Best of the Best: The Forgotten Room

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There are rooms in our homes we consciously forget about and ones that slide under the carpet unnoticed. A recent renovation brought hallways to the forefront. Taking you from living room to bedroom, garage to kitchen, foyer to powder room, hallways are used more than any other room in the house. And yet, from a design perspective, they garner little, if any, consideration. Lighting is often marginal and uninteresting; it gets lumped together with closet lighting on builder spec sheets. Blah. Décor is often an after thought instead of a well thought-out plan. How many of you have a dimly lit gallery of family photos, sitting cock-eyed up and down your hall? Uh huh, now you have to think about it.

Hallways are often treated as non-rooms when, in fact, they should be an important design element. Consider this challenge: two long halls, one “L” shaped hall, and a foyer all totally 355 sq ft. A standard 12’x 12’ bedroom is 144 sq ft. Hallway space adds up and, if you think about it, the square footage will cost the same as the rest of the house.

When building or renovating a home consider the hall’s height and width in proportion to length. A 3ft wide hall with 9ft ceilings gives a bottom-of-the-well effect. Don’t skimp on width to give adjoining rooms more space; go with a minimum width of 4ft in low traffic halls and 4 1/2ft – 5ft in high traffic areas.

Plan your sight line. What do see at the end of the hall? What do you want to see? If it’s a window what view does it frame? A door? What makes the door noteworthy, style, hardware, or both? If a blank end-wall stares back at you what interesting object goes on that wall and how will it be lit? For walls and ceilings, use visually interesting doors, door hardware and statement lighting to give the space personality.

I say it often: lighting is key to well-designed rooms; the hall is no exception. If you have 8ft ceilings, can lights or flush mounted lights work best? Hanging pendant fixtures work better than flush in halls with taller ceilings. The pendant bottom should hang no lower than 86” off the floor or lined up with the top of the door molding. Long hallways need multiple fixtures; a good rule of thumb is to place lighting every 4-6ft. Repetitive fixtures, marching down the hall, lend a balanced design element and visual interest. Dimmer switches make lighting an ordinary space special and are easily installed.

Decorating halls with wallpaper and rugs requires a strong point of view and a good design eye. Here again, the LxWxH proportions of the space will determine stripe, pattern, or tone-on-tone paper, as well as, bold verses subtle. When selecting rugs or runners go long or go bare. Multiple runners are acceptable when the hall is longer than a standard 12-ft runner will accommodate; small throw rugs rarely do the trick. The runner width shares the same rule as a room size area rug; 12 inches off-the-wall clearance, on both sides of the rug is standard. If the hall is 4ft wide the runner should be 2ft. The exception would be an extra long hall where a wider runner is a better proportion.

Now that you have a few tools, examine your hallways in a new light. Pun intended. Email me pictures of solutions to hallway challenges you’ve encountered and I’ll Tweet them out with other examples of well-designed halls on Twitter @cbestdiscovery.

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