The Dos and Don'ts of Styling a Narrow Hallway

Loyal listeners of the Big Design, Small Budget podcast may already be experts at styling a narrow hallway. But for those who don’t listen (what are you waiting for?!), we’ll fill you in on all the tips you need to make the most of a long and narrow space.

First take the chicken test.

Most people assume that a narrow hallway is the perfect spot for a gallery wall or artwork in general. But sometimes it’s actually not ideal! To figure out whether it will work, follow Betsy’s “Chicken Test”: stand in the hallway, place your thumbs under your armpits to form chicken wings and spread them out! If you have plenty of room to do the chicken dance, hang all the art you want! But if your wings touch — or come very close to touching — the walls on either side, forget the artwork, lest you end up bumping into your perfectly hung prints each time you pass by. But don’t worry, there are plenty of other options to add visual interest to your hallway.

Lay down a runner.

A long runner is a great way to fill the space and can do the job of bringing in color, which the artwork would otherwise have done.  Leaving a 3” border of floor space on either side of the runner has the additional benefit of making the hallway seem wider than it actually is.

Add architectural details, such as wainscoting.

Wainscoting is not the simplest fix, but if you can swing it, it’s a fabulous way to break up the wall, giving it character. It’s also a lovely finishing touch for a traditional, transitional, or eclectic home.

Make mirrors work, if you can.

Mirrors are an easy way to make a space feel bigger (or wider). While we wouldn’t suggest framed mirrors in a hallway that didn’t pass the chicken test, you can take advantage of existing wainscoting or paneling to inset the mirrors.

Focus on the end of the hallway.

When facing a narrow hallway, your eye naturally goes toward the end of the hall, so why not take advantage of that focal point? Hang a large piece of art in the center of an opposing wall; place an attractive accent chair in the corner accompanied by a piece of art; or paint the wall a contrasting color.


Do you have more questions about long, narrow hallways or anything else? Leave a comment below! And don’t forget to tune into our podcast!


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