Decorating Auxiliary Home Spaces

When decorating your home, don't overlook spaces like this second-floor sitting area.
©Jane Base, ASID, and Joy Wolfe, ASID, Martin Fine

A foyer is where guests pause to shed coats or park briefcases; hallways are your routes to here and there; landings are where you stop to catch your breath. Mudrooms, laundry rooms, attics -- all these unappreciated spaces have a role. With a little creativity, you can make them charming and functional.

Sometimes referred to as a vestibule or entrance hall, a foyer should be a preview of what's ahead -- in color and style. If the rest of your house is formal, for instance, a chandelier would be an inkling as to the gracious living room that follows. If you're the casual type, skip crystal and think black iron. Light neutral colors expand small foyers; uplifting colors like lemon-yellow or orange will make them cheerful; rich dark shades such as burgundy or chocolate lend an elegant tone.


In this article, you'll learn how to take those extra spaces in your home -- entranceways, hallways, mudrooms, and more -- and turn them into beautiful, useful areas:

  • Utilizing Hallway Space Hallways can be difficult to decorate sometimes, learn how to make the most out of hallway space with these decorating tips.
  • Grand Entranceway Create a space that welcomes guests and makes them feel immediately comfortable in your home with these ideas for creating a visually-enticing entranceway.
  • Skylights and Eaves Without the correct treatment, skylights and eaves can look out-of-place. Learn how to utilize these architectural elements in your home.
  • Entranceway Even small entranceways can have a big impact on your home. Develop this space to its utmost with these tips.
  • Creating a Mudroom Stop clutter before it gets into your home by designing a mudroom tailored to the needs of your family.
  • Using Attic Space Turn this often-overlooked area of your home into a usable space while increasing your home's value. Find out how.
  • Creating an Exciting Hallway Even your hallway should reflect the style you've chosen for the rest of your home. Get ideas for a flowing hallway design.
  • Laundry Rooms Think washing, drying, sorting, folding, and ironing laundry is merely a chore? It doesn't have to be, in the right environment. Find tips to create a laundry room that's fun and functional.

Before you begin a project, consider the following:

  • Marble, tile, or slate? If it's a small entry, go ahead and splurge on the floor. For a larger area, whether the mood is dressy or relaxed, black-and-white vinyl squares have a timeless appeal.
  • Paint is another alternative. How about a stenciled or trompe l'oeil design? To protect wall-to-wall carpeting, lay down a colorful kilim or rag rug.
  • A roomy closet is invaluable. But an entryway bench that provides a place to sit, a lid that lifts for storing boots, and hooks for hanging coats is also a utilitarian addition. A bench painted snowy white with a tall beadboard-paneled back would fit a clean-lined country home.
  • For a period look, antique Victorian hat stands, also with hooks attached and a mirror, often turn up at antique shops and auctions. Mirrors increase the sense of light and allow people to adjust their caps or hair as they enter and exit.
  • Is there room for an armoire? Fitted with hooks and a shelf, armoires are catchalls for everything from jackets to golf clubs. A stand made of iron, wood, or metal or a large ceramic pot for umbrellas and walking sticks is picturesque and handy.
  • The most common solution for breathing life into a hall is to treat it as a gallery. In a uniform fashion, hang prints, photographs, or botanical drawings. For cohesion, keep the framing treatments similar in style and look: black frames, say, or gold.
  • If there's a jig in the hall's shape, a little shelf, mounted on the wall with brackets (slide a stool underneath), and a light will create an intimate place to pen a note or make a call without impinging on floor space.
  • Wall-to-ceiling shelves filled with books (an 8-inch depth for most volumes) add a cozy library touch. And a hall or stair landing with a window and a window seat is everyone's favorite.
  • If neither windows nor skylights are feasible, install adequate lighting and use color to generate a feeling of light. Pale halls, though, can sometimes look drab. Jewel tones and rich designer-like colors -- crimson, deep peach, sun-baked terra-cotta -- spell instant glamor.
  • To organize the paraphernalia that collects in a mudroom, look to plastic bins in wild colors, baskets, or something unpredictable like canvas bags. Generous built-in cubbies will also keep things neat and visible. Stencil a family member's name above each slot, or have the bags monogrammed.
  • A portable gardening bench stationed in the corner will afford a green-thumbed gardener a place to pot bulbs or arrange flowers. And a deep laundry sink will make washing a large pot or pet less of a chore.
  • Floor and wall treatments in the mudroom need to be long-wearing. Consider alkyd paints and scrubbable wall-coverings along with materials like stone, vinyl, and linoleum. Like any other room in the house, a mudroom gains personality when you add window treatments and art.
  • Laundry rooms also welcome pretty papers and bright paint. Stepping out of their drudge roles, the best ones boast cabinetry and counters for folding and stacking. Clever extras -- built-in ironing boards, fold-down sewing tables -- make these spaces multifunctional.
  • If possible, plug in a window for natural light and give it a tailored shade or a pert curtain.
  • With skylights or dormers to let in light and air, a lowly attic is transformed. Rather than battle with the quirky angled ceilings, use them to forge unique, personality-filled rooms.
  • Station shorter furnishings to take advantage of the tight space under the eaves and move larger pieces like beds or sofas toward the room's middle.
  • Attics are made for built-ins. Line the walls with bookshelves for a cozy look or light-toned cabinetry for a modern take. A wall of bookshelves or folding screens across one end visually shortens a long room. Let your imagination take wing -- up this high, anything goes.

In this article we'll show you how to spruce up the under-appreciated areas of your home, like the entranceway, hallway, mudroom, attic, and more. We'll start with the hallway first. Get decorating ideas for this often-overlooked area in the next section.


Utilizing Hallway Space

The monochromatic floor and walls are a fine segue for the natural tones of the mural.
©Brady Architectural Photography

Awkwardly shaped hallways often present a problem. They can be dark and uninteresting, too thin and long, or all of the above. Decorative paint -- especially techniques such as trompe l'oeil -- can turn all that around.

Translated from the French, trompe l'oeil means "trick the eye," and that's just what an artist does when a three-dimensional space on a flat surface is created.


This fabulous hall was once a misfit but no longer. A cloud-swept ceiling and a stone arch beckon visitors to enter a world of fantasy.

With a new perspective of green grass stretching into the distance and sky above, the previously cramped interior feels opened with color and light. You can forget you're inside and give yourself over to daydreams of long summer walks and flowers.

If you're worried about the cost of hiring a professional artist, consider tracking down an art student or choosing a pictorial wall-covering.

A home's entranceway is another often-overlooked space. For ideas on making your entranceway truly inviting, read the next section.


Grand Entranceways

A green, gold, and rose palette lends a royal touch to this remarkable foyer.
©Jane Bade, ASID, and Joy Wolfe, ASID, Martin Fine

Too often taken for granted, entries and hallways go unnoticed and unused. To make the most of the square footage such spaces provide, study the possibilities.

According to the architecture, select a mood that is formal or relaxed. A library table, a lamp to provide a soft glow, and a comfortable chair or two can forge a spot for relaxing or for looking over the daily mail. A pair of inviting armchairs -- with a round table in between -- becomes a meeting site for conversation or a cup of afternoon tea.


Cushy rugs -- and don't forget stair runners -- can help lay a foundation for colors and accessories like light fixtures and green plants.

Rather than display family memorabilia on open shelves where dust collects, consider bookshelves with glass doors. Once in place and in use, you'll wonder how you did without these surprise settings before.

Skylights can transform a room by letting in air and light. Next, find out how to make the most of spaces with skylights.


Skylights and Eaves

Skylights welcome light and air into this workout space.
©Velux America Inc.

Too often, admit it, your needs have to take a backseat. These owners knew what they wanted and pursued their dreams. One coveted an office with a drawing board to allow her space to work on her designs at home.

The other envisioned a room where he could spend a few hours exercising before and after work.


With a little ingenuity, they each got what they hoped. Forget adding on; unused attic space yielded a perfect spot for the architect and the health-watcher.

Today, skylights -- without the expense of constructing dormers -- let in the air and the light. If you haven't explored the possibility of transforming your forlorn attic, now is the time.

A guest room, a teen's private hideaway, a quiet sitting spot for you and your spouse to relax? With new finished walls and floors, previously dilapidated attics can give even a small house grand possibilities.

More decorating ideas are in the next section. Find out how to get the most out of your home's entranceway.



A set of antique prints complement the handsome grandfather clock.
©Joseph P. Horan, FASID

According to feng shui experts, an entry -- the first room visitors see -- has the power to influence the flow of energy through an entire home. You want yours to be clutter free, bright, practical, and welcoming -- just like this space.

A tiled floor is an ideal surface for shoes that are sometimes wet. And light walls or wall-coverings will draw people in. This California house has its entry on the ground floor. Floating stairs travel up to the first floor, which houses the living room, dining room, kitchen, and master bedroom suite.


Because it's a well-used route, the entry is a perfect show-off spot for family heirlooms or special treasures. A grandfather clock, for instance, marks the time. And an impressive commode provides storage for mittens, hats, or extra sweaters.

Entries and hallways needn't be dull. Draw inspiration from this formal portal, and dress yours with collectibles, art, or faux painting.

Find out how to turn an ordinary mudroom into a charming and functional space. Get the decorating details in the next section.


Creating a Mudroom

If only every home could have a functional, handsome space such as this! Rain or shine, a mudroom designed with a durable stone, tile, or vinyl floor never lets you down.

This one has a surplus amount of charm thanks to the antique nature of its beamed ceiling and the plethora of open shelves. Lined with jars of homemade preserves and canned vegetables fresh from the garden, the small space presents a welcoming face to each and every visitor. Bunches of hanging dried herbs and flowers along with some baskets also lend a country, come-into-our-home air.


Kids pause only long enough to drop their baseball bat or hockey stick, kick off their shoes, and then they're gone. Still, if muddy hands need a wash or flowers need water, the sink stands ready. In fact, the cook could use this sun-swept sink when the peas need shelling or the beans snapping.

Taking full advantage of your home's attic space is a great way to expand your living area. Continue to the next section for practical attic decorating advice.


Using Attic Space

Save space by placing the sink under an eave.
©Green & Proppe Design Inc. ©Christopher Lark Photography

This spacious 1920s house had something to offer that long went unrecognized. A renovation finally brought the overlooked attic's potential to light, and -- as they say -- the rest is history.

Where once there was unused space now exists a spectacular and private master suite. The heavenly retreat includes a bedroom and bath as well as a living/entertainment room for the owners.


A series of new skylights pull in the sun and light up what used to be a dark and gloomy space.

To maximize the fresh, airy, up-and-away feeling, the walls are painted a crisp white and furnishings are minimal.

A pale wall-to-wall carpet pulls it all together and muffles noise at the same time. And a plentiful amount of built-in storage maintains order.

An architect or a space-planner can help you stake claim to an unused attic, basement, or garage, too. Call in an expert, and watch the possibilities unfold.

Creating the right impression is important, both in private spaces like attics and in public spaces like hallways. Continue on to the next section to learn ways to create an exciting hallway.


Creating an Exciting Hallway

This hallway offers a sitting place, windows, and ambiance.

Consider how often you use the hall -- up and down, back and forth. Why not make every trip a pleasure?

This home's Southwestern architecture provides for stucco walls, a beamed ceiling, and a brick floor every bit as enticing as the yellow brick road.


During daylight hours, the hall is flooded with light. The creamy-colored stucco complements the brick floor but also prevents the narrow space from feeling too cramped. At night with candles glowing, the red bricks blaze with color.

Bright woven rugs mark the way. There are niches for romantic candles as well as more practical overhead lights. And there are windows and French doors so travelers catch views along the way.

One window with a particularly fine vista has a bench nearby. The bench is an invitation to sit and rejuvenate for a few minutes by soaking up the scenery.

Perhaps, you have a window in your hall where you can set a little stool or a rocker? A builder could plug in a small window and transform your once gloomy hall into a place where you'll want to linger.

While the function of a hallway is to get from place to place in style, rooms that serve a pure purpose needn't be boring either. See the next section for tips on creating a fun and functional laundry room.


Laundry Rooms

As cheerful as a button, this workday laundry room can't help but make you smile.

Laundry. The very word is enough to instill dread or, at least, it used to be. Not so long ago, a laundry room might have meant the dreary corner of a basement or a windowless closet.

Happily, we've seen the last of those days. Modern laundry rooms welcome all kinds of interpretations. One currently popular style calls for light-colored walls, cheerful wall-coverings, and long-wearing wood floors like those found in these rooms.


Ideally, to handle the amount of sorting, stacking, and folding that will transpire, there should also be a table or a counter. If possible, create a space that will allow you to set up the ironing board.

Since you want every room where you spend time to be welcoming, give your laundry room a special face. Recruit baskets or glass jars to hold supplies, add a plant, and hang a pert curtain at the window.

When it comes to decorating, don't neglect the auxiliary spaces in your home. Make the most of your entranceway, hallways, mudroom, laundry room, and attic with these practical decorating ideas.