flush-mount light comes in nine finishes and 66 shade options ($150, <a href="" shape="rect"></a>). Rejuvenation
Place two of these Adjustable Tabletop Lamps on a console, and you have a calming spot of symmetry to pass by every day ($149 each, <a href="" shape="rect"></a>).Wisteria
Persian-style rugs and kilim rugs, such as the Geo Kilim Rug, are designed to be shaken out every now and then, so they're a good choice for a high-traffic area ($298 for 2½-by-9-foot rug, <a href="" shape="rect"></a>).Anthropologie