How to lighten a dark hallway - genius design tips to brighten a gloomy corridor

Make the entrance to your home feel bright and welcoming with these simple design tips

Hallway with black and white tiled patterned floors.
(Image credit: Future)

One of the age old interior decor dilemmas is how to lighten a dark hallway. It can often feel like a dumping ground for post, shoes, and bikes, which is only made worse by a dreary atmosphere. In short, it's no pleasant place to bypass multiple times a day, let alone to return home to. 

Luckily, there are many ways to add light to a tricky hallway. From clever colour choices (spoiler, it's not all white) to optical illusions that will have your corridor looking twice the size, there are many ways you can elevate the space. Plus, many of these ideas can be achieved with a lick of paint or an affordable update.

How to lighten a dark hallway

First impressions count, so you want your hallway to feel welcoming and sun-infused. 'Your hallway is where you greet your guests, the first thing you see when you get home, and the entry point for all new household items,' echoes Dominic Walsh, Managing Director of Off the Grain

So, you need a small hallway to look illuminated, and feel positive and homely. The atmosphere of the space plays a huge part in this, starting with the light that fills it. These top tips will help you to brighten even the darkest of hallways, so that no matter the size of your home, it feels spacious. 

1. Look to lighting

Hallway with navy accents and large pendant light.

(Image credit: Future)

One of the most common ways of adding light to a dark hallway is through your lighting fixtures. If you're lacking natural light, then turning to an artificial source will be essential. 

A large pendant light will make a statement in a narrow hallway and as well as offering a chic design feature, will easily illuminate the area. It's also wise to vary your light sources to add depth to the space. For example, combine a pendant light with a lamp on a console table for added ambience. 

'It may seem obvious but incorporating different lighting is a great way to brighten your space. Achieve the most light by using a range of different light sources at different levels throughout your hallway,' says Anna Elkington, Interiors Expert at Melody Maison

'Use a mixture of wall/ceiling fixtures, floor lamps and table lamps and ensure the bulbs aren't yellow toned as this will create warm lighting which is often associated with small and cosy spaces.'

2. Embrace the darkness

Navy hallway with matching stairs and walls.

(Image credit: Future)

We know it sounds counter-intuitive, but if you're faced with a dark hallway then why not lean into it? Instead of an entryway feeling drab, it will instead appear dark on purpose. Statement black and navy paint choices are gaining popularity largely thanks to hotel interiors, so incorporating the aesthetic into the entrance of your home is bound to make an impact. 

By maxing out on a dark shade on your stairs, walls, and even radiator, you can easily achieve a hallway colour scheme that feels like a warm and welcoming hug when you return home. 

3. Add light from the bottom up

Hallway with black and white tiled patterned floors.

(Image credit: Future)

The bare bones of your entryway will greatly impact how light it feels. Work from the floor up with a clever hallway flooring choice that doesn't make the area feel weighted and dreary. 

'Using light tones on the floors is an important method for making a tiny corridor feel broader,' advises Charlotte O'Neill, Home Designer at Raison Home. 'Choosing lighter colours offers the illusion of spaciousness and brightness.'

One way of achieving this is by opting for Scandi-inspired light wood, or alternatively light-coloured floor tiles. Large floor tiles will also help to reduce visual clutter, opening up the space and making it feel brighter from the ground up.

4. Add in mirrors

hallway with grey wall, round mirror and mirrored cabinet

(Image credit: Future)

Making a dark hallway appear lighter is all about creating the illusion of a wider, larger space. Mirrors are a convenient source of light that also functions as a handy spot to check your hair on the way out the door. It also means you can make a narrow hallway look wider, as well as brighter.

'Mirrors are the master of giving the illusion of space. They immediately bounce light around rooms, making everything feel more open and spacious,' echoes Vicki Foster, Interior Stylist at ScS. 

'Placing mirrors opposite rooms or in corners that need brightening up is a fantastic solution to expanding the light of a room in a natural, non-intrusive way. One at the end of a hallway will bounce any light back into the room, making the whole space feel bigger.'

5. Paint all the way up

Hallway with blue paint on walls and skirting boards with pink door

(Image credit: Future)

If a colourful home is a non-negotiable, then make sure you take a hallway paint idea all the way up to make the space feel brighter. A rich colour scheme can sometimes make a corridor feel enclosed and gloomy, but by matching the trim to the wall colour, it will instead appear expertly designed.

'Painting your trim and wall the same colour is an easy way to maximize space in your corridor, especially when using a light shade. This technique creates the illusion of more height in corridors and if your ceiling is also the same shade it will make the space flow better,' Anna advises.  

6. Update your doors

Hallway with built in cupboards and glass double doors at the end.

(Image credit: Future)

In many homes, a hallway will have have many connecting doors off to the rest of your home, and in some it might even run all the way through your property from the front to back. With many additional doorways, it can be a great opportunity to maximise the light that flows throughout the entire downstairs.  

Adding glass-panelled internal doors will help to make a hallway feel more spacious and plenty lighter, especially if the front of your home is north-facing. This will ensure you have a natural source of light entering your hallway at some point during each day. 

7. Add a runner

Hallway with navy stairs and cupboard with jute stair runner

(Image credit: Future)

A stair runner is an easy way to create the illusion of more space in a hallway. It will draw the eye upwards throughout the length of the room, making an entrance feel more generous. 

Opting for a jute or pale-toned runner will elevate this even further, adding a pop of brightness to a stairway. Find an option using home decor discount codes so you're not adding too much onto the initial cost of decorating this space.

'You can use a rug with bright colours in order to lighten up the space. This can be a great non-permanent solution for tackling dark flooring that may be constricting your hallway,' Anna recommends.

8. Go for all white

White hallway with shoe storage and plants.

(Image credit: Future)

Want to walk into a bright, minimal hallway at the end of every busy day or rushed morning? A white hallway is the best place to start, as there will be no visual distractions that could make an entryway feel dark.  

Not only does this look pared-back and super sleek, but it also means you don't need to worry about the clutter that inevitably appears in everyday life. White is also easy to style with art and decorative accessories such as indoor plants, so you can still create an on-trend hallway space without excess colour.

9. Opt for half height

Hallway with navy half height wall panelling and wooden bench.

(Image credit: Future)

If you're set on including dark paint in your hallway but want to make it feel as light as possible, then consider a half-height design. The top half of the wall will have the biggest impact on whether an area feels spacious or restricted, so by placing a dark colour on the bottom half, you can maintain a lighter look. 

One way of achieving this is with a dado rail to create a sophisticated look, or alternatively, wall panelling offers a great opportunity to max out on colour and texture. You can then take this colour into other design features in the entryway such as with art or accessories to make it look right on trend. 

10. Add greenery

Indoor bench in a white hallway next to stairs and bannister.

(Image credit: Future PLC)

One way to lighten a dark and dreary hallway is by bringing more life into it. Instead of shying away from decor in the fear it will overcrowd the narrow space, instead focus on adding bursts of greenery through flowers and house plants

'Many indoor plants are remarkably easy to take care of, and they’re good for your mental health to boot,' says Kelly Collins, Head of Creative at Swyft. So, even if your hallway is lacking in sunlight, you can easily keep a plant alive, and reap the rewards from it in terms of adding to a bright and lively home.

What colour paint will brighten a dark hallway?

Your first thought when painting a hallway to make it appear brighter would be to stick to neutral tones, like white. While you won't do any harm with a white interior and it will certainly help to make an entryway feel spacious, you can also play around with colour. 

'A light and neutral colour palette is an age-old trick for brightening small spaces as it reflects the light making your hallway appear more spacious,' says Anna. 

'You can easily layer a range of neutral shades to create some dimension within your space and If you are a fan of deep shades, fear not, you can still incorporate some rich colours without overwhelming your hallway. Just remember to make sure you are cautious and use them sparingly.'

Dominic Walk, Managing Director at Off the Grain, adds 'You might also want to add a bit of colour. Dopamine dressing is creeping into our homes, so why not embrace the want for bright colours and standout features by letting your hallway fill with oranges or pinks?'

How to brighten a dark hallway with no natural light

A lack of natural light is one of the most common causes for a dark hallway. If the front of your house is north-facing or the windows are small/non-existent, then you will face an even larger challenge of brightening the space. 

'Lighting is a big problem for small spaces,' says Dominic. 'If you have a long hallway, consider installing multiple spotlights down the length of it rather than a singular light trying to illuminate the whole area.'

'And don’t worry if you don’t have sockets – you can invest in battery-powered lamps as a solution – meaning there are no plugs and wires to trip over either!' 

In short, when there are no sources of natural light, look to artificial lighting instead. There are many ways you can add lighting to your hallway so that it's illuminated at any time of day, and combining a multitude of these methods is the key to ensuring that your entryway feels bright.

Holly Cockburn
Content Editor

After starting out her journey at Future as a Features Editor on Top Ten Reviews, Holly is now a Content Editor at Ideal Home, writing about the best interior ideas and news. At Top Ten Reviews, she focussed on TikTok viral cleaning hacks as well as how to take care of investment purchases such as lawn mowers, washing machines and vacuum cleaners. Prior to this, Holly was apart of the editorial team at Howdens which sparked her interest in interior design, and more specifically, kitchens (Shaker is her favourite!).