What colour to paint a stairway and hallway

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Stairways and hallways are small transition areas that many homeowners overlook. Yet because relatively little time is spent in them, they are excellent spaces in which to experiment with colour and light. A look that might be considered garish in a large living room can provide a pleasing accent in a hallway or stairway. Choose a colour scheme based on the size and location of the space, the look and feel of the rest of the house and the amount of available light.

Size and location

The size and location of the space can help you narrow down colour selections. Consider the mood of the space as well as the rooms it connects to. Are you painting a wide grand staircase that serves as a focal point for your home? Consider luxurious warm colours such as cream or rose, accented with gold or silver. Does your narrow hallway lead to the bedrooms? Consider an inviting yet soothing colour such as pastel blue. Do your stairs lead to the dark, dank basement? Warm up the staircase with sunshine yellow.

Look and feel

Eclectic decorating is chic, so there is no need to make the entire house match. Nonetheless, smooth transitions are generally preferable to jarring changes. What can you see from the hallway or stairway? A subtle colour wash or other faux finish can blend the transition between rooms of very different colours. Do you have furniture in the hallway and, if so, of what style? Country casual furniture pairs well with lighter colours, while massive, dark wood pieces look terrific against bold jewel tones. If your home is sleekly contemporary in style, consider a monochromatic hallway or stairway.

Available light

Many hallways and stairways are dimly lit, receiving little or no natural light. Avoid subtle faux finishes, which may be difficult to see in a relatively dim space. For safety, consider contrasting colours that clearly delineate hand rails, stairs and other features. Or consider adding chandeliers, up-lights or other dramatic lighting effects. Metallic colours and high-gloss finishes reflect a great deal of light and look stunning under focused lighting.

Trust your judgment

There is no right or wrong way to paint a hallway or stairway. Spend a bit of time perusing the paint department at your local DIY centre. Collect free paint chips in your favourite colours, and tape them to the wall that you intend to paint. Mix and match various colours for the ceiling, walls and trim. Live with the paint samples for several days, noting how the colours change with different lighting.

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