Hallways From Hell: How to Revive or Eliminate Them

You heard it here: Hallways are so 20th-century.

“We try to diminish or eliminate hallways as much as possible,” says Seattle architect Nazim Nice.
Perry Cofield, a Virginia architect, says hallways are becoming obsolete because homeowners aren’t locked into clustering all bedrooms at one end or level of the house.

In fact, Cofield designed my four-bedroom house with nary a hallway to be found.

He placed two bedrooms (including the master suite) on the main floor at the end of the dining and living rooms. He put two bedrooms on the second level at the head of the stairs, so the landing is the only mini-hallway in the house.

The flow is fantastic because it wastes not — just what we wanted.

Dream Up New Space

Even though you may be stuck with hallways, your hallways don’t have to be stuck in the narrow, dark past. A little rethinking can make those passages work a lot harder and look a lot better.

If you still have books: Install floor-to-ceiling bookcases with a rolling ladder in hallways that are at least 4 feet wide. You can build them between studs or mount them on the drywall. Oak shelves are strong but expensive (5-shelf bookcase: $135); particleboard is a better value (5-shelf: $59) though you’ll sacrifice some strength.

If you’re an art lover:
 Hall walls are perfect spots for family photos and third-grade artwork lit by recessed lights. To display and appreciate large art, you’ll need a hallway that’s at least 5 feet wide. If you have a blank wall at the end of the hallway, hang artwork there; it’ll draw the eye down the hall, making the trek down that runway less boring.

If you have hallway linen closets: Convert them into:

  • Study space: Free-up desktop space by installing a recessed or puck light.
  • Liquor and wine storage: Wine racks can line the wall or top a base cabinet (that locks!) for storing the hard stuff.
  • School staging area: Install hooks and base cubbies for backpacks and jackets.

Add Light

More is better, and combining different types of lights is better still:

  • Pendants set at different heights break up a long, dull hallway.
  • Sconces brighten walls and make them look wider.
  • Skylights bring in natural light and perk up the space.
  • Solar tubes funnel light into the space if your hallways don’t have direct access to the sky; some have add-on electric lights.
  • Runway lights at the baseboard create a cool effect and add visual interest.

Borrow Light

Another way to bring in light is to widen doorways and replace wood doors with full or partial glass doors. This works best with doors to laundry rooms, dens, bathrooms, and other non-bedroom spaces.

Used etched glass or frosted glass, which adds a visual punch while protecting privacy and letting light shine through.

Do Away with Walls

In some instances, you may be able to eliminate hallway walls. For example, eliminate the wall between a hallway and a kitchen and you can annex the space to your kitchen.

You can replace load-bearing walls with support beams hidden within a chase or with posts hidden within columns. Make sure you consult a structural engineer or architect who will determine the best way to open space and keep your house from caving in.

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