IMPROVEMENTS ROOM BY ROOM
HALLS AND STAIRS
In many houses the hall is no more than a passageway from the front door to the foot of the stairs and the doors to downstairs rooms. It’s difficult to make gainful use of such a narrow space and consequently in smaller houses the wall between the hallway and the front room is often demolished to open up the space. The disadvantage of this arrangement is that the front door then opens straight into the living space and that can be inconvenient, as well as causing draughts and heat loss when the door is opened. More over the space gain is more illusory than real since a passageway is still required to and from the front door
and this will limit the way the furnishings can be arranged in the open-plan room. In which case the answer may be to make a feature of the passageway, perhaps by raising the floor and providing steps down into the rooms.
Another way to give the illusion of space, but retain the passageway and some seclusion around the front door, is to pierce the dividing wall with narrow open strips rather than demolishing it altogether – see drawing. (This can also be an effective solution for dealing with the wall between two main rooms – a dining room and a living room perhaps.) The narrow openings could be glazed or fitted with display shelves —of glass perhaps —or left entirely open.
An alternative treatment for a narrow uninteresting hallway is to create a lobby by installing a second door and frame partway down the corridor. If the front door is glazed or has a skylight above, a skylight can be installed above the second door to allow a shaft of light into the inner hall space, or the second door could itself be glazed.
A larger hall is of course much easier to use gainfully, if only as a place for a telephone or to hang coats and dump briefcases and other paraphernalia. It also helps to give a house a more open feeling. There are still some other improvements that might be worth considering, for instance if there is no existing porch, it may be possible to move the front door inwards to create a recessed porch. If the front doorway is narrow it may be desirable to fit a wider one or to install double doors, so that large objects, a pram for instance, can be manoeuvred through more easily.
Stairs invariably lead away from hallways and the space under the stairs is another area ripe for alteration. In most homes it isn’t feasible to remove, or alter the staircase, but one idea is to build an extension to house a new staircase and use the space created in the main area as two new rooms (one upstairs and one down).
Where the hail is narrow and underused it is often knocked through into an adjacent living room. Raising the hall floor (left) or creating a partition (right) helps to maintain the passageway while opening up the space. A mirrored wall can also be effective (above right).