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Making an entrance: arriving home in style

This post is part of a series of tips on interior design and working with an interior designer.

Last week we looked at how to make a good first impression – how your home looks and feels as you approach it from the outside can make all the difference. This week let’s move inside to the entrance hall and make sure the good impression outside doesn’t fall flat when you get inside.

And if you’re in a flat, don’t forget the communal areas. Is there anything you can do between the main front door and your front door to make it feel like part of your home? Think of a better solution for sorting the post? Add a plant, a light, pictures? Can you personalise the outside of your flat’s door with a doormat, number, a picture?


Living etc August 2010

Living etc August 2010

You can be bold and experimental in a transitional space such as a hall, as people are just passing through rather than spending time. Consider making the hall dark and full of drama, then when you pass through into the main rooms, they will appear larger, lighter and brighter. If you’re nervous about making a big statement in your living room or bedroom, the hall (or guest bedroom, or downstairs loo) is the ideal place to try out some ideas – you don’t have to sit and stare at it but you may just decide that you’d like to!


Use colour to change the apparent shape of the hall. A darker tone will appear to be closer than it is, a lighter tone will recede. You can create this effect dramatically, with highly contrasting colours, or subtly, with a tone just a few shades lighter / darker. So paint the end of a long corridor (or the door at the end) a dark shade, the side walls lighter, to shorten and widen the hall. Do the opposite to lengthen a small square space. You can also create this effect with the lighting – see below.


Step away from white as your go-to colour for woodwork and the ceiling – look at the other colours you’re considering for the walls. If they are light, how about a slightly darker shade for the woodwork? What about the same colour for everything, walls and woodwork, with a slightly lighter tone on the ceiling?


If you want to use wallpaper but are worried about durability in a space that is at high risk of knocks, bumps and scrapes, consider a dado rail with paint below and paper above. Then you can just touch up the paint when necessary. Use the same colour paint as the walls on the dado rail and skirting for a less fussy look.


Go for a few large items rather than lots of small ones – unless the small ones are part of a large group.

Use what you need

Particularly in a small hall, make a feature out of essentials – flooring, storage, lighting, heating. For example, have a statement radiator rather than hiding the one you need behind a cover and pretending it’s not there. Use patterned tiles on the floor for hardwearing decoration you can walk on. Choose a beautiful coat stand or hooks that you love to look at. And, if your ceilings are high, a stunning pendant or chandelier. Then, you may only have the essentials but you need nothing else for a beautiful, functional space. No clutter, no mess.

Look at what and who you love

Consider a wall of art or family photos. If you’re like me, you don’t want to look at photos of yourself all the time. But it’s nice to see photos and memories of family and friends. Put them in the hall or up the stairs in a large group and you can see them as you walk past every day but they’re not watching you while you relax at home. Or do it with art. Or kids’ drawings. Just put everything in similar colour frames to pull the collection together. And set them out on the floor to play with the layout before you hang them.

Double what you have

Mirrors are great in a hall both for that last minute check before you leave the house, and to bounce light around the space. Particularly in a narrow hall, consider a mirror on one or both sides to open up the space as you come in. This could be decoratively framed, or put a mirror in an alcove or on a storage cupboard door for a more integrated solution.


Of all the floors in your home, the hall floor needs to be hardwearing and easy to clean. Make it special and you won’t need much else in the way of decoration.

Pattern and colour

Patterned tiles give a hit of colour and pattern and mop clean easily, whether traditional Victorian, Spanish encaustic or somewhere in between. No rug required.

Texture and shape

Inexpensive individual rugs create an interesting runner that's not too precious.  Living etc July 2012

Inexpensive individual rugs create an interesting runner that’s not too precious. Living etc July 2012

Wood or plain tiles is another easy-clean solution. The shape and layout of these will affect how they appear. Parquet gives a wonderful texture that can appear as modern or traditional as you like. Floorboards can be wide, narrow, laid lengthwise (to lengthen the space and draw the eye down the hall) or crosswise (to foreshorten the space). And painted, varnished, stained or oiled for any colour and finish that you like. Plain tiles come in a myriad of colours and shapes, and can be laid in grids, brick formation, random… You could have plain tiles with a ‘rug’ of patterned tiles in the centre for a focal point. You could even have a touch of underfloor heating under this central point – a cosy surprise in a shoes-off house.

Rugs and runners – great for texture and acoustics, but also at attracting dirt and mud. Possibly a risk that they could be unintentionally used as an additional doormat. So I would go for easy-clean if at all.

Practical but not boring

Dark may be practical but it doesn’t have to be dingy. How about a glossy black floor for a floor that doesn’t show the dirt but also bounces light around the place? Also, particularly if you don’t have a porch, recess your floormat into the floor for a smoother transition and an effortless way to keep it in place.


Plan it

Think about what you need to store and plan where it’s going to go. Keys, coats, shoes, umbrellas, hats, gloves, sunglasses…

Build it

Built in storage is great for a small space. If you’re lucky and you have dimensions that will work, for a cost-effective version, buy ready made storage units and build them in. How about building it around the door for lots of useful space you’ll hardly notice as you pass through, but you won’t be able to live without once it’s there? If you have a lot of books and a long hall (or a long landing upstairs), how about a long low level bookcase to give you lots of storage you’ll barely notice, and a surface on top for display?

Hide it

Whatever you go for, make sure your keys aren’t in view – or in reach! – from the letterbox, particularly car keys.


As with the colour, you can go for more drama in a transitional space. And make it dimmable (or have separate bright lights for dark winter mornings and lower levels of light for the evening) so that you don’t get the feeling you’ve triggered a security breach and the floodlights as you leave the living room for a comfort break half way through the film..

Shape up

Remember that the areas you light will appear further away when you look at the space. So you could light the walls in a narrow hall to make it seem wider. Or light the end to make it seem longer. You don’t need to rewire the whole house to do this – see if you can use plug in lamps or ceiling spotlights in your existing fitting to get the effect.

Light up

If you are rewiring, or building new, you can recess 1 Watt LED spotlights into the floor to highlight arches, doorways, walls. If you are looking to do this with other uplighters, whether fitted or plug-in, please check that they don’t get hot, particularly if you have children or pets around.

Layer up

If you have high ceilings, a statement pendant or chandelier will give you drama and personality, even when it’s off. But it will be a bit flat if it’s the only light source. So supplement it with table lamps, spotlights and/or uplights.

Was this useful?  Do you have any ideas to add?  Let me know in the comments!

Coming soon – specific tips for individual rooms, lighting, tips on how to use colour, choose floorings, wall coverings, paint…

If you have any questions you’d like me to answer in this series, leave a comment or send a message via the website – I’d be delighted to help!

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Kerb appeal: you never get a second chance to make a first impression

This post is part of a series on interior design and working with an interior designer.

For our first look at how to make the most of each of the rooms in your home, I’ve actually chosen an area outside – the entrance. Whilst this may not normally fall within the realms of interior design, how your home looks from the street or driveway sets the tone for what lies within. In fact, if you’re selling up, it’s one of the key areas to polish up for a speedy sale.

Even if it’s just you and the occasional visitor entering your home, don’t depress yourself before you’ve even opened your front door because you’ve edged past 4 overflowing bins, tripped in the dark and spent several minutes in the rain trying to find the right key and put it in the right lock.

Consider these ideas, and increase your chances of arriving home with a smile on your face.

The approach

Whether you have a generous front garden, a small patch and some steps, or a front door opening straight onto the street, keep it clean and tidy, and consider the lighting. The smaller the space is, the more these principles apply.


With a small city front ‘garden’, focus on a few bold low maintenance plants, whether in pots or directly into the ground, and perhaps some window boxes. Dare I say it, you can even get some excellent faux shrubs today, such as box plants and bay trees, that will provide you with some greenery and require no maintenance other than perhaps a quick wash down every now and then. Try Green Interiors or The Artificial Plant Shop. However, if you are happy with a little more upkeep, fragrant plants such as lavender, rosemary, or perhaps a scented climber such as jasmine, honeysuckle or clematis, will give you a real welcome home. We got ours from Silk Tree – great plants at a good price with friendly service.

Hard landscaping

For your surfaces, reduce the upkeep required by going for gravel and paving, with plants directly in the ground (rather than pots, that will always need watering). But before you pave it all over in the name of low maintenance, check whether you need planning permission, and be aware that you may be required to use a porous material (to allow rainwater to be absorbed into the ground rather than run off into the drains). If you’re going for pots, the bigger the better, both for greater impact and to increase the likelihood that they will stay in your possession and not be taken uninvited for a walk…


Hmm. Whilst I wholly support maximum recycling of waste, the large number of bins now required to process it all has not been good for the front garden. Ever-present, particularly in front of terraced houses, disguise these eyesores by creating a designated bay behind trellis, fencing, or wooden mini-huts for them to reside in when it’s not bin day. Make sure the view looks good from both the street and your home – I never understand it when people hide bins beautifully from the street and make them the first thing they see when they leave the house in the morning! Plan to include them rather than pretend they will disappear if you forget about them. And don’t make it too hard to pull them in and out of their hiding place or you won’t bother.

The door

Whether your front door could do with replacing or just a new coat of paint, if you’re in a street of similar houses, look at your neighbours to see what they’ve done. Then you can decide if you want to blend in or stand out.

Supersize it

How about this for a front door – 8 metres high! (Living etc, June 2007)

If you’re replacing the door, make more of an impact by increasing the size of the door, and choosing a solid door from sustainably produced wood. If you have a dark hall, you’ll probably want to include some glazing in or around the door. This should be made of toughened glass and can be etched for more privacy. Look at The London Door Company and Urban Front for more ideas.

Dress it

As for door furniture, don’t scrimp on the quality. You can dress up an inexpensive door with quality furniture but cheap fittings on a quality door will cheapen the whole effect. Don’t assume you have to buy new if you want to make a change – try Lassco or Salvo for vintage fittings and you could save some pennies too. Or check out Beardmore or Turnstyle Designs for new (both made in England).

Number it

For your house number, if you have a glass panel above the door, the possibilities are endless with stickers – try Purlfrost.  Or look for interesting numbers at Willow and Stone or HouseBling via Not On The High Street.

The colours and facade

When you’re planning the colours, you’ll want to consider both what the neighbours have done (if they’re visible) and what your home is like on the inside. Again, do you want to blend in or stand out? A dark entrance will make your home seem much lighter when you enter. A bright door might make you smile when you come home.


You can get away with stronger colours outside as they will be bleached with the sun, so paint some testers onto card and hang each from the door to see what you think, both in daylight and at night. At the same time, consider the whole picture. You may have other areas you can paint too: window frames; pots and window boxes; railings, fences or walls. Do you want to use complementary or contrasting colours for these areas? Or you could use the same colour, some items in a gloss finish, some in matt, for a more subtle and contemporary effect.


Finally, consider what the windows look like from outside – do you have shutters, curtains, sheers visible from the outside? Could you line curtains with an interesting fabric for a bit of contrast when viewed from outside? Can people see more than you want them to? Consider translucent stickers from the likes of Brume or Purlfrost, sheer curtains or blinds. Or perhaps a densely packed window box outside, or vases inside, will be all you need.


Consider the lighting of your entrance both from the safety / functional angle, and also how to enhance the look of your home.

What to light

Beautifully lit by John Cullen Lighting

Beautifully lit by John Cullen Lighting

At a minimum, you need to be able to see where you’re walking, where to put the keys, and, hopefully, to be able to confirm that there’s no-one unexpected hanging around. So, put some LED spots to wash across any steps (every other step should be enough) and think about what you can highlight for decorative effect. Do you have pillars, columns, an arch that you can uplight? Fit some 1 Watt LED uplighters to highlight these. If that gives you enough light to get the keys in the lock, even better. Don’t overdo it though – you don’t want every plant and window uplit all evening.

When to light it

You can put the lights on a motion sensor so that they light up when someone approaches, with a manual override so that you can choose to leave them on if you’re expecting anyone.

How to light it

For more decorative lights with visible fittings, go for quality materials that will last a long time and improve with age. Consider how different materials can change the appearance of the same item – if you have a contemporary interior in an old house, fitting traditional lighting in a modern finish could be a nod to what lies within, whilst remaining in keeping with the history visible on the outside.

And, as with any lighting, go for warmer bulbs for a more welcoming and flattering finish. No-one needs to arrive home – or to someone else’s home – in ice-blue floodlit splendour.

Was this useful?  Do you have any ideas to add?  Let me know in the comments!

Coming soon – specific tips for individual rooms, lighting, tips on how to use colour, choose floorings, wall coverings, paint…

If you have any questions you’d like me to answer in this series, leave a comment or send a message via the website – I’d be delighted to help!

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