The Multifunctional Hallway Is the Practical Trend We Can All Appreciate

A new attitude toward the hallway makes the most of every inch of space in your home by transforming these transitional spaces into hard-working living spaces.

Hallway in home with gallery wall
Photo: Alise O'Brien

In 2020, many of us began working (and doing almost everything else) from home. So, if you spent 2020 in a small apartment or house (or you shared your space with several other people), you had few choices but to get creative. As people around the world looked for ways to maximize their spaces, many rooms began to do double-duty, and people quickly realized that a hallway can be more than just a passthrough. 

Folks found lots of practical solutions in their halls, turning an unused nook into the perfect spot for a desk or carving out a makeshift mudroom to organize their families’ newly needed masks and sanitizer and the endless stream of delivery boxes. 

While, thankfully, the world has opened up again, the remote work trend has persisted, and so has the idea that hallways can be functional and beautiful spaces. Now that its potential is being explored, more and more people are realizing that a hallway can be a gorgeous gallery space for an art collection or a gathering space for friends and family with a tiny-but-tidy tucked-away bar.

In fact, hallways can be just about anything! 

So, while not everyone lives in a small space, making the most of what you have makes sense for every home. And to help you get creative with your own hallways, we spoke with an expert to ensure you have all the tips you need to tackle a hallway overhaul. 

living room liquor cabinet round mirror with lamp
Laurey Glenn

Why More People Are Turning Their Hallways Into Multifunctional Spaces

“I have seen small spaces become more valuable to homeowners and renters,” says interiors and entertaining expert Francesco Bilotto

Like so many things, this trend was born out of necessity.

“It goes without saying that every small space in America (OK, the world) was probably transformed into a work from home or school from home area the past couple years,” Bilotto says.

But what was once a necessity has turned into an appreciation of how creative uses of space can really enhance our everyday experiences. Now, “there are some really unique and fun alternatives to taking a closet or an extra small space and turning it into something a little bit more exciting,” Bilotto says.

And staying home isn’t the only cause behind a newfound appreciation of smaller spaces. These more compact homes have less overhead and upkeep and actually allow people the ability to go out more. As more people have shifted into a work-from-home lifestyle out of preference rather than need, they’ve realized that home and work aren’t always static physical locations, and freeing up time and money has allowed for more travel for newly minted digital nomads.

Bilotto also points out that smart design and creative residents have made it so small spaces can pack a big punch, so there’s no need to have a huge space to live large. What’s more important is making the most of the space you do have.

royal blue fainting couch in entryway
David A. Land

How You Can Maximize the Hallways in Your Home

“Hallways are a wonderful opportunity to maximize either storage needs or showcase personal style,” Bilotto says. The smaller size makes a hallway a great place to experiment with splashy styles and bold patterned wallpaper that might be overwhelming (or too expensive!) in a larger room.

The options are nearly endless when it comes to turning your hallways into living spaces.

“Depending on the size, you can even create a WFH area or introduce a library with shelving,” Bilotto says.

But as the functional hallway trend has evolved, people are starting to push the design boundaries even more.

“I’ve definitely seen a trend where people are taking small spaces and turning them into a private little speakeasy in their home,” Bilotto says. “I’ve also seen meditation rooms, pet bedrooms, and in-home content-creating studios happen with some of these tiny spaces.”

But, because of those size constraints, some special considerations come into play when redesigning your hallways.

“The best tip I can offer here is to elevate your furniture,” Bilotto says, “If your space is narrow or small, placing furnishings that are either hung on the wall or have legs that offer foot clearance below helps the space feel a bit more traffic-able.”

He adds that, when it comes to accessories, strategically placed mirrors can help visually enlarge the space.

gallery wall stair landing

Eric Roth

And don’t neglect the lighting: Instead of sticking to purely functional aspects, “think about adding multiple light fixtures in the space,” Bilotto says. “For example, a picture light over art, a floor lamp or table lamp, and of course ceiling lights” all contribute to the feeling of the hall being a living space instead of a transitional area.

Surprisingly, Bilotto says a typical hallway styling tip is actually not the best way to maximize the space.

“I know it’s commonplace to just place a long carpet runner on the floor in a hallway, [but] that also makes it look narrower,” he says. “To make a space feel wider, think about a larger area rug to make the space seem wide,” or choose a more organic shape like a circle or a faux hide to break up the space.

Bilotto also considers the statement ceiling, another one of the most prominent trends of the year, a great way to add extra panache to a hallway.

“Don’t forget your ceilings,” he says. “This is a great opportunity to experiment with paint color. Paint your ceiling a dark tone or do something bold and dramatic here ... While we’re on the subject, painting any doors and trim the same color of the wall also allows a space to feel larger.”

So, if you have big dreams for your small space, don’t be afraid to try something quirky and unique. As Bilotto says, “Where there’s a wall, there’s a way!” It’s never about the amount of space you have; it’s just what you do with it that counts.

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