The Best Light and Bright Paint Colours for a Dark Hallway or Staircase
(and some other great tips…)
If there’s one space in a home that is usually dark and shadowed, it’s the hallway. The majority of hallways are narrow, gloomy and leave little room for visual interest and excitement.
And we WILL get to visual interest and excitement…another day. TODAY we’re talking about paint colours because if your walls aren’t the right colour, there’s nothing that will save you.
So before I introduce the actual colours, let’s talk about some meat n’ potatoes stuff (you know, the basics).
LRV and Dark Hallways/Staircases
LRV matters a lot in a dark hallway. Why? Well, with very little natural light to throw around you want to make sure that your paint colour is working hard for you, throwing whatever light it can grab around the room. What is LRV? It basically refers to how much light a paint colour reflects or absorbs. Trust me, you need to read more about this, so check out this blog post… Paint Colours and LRV – The Ultimate Guide You Need to Read.
Now there are light-er and bright-er colours than the ones listed below, but I didn’t want to bore you to death with various versions of off-white (I’ll let this post do that). And I’m not going to lie and say that these colours will BLOW YOUR MIND with personality…they probably won’t. However, they might just be a happy medium between a colour with a high LRV (that might ultimately bore the heckadoody out of you) and colours that are just too intense and heavy to toss down a stairwell or hallway.
Light Fixtures and Hallways
Unless you have a row of pot lights, there shouldn’t be any fixtures in your hallway that hold only one bulb. ONE STINKIN’ BULB, what do you expect it to do – work miracles? Seriously, if you have only 1 fixture it should hold 3 – 60w bulbs. If you have 2 fixtures, they should each hold at least 2 – 60w bulbs (but the more the merrier as you can always reduce the wattage if you find it to be too much).
If you don’t have enough lighting, there is NO paint colour that will save you – don’t expect your paint to be a miracle worker.
One of the best ways to get adequate lighting is with a flush mount or semi-flush mount light fixture. Sure, there are more exciting lights (shown in the photo below) but for the sake of cost and availability, sometimes a flush-mount does the trick!
To see some great flush and semi-flush mount options, check out this blog post: Budget Friendly Light Update: Contains Graphic Content
You also shouldn’t have bulbs that take like 5 minutes to get to their full power (a fave of husbands worldwide). By the time the light actually starts working at full force, you’ll probably be on your 2nd glass of wine and on the other side of the house.
Are there exceptions to the ‘more than 1 bulb’ rule? Sure.
- If you have more than 2 fixtures down a long hallway
- If it’s a very very small hallway
- If the glass is clear and the bulb is full wattage (even then, it’s borderline)
- If you have the right paint colour and decor to off-set a room that maybe doesn’t have as much light as it could have
Contrast – Trim and Paint Colour
This is a trickier one. Some of you have white (or off-white trim), whereas others have wood trim – so this changes things slightly.
Why? Damn you for making me think beyond the reach of my wine glass…
If you have white trim
White trim with a light paint colour is low contrast. This keeps things not only bright, but also bigger looking (wider). White trim with a medium or dark paint colour is high contrast, which can make a space look more busier and smaller (but more interesting).
BM Stonington Gray in a moderately lit hallway
If you have dark or wood trim
Medium or dark trim (wood or painted) with a light paint colour is HIGH contrast. Now your space WILL look brighter via the wall colour, however, the contrast between the trim and the walls can actually make it look more cluttered and small. So it’s not that your space will look darker, you just wont get the full-bodied effect of white trim/light walls.
Could you paint your walls a light/medium tone to blend in a bit more with your dark trim? You could, as this would lower the contrast level, making things look more simple and seamless. However, it won’t make your hallway feel any ‘brighter’. BUT (J-lo sized), if you can supplement with MORE than adequate lighting and decor (mirror) you can make up for a less than bright paint colour and perhaps find a happy medium.
If you want to know more about paint colours with wood trim, you may want to check out this blog post The Best Paint Colours for Dark Wood Trim
But for the rest of you, let’s move along!
Edgecomb Gray just might be my new fave neutral. It’s like the perfect blend of berries, earth and tannins. Oh wait, was I talking about wine again? Edgecomb Gray is like the perfect blend of gray, beige and cream – giving it a warm greige feeling without committing to ANY one of those 3 colours.
We used Edgecomb Gray throughout all of the main living areas in my clients home (shown above) and I LOVED how it shifted between gray, beige and cream on a room-to-room basis!
The LRV of Edgecomb is 63, so slightly under my starting point. I might be inclined to lighten it by 25% just to tip it back into my happy place. You can also check out BM Natural Cream for a colour that is similar and just a shift lighter.
Want to add a bit more depth? Be careful as greige’s can get MIGHT dingy looking if you don’t have the right lighting,
Creamy/Warm: Sherwin Williams Creamy SW 7012
It’s no secret that gray and greige are the most popular paint colours these days, however, when you are the mood for something warmer, Creamy hits the spot!
Let me tell you, this is one dark hallway (my own home) and I had to get an independent lamp to light the end of my hallway. For everyday living the normal lights are fine, but when it comes to photos, DAMMIT I need more light!
And even though my hallway is naturally not the brightest, I chose Benjamin Moore Gray 2121-10 for a wicked accent wall along the back, this adds visual interest to what could otherwise be, a kind of ho-hum space.
This here is a pretty darned realistic shot of daytime living in our home. You can see how Creamy is significantly lighter and brighter in the well-lit areas, but doesn’t fall too flat down the hallway which had no lights on when this photo was taken.
Want to add a bit more depth? Check out…
- BM Navajo White for a more creamy/yellow look
Gray: Benjamin Moore Gray Owl
Definitely one of my faves (do I say that a lot?). Gray Owl is a beautiful light gray paint colour with passive blue/green undertones. These undertones seem to pop up a bit more with northern exposure, but even then, they are pretty subtle.
Gray Owl has an LRV of 65, coming in right on the starting line.
With my client Jen, we used Gray Owl throughout her main floor (open layout) as well as the darker hallway area and it turned out PERFECT. With a beautiful gallery wall to add some visual interest, the hallway looks much better than when it started!
Before: This home was too beautiful to have a hallway so dark and uninviting!
After: With a fresh coat of paint and a gallery wall, it’s now family friendly and inviting!
Want to add a bit more depth or colour? Be careful, but check out…
- BM Stonington Gray which is a light gray with a stormy blue undertone
- I also love the subtle, slightly more colourful appeal of BM Gray Cashmere, a gray/blue/green blend that leans a touch more blue.
Want to know the best paint colour for YOUR hallway?
Check out my affordable E-Decor Services and Online Color Consulting!
Kylie M Interiors Based in Nanaimo, Vancouver Island BC E-Decor, Design and Online Color Consulting Services