Hallway lighting ideas for narrow, small and dark spaces
Illuminating hallway lighting ideas from the experts and interior designers, to start your home off as you mean to go on
Hallway lighting ideas are an essential part of modern home design. Most hallways are dark, unlit by windows, long and narrow. Hallway ideas tend to be around making the most more generally of these unloved spaces, but now it's time to get granular with these bright suggestions.
The market is saturated with various lighting options, from pendants and chandeliers to flush mounts and recessed fixtures—not to mention wall sconces. But in a narrow space like a hallway, what light is right? Read on for some expert advice from interior designers.
How do you select a lighting fixture for your hallway?
“Go with what speaks to you,” suggests Christina Nielsen. “Invest in timeless, versatile pieces that you won’t tire of.”
According to Kati Curtis, it’s okay to embrace a small, narrow space and select a dramatic fixture. “Go crazy with a funky or large-scale piece that speaks to you,” she says. “Oversize fixtures are like artwork—they really make a statement. Just be sure to think about the architecture of the home and what makes sense. And if the hall isn’t too narrow, I love adding sconces, too.”
Another thing to consider is if there will be artwork displayed in the hallway. “Art lighting is important, whether it’s picture lights or another type of wall fixture,” says Andrea Schumacher.
For a hallway with low ceilings, Schumacher gravitates toward a flush mount in an unexpected shape, such as a flower blossom. And if you don’t have the budget to replace your regular can lights with elaborate fixtures, the designer suggests switching them out for gimbal lights, which can be adjusted to redirect the light beam. “You want the gimbal lights pointing toward the wall as opposed to straight down and onto the faces of passersby. It’s an easy and inexpensive fix.”
How do you know what size fixture to choose?
“If you have the height, use it,” says interior designer Betsy Wentz. “Go as big as you can and drop the fixture down to help fill the space.”
Designer Christina Nielsen agrees, adding that a fixture as long as three feet would work in a double-height space. “When it comes to width,” she says, “you can go as wide as you like.”
Melanie Roy will often hang an oversize pendant light in an effort to “create a focal point and make the space feel grander.” This works well as part of narrow hallway ideas where it helps to make the room feel wider.
Interior designer Marika Meyer explains that it’s easier to break the rules in a hallway than in another area of the home. “It’s okay to go dramatic and exaggerated,” she says. In fact, according to the designer Kevin Isbell, “most people err on the side of too small when it comes to fixtures. For example, a 48-inch-wide rice paper lantern can add interest, dimension, and tension to a hallway.” And sconces are a great additional source of light and ambience, but designers say that they should be kept to a maximum depth of four inches in a narrow hall.
But no matter the fixture, it’s always a good idea to map everything out before ordering. “Just be sure to locate vents, speakers, and grills before deciding on the fixtures, as these functional items can sometimes create lighting barriers,” cautions Meyer.
What is the best lighting for a narrow hallway?
“A translucent fixture that bounces light off the ceiling instead of simply shooting it down works well,” says the designer Melanie Roy, who often uses glass fixtures, reflective fixtures, or linear suspension lighting that adds dimension to a space. “I especially love a series of pendants.”
Isbell gravitates toward organic shapes in a long, narrow corridor. “In a linear space like this, globes or something with curves is a nice counterpoint,” he says. Pendants and chandeliers are great for a hallway with high ceilings, but if not, flush mounts or semi flush mounts might be the way to go. “You can even pair flush mounts with interesting sconces,” says Meyer, who also likes installing bell jar fixtures when space allows. When the hall is really tight, Michelle Gerson thinks about staircase ideas instead, turning to stair lighting, which are strip lights that sit into a reveal above the baseboard.
How do you light a narrow hallway?
When it comes to installing the fixtures, there is no hard-fast rule concerning hanging height, but most designers agree that the minimum clearance between the floor and the bottom of the fixture is seven feet.
In addition to the height of a person walking beneath the fixtures, also consider the height of any nearby doors that might need to clear the fixture (doors are typically seven feet tall).
In hallways with low ceilings (less than eight feet tall, and that require some small hallway ideas), Betsy Wentz often installs a series of flush mounts, one every couple of feet. “Using multiple fixtures in a long hallway creates an experience,” she says. Roy does the same thing, explaining that the repetition “creates the illusion of a grand space.”
Should hallway lights be bright?
“Many people make the mistake of lighting a hallway like it’s an airport runway, but rarely would you need it that bright,” says Isbell. “It should always be modulated using a dimmer.” Meyer concurs, explaining that’s it’s nice to have a dimmer with at least 180 watts just in case you’re carrying something and need more light.
During a cocktail party, however, “you might want to create more of a mood,” says Curtis. Not all light bulbs are created equal, though. “My lighting is always on a dimmer for ambient light, but I avoid the cold LED light bulbs,” notes Wentz. “Instead, I’ll go for something that’s medium-warm.”
For Warner Rothblum, it’s simple: “The hallways should be consistent with the main living areas. These spaces should feel like the rest of the home.”
Alyssa Bird is a New York−based freelance writer and editor with experience covering architecture, interior design, travel, hospitality, and real estate. She has held editorial positions at Architectural Digest, Elle Decor, Hamptons Cottages & Gardens, and New York Cottages &Gardens. When she’s not writing about dreamy spaces, you can find her tweaking the decor in her own Brooklyn home, honing her green thumb, testing out a new recipe, or scouring for antiques.
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