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Hallway shows its stripes

October 12, 2006|Lisa Boone | Times Staff Writer

THE hallway is deceptive. It can feel dark, yet for many it's nothing more than wall-to-wall white. Armed with pints of colorful paint and blue masking tape, Christina Helm tackles this overlooked space by pin-striping the walls. "Color adds vitality to an area," says the Pacific Palisades-based interior designer. Incorporating the palette used elsewhere in the house can establish a sense of organization. "Colors can draw the eye easily from room to room and give it a nice flow," she says. Here, she shares how:

Color scheme: First, create a palette and think of how stripes can link one space to another. In one client's entryway, Helm used four shades of green that complemented the green tones in the living room. "It made for a great entrance to the room," she says. If a room is decorated in chocolate and beige tones, add a chocolate stripe to the hallway.

Blending: The same is true for powder rooms located off a hallway. Include one of the bath colors in the hallway stripes. "It brings it all together and takes you to the next portion of the house," she says.

Quality: Because hallways are high-traffic areas, low-maintenance paint is a must, especially when crayon-armed kids are involved. Helm prefers high-end paint by Farrow & Ball because it's durable. Scuff marks and dirt will wipe off an eggshell finish with a cleaner such as Formula 409.

Premixed: Although expensive, premixed paint is worth the cost because of its convenience and reliability, Helm says. "If you need a touch-up four years from now, the paint is mixed and ready to go and it will always match."

Coverage: For the hallway pictured here, she used only one gallon of base paint (a Farrow & Ball color called Pointing) and two pints of color (String and Powder Blue). "String" is a color Helm uses over and over because it goes with everything. "It's a warm color that you can match with pink, blue, chocolate or black," she says.

Measuring: In long hallways, Helm likes to paint 12-inch-wide stripes in three colors, shown here. In shorter hallways, use a narrower stripe. Measure the length of a wall and divide by how many stripes you want. The width of each may end up an uneven number, such as 8 3/4 inches.

Base: Paint the base coat and let it dry completely.

Taping: Using a laser level that adheres to the wall, section off the color stripes from floor to ceiling using 2-inch-wide blue painters tape. Using a sponge, place a small amount of clear window caulk over the seam, where the tape meets the area you're going to paint. Don't worry if the caulk leaves an irregular line on the wall. All that matters is that you have a thin, flat film that covers the edge of the tape. Allow the caulk to dry.

Painting: Using a roller, paint each stripe a few times, including the part of the wall covered with the layer of caulk. Darker colors may need several coats. When the paint is dry, pull the tape away from the stripe. What's left is a clean line. Any residual caulk will be undetectable because the thin layer will be painted, just like the rest of the stripe. Though the process can be time-consuming, it can be done piecemeal, as your time permits. Helm worked on the hallway pictured here over seven days.

Accessories: Paint isn't everything. Helm likes to add other touches for warmth and drama. A mirror, such as the one pictured here, can make a hallway seem longer. Plants and a small table can add visual interest.

Photos: "Everyone puts bad pictures in the hallway," Helm says with a sigh. As an alternative to hanging 8-by-10 color family photos throughout the hall, Helm suggests printing pictures in brown sepia tones on a home computer. Group photographs in identical frames with matching mats for symmetry. Painting the frames one of the pinstripe colors enhances the effect.

Ceiling: Helm usually paints the ceiling the same hue as the walls' base color. "Having the same sheen further pulls it together," she says.

Lighting: It's one of the best ways to spend money, Helm says. Consider installing recessed lighting for a warm glow. If the hallway has high walls, hang a chandelier. Shop for one on EBay or at 1stdibs.com, she says. These additions will add sparkle and surprise to an area that is usually barren.

lisa.boone@latimes.com

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