Small entryway ideas – 10 design rules for compact entrances

The best small entryway ideas, with tips from home experts and interior designers on decorating an entrance, hall or landing

Small entryway ideas
(Image credit: Future)

Small entryway ideas are often overlooked, despite setting the decorative tone for the rest of your home. Whether its the first space any guest sees when they enter the house, or a circulation zone between rooms, all the entryways, hallways and landings in your home demand serious design attention.

As well as looking inviting in its own right, an entryway should set the tone for the rest of your home – and should be considered alongside entryway ideas and hallway ideas to ensure a coordinated feel. 

So when you're looking for inspiration for this compact space, think big. Whatever the size, shape or configuration of yours, these small entryway ideas showcase how to take decor to the next level – because, after all, it’s the space that creates a first impression on your guests.

Small entryway ideas – maximize your entrance with clever interior design tricks

From interior details to inventive suggestions for hallway storage, these design-led small entryway ideas will inspire your scheme, no matter the size.

1. Plan the lighting first

A modern hallway idea with large modern console table with curved underside, topped with table lamp and vase of flowers

(Image credit: Future)

As small entryways tend to be lacking in natural light, considering your artificial lighting is key. 

‘Rather than using strong overhead lights which have a pool effect, we suggest opting for wall and table lamp combinations to layer light levels,’ advises Rohan Blacker, founder of Pooky. 

Materials used in your lighting choices require consideration, too. ‘Narrow hallways can feel cramped so it is a good idea to use glass shades to make the most of any natural light and create a sense of space,’ suggests Sheena Lawrence, co-director of Jim Lawrence. ‘The reflective quality of hand-blown glass is second to none, adding delicate and inviting layers of light whether switched on or off. Clear glass shades bypass the visual imposition that can happen with weightier lighting, allowing light to pass through.

2. Embrace the size of a small entryway

Grey hallway ideas

(Image credit: Paul Raeside a/ Future)

In dark, narrow entryways, decorating choices make a big difference. ‘There are two approaches to narrow or small hallway ideas,’ says Ruth Mottershead, creative director, Little Greene. 

‘Embrace the size and go for deep dark colors and patterned wallpapers, or opt for a trick of the eye and elongate a long narrow space by using a lighter, warmer color at the end of the space, with a slightly darker shade of a similar tone on the walls to create depth.’ 

Ann Grafton, creative director of Mulberry Home also notes that, ‘using a large-scale design on all walls in a hallway can blur the illusion of where one wall stops and another one begins, making the space feel wider.’

3. Make the most of wall space

A modern hallway idea with French doors, contemporary orb chandelier and console table

(Image credit: Davide Lovatti)

With plenty of wall space on offer, entryways are an ideal place to layer up favorite artwork. ‘There are two really effective ways to make a statement with art in a hallway,’ notes Camilla Clarke, creative director at Albion Nord. ‘The first is to play with scale. Make the most of the wall space and choose a large-scale artwork that spans the full height of the wall. It will feel bold and impactful. Another interesting way to make a statement is to create an art wall. Play with a mixture of work in different sizes, colours and genres.’

 Martin Waller, founder of Andrew Martin advises to ‘hang art at eye level or just above and never underestimate the importance of framing – this is a cost you should never hold back on. The right frame can transform a picture and is critical to the overall feel of the artwork.

4. Add intrigue by color drenching

Modern hallway flooring with concrete floor and blue walls

(Image credit: Anna Stathaki / Future)

One hallway trend which is currently being adopted in entryways is color drenching. ‘This contemporary, cohesive approach delivers high impact by painting woodwork, radiators, the ceiling and doors the same color as the walls,’ says Ruth Mottershead, creative director, Little Greene. 

‘This will create a complete scheme, treating each element similarly, and will deliver a design statement when entering or viewing the entryway from other rooms within your home.

5. Create personality – and depth 

Small entryway ideas with console and mirror

(Image credit: Natalia Miyar)

‘One-off unique pieces create interest in awkward or small entryways,’ notes interior designer Natalia Miyar, who designed this scheme. ‘I have a few favorite locations for sourcing objects but I also design bespoke pieces that make a statement using interesting colors and textures. A strong piece of art is also a great way to draw focus to a space – often you need little else to bring life to the walls and it can create a talking point in a spot like an entryway where you pause to greet someone.’ 

If the entryway is large enough, do make sure to include a surface for the practicalities of everyday life, such as a pretty catch-all for your car keys or a decorative coaster if you always have a coffee cup in your hand.

6. Provide a place for perching

Small entryway ideas with bench and wall lighting

(Image credit: Rachael Smith)

Use a nook in your small entryway to create a useful and attractive space to sit and take off shoes. Take inspiration from this space in the home of interior designer Elnaz Namaki who paired a playful striped bench with simple but effective artwork and graphic wall lights.

7. Bounce light around the room

Hallway with neutral textured wallpaper and console

(Image credit: Davide Lovatti / Future )

Mirrors are a wonderful addition to any room, but as small entryways can often have limited natural light, they are calling out for reflective surfaces. This room by Studio Indigo also shows how choosing a decorative mirror can help it appear as its own artwork, too.

8. Don't shy away from color in a small space

Small entryway ideas with blue wall color

(Image credit: Jody Stewart)

It can be all too easy to choose a neutral for an entryway, but by selecting a bold shade you instantly elevate the impact of your space. 

A bright wall color, like Stone Blue by Farrow & Ball used in this home owned by interior designer Tor Vivian, will add a boost of joy as you open the door. As these areas tend to be busy and susceptible to walls getting knocked, choose a paint with a durable finish. And pick your shade thoughtfully. 

‘If your hallway is light and airy, you can play with any color you’re drawn to,’ says Patrick O’Donnell, brand ambassador of Farrow & Ball. ‘If your entryway is narrow and poorly lit you can either use warm tones, which have red or yellow in them, or venture into darkness with a deep navy or almost black for drama, which will make rooms leading off the hallway feel lighter and brighter.’

9. Introduce a burst of joy 

Small entryway ideas with colorful features

(Image credit: Alexander James / Studio Peake)

‘It’s easy to forget about small entryways and hallways as they are thoroughfares rather than places we spend time,’ says Sarah Peake, founder of Studio Peake. ‘It’s therefore crucial to be bold with pattern and color – something to lift the spirits when you walk in.’ 

'We love using tapestries in entryways as they add richness and warmth to a space that may not have much furniture. They also come in huge sizes which makes them great for long space,' says Camilla Clarke, creative director, Albion Nord.

Small entryway ideas with gallery wall

(Image credit: Paul Massey / Paolo Moschino for Nicholas Haslam)

Whether you’re drawn to gallery-style walls or more traditional ways of hanging pieces, art will enliven a small entryway and set the tone for the home. In this interior by Paolo Moschino for Nicholas Haslam, historical prints hung in an orderly fashion are exceptionally elegant and connect two different areas of a single entryway.

The caramel-colored wallpaper – this is the Haruki wallpaper in Oatmeal by Schumacher – ensures the room does not appear too cold or corporate. Helping to link the two styles are smart dark frames, which echo the trim on the wallpaper (French grosgrain ribbon by Samuel & Sons) and the dark wood furniture.

What can I do with a small entryway?

Think of your small entryway as a room in its own right and not just as an interim space. Once you’ve made the most of its natural features, consider how to personalise it from a decorative point of view. Though very dark colors can be tricky to incorporate, avoid the opposite approach, which can result in a bland magnolia finish. Instead choose a hue that harmonizes with the rest of your scheme and try highlighting skirtings and doorframes in a stronger shade for definition.

Jennifer Ebert
Jennifer Ebert

Jennifer is the Digital Editor at Homes & Gardens. Having worked in the interiors industry for a number of years, spanning many publications, she now hones her digital prowess on the 'best interiors website' in the world. Multi-skilled, Jennifer has worked in PR and marketing, and the occasional dabble in the social media, commercial and e-commerce space. 


Over the years, she has written about every area of the home, from compiling design houses from some of the best interior designers in the world to sourcing celebrity homes, reviewing appliances and even the odd news story or two.