How to paint a hallway to make it seem wider

December 11, 2013

Question: I’d like some paint color suggestions for the 17-by-3-foot hallway off the front hall in our 1971 ranch-style house. This small space has seven doors — 10 if you count the front hall closet and the double front doors! Right now, the doors are off-white and the walls are dark beige. Could I paint the doors and walls one color to lighten and “widen” the area? If not, what would you suggest?

Winchester

Answer: One idea is to paint the end wall a darker, warmer color than the side walls. “A warm color on walls will make it seem like the walls are coming in, while cooler colors will tend to make it seem like the walls are pushing away,” Paola McDonald of Creative Elegance Interiors in Haymarket (571-239-8845; www.creativeeleganceinteriors.com) said in an e-mail. After seeing a picture of your hallway, she suggested a warm taupe-brown color such as Benjamin Moore’s Strathmore Manor for the end wall, to visually bring it forward. And to push the side walls away, she suggested a soft green such as Benjamin Moore’s Landscape or a soft blue such as the company’s Tranquility. (Go to a paint store for color swatches, or get a close approximation by doing a Web search with the name of the color and the manufacturer.)

Or instead of painting the end wall, you might look for wallpaper that has a horizontal stripe combining similar blue or green colors with a taupe-brown. Use the wallpaper on the end wall and then get paint in matching blue or green for the sides. “Both the stripes and the color will help the hallway to appear wider,” McDonald said.

Whether you use paint alone or a combination of paint and wallpaper, McDonald would stick with a soft, neutral white such as Benjamin Moore’s White Dove in satin for the trim and doors and in a flat sheen for the ceiling.


A reader would like this hallway to appear wider than it is. (Reader photo)

Margaret Carter of Margaret Carter Interiors in Washington (202-510-4211; www.margaret
carterinteriors.com
) said that a dark, warm color for the end wall and a lighter, cooler color for the sides could make a dramatic difference. To maximize the effect of the dark color at the end, you could also paint that door and all of the trim in the hallway the same dark color. “Instead of apologizing for all of the doors, this hallway could be an opportunity to add some style,” she said in an e-mail. As to specific colors, she recommended gray, beige or “something fun like navy blue or sea foam” for the end wall and door and the trim. For the side walls and doors, she suggested white. Or, if you want to keep white trim in the hallway, she recommended painting everything— including the end wall — white, or using cream on the walls and white on doors and trim.

You might also want to consider whether you need all those doors. Opening one or two, perhaps to a room that you use as a guest room or an office, would add to the visual width of the hallway. Or, if several doors are covering closets, consider removing one door and converting that closet to a storage area with open shelving. Of course, for this to be an improvement, you need to store fairly tidy, attractive things there. Blankets or quilts are good candidates; cleaning supplies, no.

Have a problem in your home? Send questions to localliving@washpost.com . Put “How To” in the subject line, tell us where you live and try to include a photo.

The Checklist Read Jeanne Huber’s roundup of home-improvement tasks you should tackle in December, such as disconnecting hoses, at washingtonpost.com/home.

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