I found our bedroom hallway extremely cramped. The walls are only 39 1/2 inches apart. To make matters worse, the floorboards are laid parallel to the walls, running with the narrowness of the space and making it appear even narrower than it is. We hung botanical watercolors on the walls as well as antique porcelain plates to give the walls vitality and energy. The glass over the watercolors and the surface of the porcelain glow with light.
What else can you do to visually widen a narrow hall without reverting to mirrors? One solution is to install wall-to-wall carpeting over the floorboards, in effect covering up the directional lines that further narrow the space. But in the case of our bedroom hall, because I love wood, I chose to solve the problem by staining and bleaching the floor in a folk art manner—a chevron pattern from east to west—disrupting the north-south direction of the floorboards. The eye is relieved by the feeling of expanded space.
Another option is to place area rugs of different shapes and sizes to break up the linear appearance. A hall runner will do the opposite; it will further narrow the space. But a rug that contrasts with the floor looks like an island in the ocean. The eye is drawn to the pattern and color of the rug, making the space around it appear smaller, more broken up. Select rugs with a background color similar to that of the floor.
Square tiles laid on the diagonal widen a space. This principle also applies to squares of sisal carpeting or, ceramic tiles.