There are few spaces in our homes that have quite such a simple function as our hall, stairs and landing – their role really is to convey us to different rooms in the house, and in most cases that is pretty much it. Generally, we don’t spend loads of time in these spaces but we do pass through them with enormous regularly which provides us with an opportunity to think about, and decorate, these spaces slightly differently.
Hopefully your hall, stairs and landing works well – you and your guests can comfortably enter your home via a hallway, move to the upper or lower floors via a well-located staircase and move between rooms via corridors and landings that are pleasant, functional spaces. Wouldn’t it be nice if that were always the case? Sometimes a lack of a hallway, or too small a space, a badly located or poorly designed staircase or a missing landing (one room leading off another) is important to address, just to make a house operate properly. Sorting out a fundamental problem such as these can be an upheaval but worth doing if it addresses a problem that stops a house being really usable.
Assuming you are spared from such considerations, the much simpler task is considering how these spaces look. The good news is that you can afford to be bold and I think these spaces need to be given some personality as there is little opportunity for furnishings as space is often at a premium. The first thing (as ever) is that lighting is crucial. More than ever, you need to be able to see where you are going but you also don’t want harsh overhead lighting as you move between your sensitively and invitingly lit living spaces. Try to find spaces for lamps, which may or may not be possible and then think about options for lighting that isn’t all at one height (just ceiling lighting for example) as you want light sources that give you pools of light in strategic places – for example on artwork, lighting doorways, on the staircase – this may involve wall lights, floor lighting and a combination of pendant lights and discrete recessed ceiling lighting. Plan your lighting hand in hand with your colour scheme and with whatever decoration you have in mind. A darker scheme can look wonderful in corridors and on stairways but will need a bit more artificial light, particularly if there isn’t loads of natural light anyway.
Halls, staircases and landings are great places for artwork because you tend to have a lot of wall space to work with and because they are often areas that need added interest. There will be places where you will naturally stand back from a hanging artwork so something more dramatic can be displayed and there will also be spaces where you can comfortably view more delicate works, or photographs, up close so you can really see the detail. As a rule of thumb, I would put more artwork up than you think you need and I would also put pieces that you really like – you will see these pictures a lot each day (more than in, say, a guest room) so make sure they lift the spirits. I was in a house recently (I can sadly take no credit for the lovely decoration) and the back staircase which is narrow and unexciting with mainly artificial light was painted in a Yves Klein Blue colour (if you don’t know it, google it, with sunglasses on, it is marvellous) and covered in, I’m guessing, a hundred small drawings, pastels, watercolours in different delicate frames. The overall effect was fabulous and it was mainly due to the combination of a bold background colour and the unusually large number of well curated pictures.
Storage around any external door needs thinking through – where are household coats, shoes, bags, bicycle helmets, dogs leads etc. stored? where do keys and post live? where do you hang visitors coats? – but there are also storage considerations around staircases. In my home, there is always a pile of stuff on the bottom stair and at the top of the landing that are destined (never imminently) to be taken up or down. I think the answer to this is to have a conveniently placed side table, chair, shelf for these items to reside on – I say think because they remain stubbornly on our stairs, despite these options – or better still, within a lovely basket, on the side table, chair, shelf, but perhaps I am aiming at bit high with this.
The flow of a home between the rooms is very much influenced by what happens in the corridors and staircases and an important part of that consideration is the flooring you use. I think there is something quite unifying about using flooring that connects spaces on the same floor – if there is carpet, or wood, in your bedrooms then it works quite well to continue that through to the landing. You may need a slightly different application of the flooring (a rug on wood to help with noise, or a slightly tougher version of a carpet to help with durability in high traffic areas) but creating a flow, both visually and in terms of how the flooring feels underfoot tends to work well as you move between rooms. This approach then allows you freedom on the staircase to be a bit creative with the flooring and I think that whatever the style of your home, there is great possibilities to be had. Stair runners offer texture and pattern (if you want it) and are incredibly practical, however you can also draw attention to your stairs with a simple coat of paint. If you want a bigger change, and your budget allows it, you can change the bannisters, handrail or even the stairs themselves – you will want to bear in mind the style of the house as well as the look you like to make sure it visually fits well together – but the overall change that a good staircase makes is dramatic as it is often right at the centre of your home.
Whatever you have to work with, I am a big fan of celebrating our hallways, staircases, landings and connecting spaces – they have great, often untapped, potential just waiting to be brought to life.