Redecorating Weekend Special: Hallway of light

Here at the HT office, we are based in a small residential new-build flat and we are using the whole flat to try out redecorating projects that will help you with inspiration and advice on doing up your own homes.

We began things our bathroom (feature on that one tomorrow), but the TL:DR moral of that story was that neither Tania nor her husband, our editor Gary, are any good at decorating. They both got drunk and coloured outside the lines and generally made a huge mess of things. So Tania decided to learn from that experience when she started on the hallway.

“One of the best ways to hide your decorating incompetence is to embrace a more relaxed, shabby chic look,” says Tania, “Really own your mistakes and make it seem as though it was always intentional. If you add beautiful touches in the form of fixtures and fittings that aren’t connected to the painting, you enhance that idea further – that you always meant to have your brushstrokes show and to miss that bit around the radiators.”

We started with a blank canvas, as you can see from the ‘before’ photos here. The newbuild flats were sold with blank white walls, a cream-coloured carpet and all the personality of a limp cheese sandwich. The first thing to do was to get inspired about colours.

A completely blank canvas to work with.

“I have always been a huge fan of Frida Kahlo, even before all the hoop-la around the recent exhibition, and I wanted to bring in some of that colourful vibe as well as the aesthetic of the blue house in Mexico where she lived,” says Tania. “I began by looking for the right blue for the walls. It was too strong a colour to do on the larger rooms in the flat but perfect for a small space such as the hallway.”

Before: Just a bench from adding any kind of interest in this hallway.

Finding the right shade

Paint companies are starting to really help folks with finding the exact right shade that they want. No longer a limited selection and trailing despondently around a hardware store to take home tiny tester pots; you can now find exactly the right shade without leaving home. Valspar will match exactly any colour you want or they have over 2,000 pre-mixed colours that might serve your purpose and give you some ideas. We loved and considered the Blue Lobster shade from them.

Fenwick & Tillbrook’s Inspiration Box

Fenwick and Tillbrook offer an inspiration box of small cards painted with each of the colours they do. This is a really handy way to see what might suit you. You can then order sample pots from them.

However, we ended up buying a pot of paint from Wickes – a 2.5L tub of vinyl matt emulsion called Royal Sapphire (rrp £13.99). It seemed the closest in our eyes to the blue we wanted. We do have a pot of review paint from Valspar to use in the bedroom but that’s a story for another time (one of their pre-mixed colours almost exactly matched the shade of a candle jar that we wanted to use as inspiration for the colour in the bedroom – a great indicator of how many choices the company has in its pre-mixed colours).

A huge choice of colours from Valspar.

The painting had the happy accident of showing up brushstrokes, which actually made it closer to the Casa Azul inspiration, which also shows brushstrokes in the blue of the exterior walls.

Fixtures and fittings

We then upscaled the whole look with some gorgeous fixtures and fittings. Our editor Gary used to work as a lighting tech and so we lucked out in that respect. The plain cheap white light switches were swapped out for pretty-looking duck egg blue ones that we bought for a very reasonable £3.50 each. However, the real showpiece in this redecorating project was the hallway light. We swapped out the ordinary white plastic flex and ceiling rose with a light that we were very kindly sent for review by (usual price £59.90). This was the Chicago LED pendant lamp with gold finish. Here’s a geeky bit of info for you; if you ask a lighting expert for a light bulb, they’ll make a rubbish joke about you needing a garden centre. They call what we mortals call bulbs ‘lamps’ because not all lamps are bulb-shaped, the pedantic so-and-sos. So this is a stunning lamp that also happens to be a globe bulb, which is half reflective gold at the bottom and a great bright but gentle light up top. The design means the light is directed upwards rather than straight down, making it a welcoming choice for this hallway as it spreads in a lovely pattern across the small ceiling space.

After: the right shade of blue on the walls, a stunning light from and a dramatic painting on the wall.

The cord is woven gold flex and the ceiling rose is also gold. The amount of flex with the lamp is long enough to either cut it and use as we did as a high up light or hanging down over a table in another part of the house, as shown by the company’s photo here.

You have enough cord flex to install this light quite low in other parts of the house.

LED lights are better for the environment and lighting folks give them a big thumbs up. Gary, as not just our editor but also a theatre lighting expert, really loves this lamp because it gives a warm light that is perfect for a domestic setting. It really is the making of this space.

Art attack

Finally, we added a Frida print that Tania has carted around for the last 20 years in a bright pink frame in a nod to the inspiration for this part of the flat. The larger dramatic canvas in this space is a painting done by Tania’s younger sister Munazza for her artist portfolio. She had intended to paint over it in order to get a new canvas for new work, but Tania loved it so much that she managed to convince her to gift it to her instead. So Tania’s artist sister’s juvenilia in a gold frame completes the look.

Frida looks over the hallway in approval.

What’s left to do?

Here’s what we’ll be doing to finish up this project:

  1. Finding the perfect large plant in a colourful pot to get some green in the hallway.
  2. Removing the dull, easily stained carpet and putting in blue and cream coloured patterned tiles.
  3. One more light switch to change to blue.
  4. Potentially a framed map of Ireland on the one bare wall of the hallway to enable easier planning of future holidays in the country. (We’re massive fans of maps here at HT headquarters.)
  5. Change the door handles to something quirky and less generic. These are a bit lovely.