Best Paint Color For Dark Hallway

Tom Gaffey
by Tom Gaffey

Bringing out all the potential of your home is an exciting challenge. Once you have perfected all your living spaces, kitchen, bathrooms, and even the yard, you might think you are finally finished. This is, of course, until you walk down your drab and dark hallway. If you have one of these dark hallways and are wondering how you can brighten it up, you’re probably wondering what color you should paint its walls.

The best paint colors for dark hallways are lighter colors with eggshell, satin, or semi-gloss finish. You can choose earth tones and neutrals like gray or beige, or warm and calming colors like sky blue and sage green. Or you can even opt for pinks or a vibrant and bold yellow or turquoise. Hallway size, light sources and trim color can all affect your color selection.

As you embark on the task of picking the perfect paint to liven up your dark hallway, think about the rest of your home. Hallways should mirror the rest of your room’s aesthetic in most cases. While the odds are you will pick a light and bright color, there are many colors in this color wheel to select from.

Use Light Color Tones That Suit Your Design Goals

When you are choosing a paint for a dark hallway, you should choose something on the lighter side. Dark paints will only make a room look darker, smaller and less inviting. Choose a bright, light or soft and neutral color, depending on what design vibe you are going for. Below are the four best color routes to go when painting your dark hallway.

Earth Tones And Neutral (Muted Grey, Mother Of Pearl, Soft Beige)

If you like a minimal or earth-tone look in your home, then embrace the lighter end of the earth-tone color pallet. Try for a soft gray, rich off-whites, or even softer beige and gray tones. These colors will match that neutral aesthetic, and also bring that sense of natural tone into the previously-dark corridor.

Welcoming And Calm (Sky Blue, Sage Green, Lavender)

If you prefer a warm yet calming approach, then you can opt for a bit more color. Choose a powdery blue, a light green, or even soft lavender hue for the room. This offers colors found in nature that have a calming effect. These colors are also very light, but with some personality. They will go a long way from turning your depressing always into something more optimistic.

Fun And Cheery (Blush Tones, Pinks, Cream)

If you want to add some fun and cheer to the room, consider a bit more color. Instead of off-whites, go for a richer cream or champagne. Or maybe rose pinks and other blush tones. These colors are light, but have lots of personality. They will make the hallways that once were lost really stand out.

Bold And Bright (Yellows, Bright Pinks, And Even Radiant Blues)

If you want a complete transformation, go bold and bright. A canary or softer yellow, radiant blues and other bright bold colors are a way to capture the minimal light in the hallway. It will make the hallways stand out where it was previously forgotten. This is a great option if you don’t plan to add much decoration other than a trim color and some light fixtures, but want to add lots of personality.

Make Sure You Choose The Right Finish

Selecting the right paint, believe it or not, is only half the battle. You also need to take the finish into consideration. Paint finish is always important to consider when selecting your paint. It is even more important when you are painting a dark space. This is because finishes reflect light to varying degrees. In most cases, you should select eggshell, satin or even a semi-glass finish when painting a dark hallway.

  • Eggshell (low-sheen) is a good option if you selected a very bright color for the hallway, and just need a little something extra to make it shine. Eggshell is also great if the lighting in the hallway is strong and harsh. It will balance the harshness nicely rather than reflecting too much of it.
  • Satin finish will give a nice reflection to the paint, which acts to magnify the brightness in the room. It is very subtle though. Therefore it is a great option when you have some light, bright colors and contrast in the room.
  • Semi-Gloss is about as high as you will go in most cases for a dark hallway. This is a good option for those who choose a slightly darker paint color (think royal blues, or even eggplant). It is also an option for those who have very limited lighting, but want to make the most of what little light they have.

Select The Right Trim Color To Make The Hallway Brighter

Almost all dark hallways also have some trim and/or molding to consider. Just as it is important to consider the wall color, you also need to take trim color into account. In most cases, selecting a light color (ideally white) trim color is the best way to go.

When you choose a white or off-white trim, you only further lighten up the previously-dark hallway. Light trim with the lighter colored walls will also complement each other. When the trim and the wall are similar colors, the space looks less busy.

You can also opt to contract the trim with the lighter colored walls. This will add some drama, and is often the only option for those with darker color wood trim who don’t want to paint over the natural wood. Just keep in mind that contrasting the trim and the wall colors might make the space look very busy. It also might make the room look a bit smaller than it is.

Elongate The Hallway With Designs Or Color Variation

One of the biggest downsides to darker hallways is they tend to look smaller and more narrow than they actually are. The good news is there are ways to offset that optical illusion with another one.

Use Designs To Make The Space Look Longer Or Taller

You can paint or stencil geometric or other angular designs in the vertical or horizontal direction to make the space look larger. It gives texture and angles to the walls, and can help make the area look longer and taller.

Try Painting The Walls With An Ombre Variation

One trick to make a space look larger (and brighter) is to paint them in various shades of the same color, and blend them. Often the color gets lighter as you go downward, but gives the illusion that the ceiling is higher. For a narrow dark hallway, consider painting the far wall a darker hue, as this will make the room look longer.

Factors To Consider When Selecting Paint For Dark Hallway

Type OF Light And Where The Light Comes From

One of the main factors to consider when you paint a dark hallway is what kind of light, however minimal, do you have. If you are dealing with indirect natural light, for example, you will want to have very light colors, and a more glossy finish.

If, on the other hand, the hallway is dark but has one strong light, or just bad lighting, you might want to consider changing fixtures, and going with a more satin finish.

Height And Width Of Hallway

Dark hallways come in all shapes and sizes. If the hallway is also narrow, you will want to make it look as bright and airy as possible. This might impact the design elements you use and even your trim color.

If you have a larger hallway, you have more options to work with, and more opportunities to customize and brighten the space.

Floor Color And Type

The floor is another major color in the space. If it is a drab linoleum, you may consider spicing it up with a vibrant floor runner that accentuates your new wall color.

If you have a darker wood, make sure it shines with the limited light you have. Also, consider a color that will bring out the tones in the wood. In general, if you have a darker floor, you will want to lighten up the walls even further.

Other Hallway Design And Decorative Elements

You should also be mindful of other design elements in the hallway. Artwork, wall sconces, crown molding, and even staircases can factor into your paint color decision.

If you have some lighting, you might consider making the most out of the light before painting. Get the best bulbs and light fixtures for the space. Then, once you have maximized the lighting in the hallway, you can brighten it up further with a new paint color.

Paint Colors And Designs To Avoid In Dark Hallway

Dark Colors

If you already have a dark hallway, it is rarely a good idea to paint it an even darker color. Dark paint will only make a room look darker. This might seem obvious, but you should also consider colors that absorb light rather than reflect it.

For example, you might see a lovely royal blue that looks vibrant and rich in the paint store. But the paint store is well lit. When you paint that same royal blue in a dark hallway, it can look almost black.

Overly Glossy Or Matte Colors

The finish you choose is critical. You shouldn’t choose something with a matte finish in a dark hallway. This is because matte paint, while smooth and appealing to the eye, is not effective at reflecting light.

You also might want to avoid overly glossy paint. Too much gloss can make the dark and narrow hallway look far too shiny. It can be an altogether overwhelming experience. It is best to find a happy medium between these two extremes.

Busy Designs And Decor

It might seem tempting to spruce up a dark narrow hallway with lots of decor, designs, and accessories. But this can make the space look cluttered, busy, and smaller than it already does.

Summing Up Best Paint Colors For Your Dark Hallway

The best paint color for dark hallways is a lighter, or vibrant color. Make sure you choose something with an eggshell, satin, or semi-gloss finish to help reflect the little amount of light in the hallway. You should also take the trim color, floors and other design elements into consideration. Most of all make sure the hallway is a reflection of the personal style found throughout the home.

Tom Gaffey
Tom Gaffey

Tom Gaffey is an expert writer who currently resides in Washington D.C. Tom has a passion for real estate and home improvement writing, as well as travel and lifestyle writing. He lived the last twelve years in Hawaii where he worked closely with luxury resorts and event planners, mastering his knowledge of aesthetics and luxury products. This is where he found his passion for home improvement and a keen interest in DIY projects. Currently, Tom resides in Washington D.C, and also working on his debut fiction novel.

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