Design: Making an entrance

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The hall is the first room visitors see – so it's important to make a good impression, says Kate Watson-Smyth

The hall creates the all-important first impression. Yet, it's probably also the biggest dumping ground in the house – a heap of shoes, coats, bags and tennis rackets. You have two options: either spend time moving all this stuff to where it ought to live, or create a system that allows it to remain without making the hall look unwelcoming. In what is often a small, dark space, this can be tricky.

If you go for pale colours, the hall will seem light and welcoming – but will get scuffed and dirty more quickly. Your other avenue is to choose a really bold colour. People don't linger in the hall, so you can afford to pick something more daring than what you might choose in another room. No matter what, though, you need to tone the hall with the rooms to which it leads; this will help draw the eye into the house.

Remember: this is the first place that visitors see after the front garden. If you are selling your house, this is your chance to convince potential buyers to put in an offer – after all, the average viewer is said to make up their mind in eight seconds. In a family home, having enough hall storage can be crucial to helping along a sale.

If you have a wide hall or a window, your job is already easy; narrow passages can be a little trickier. The rule is to make the most of what you can. Consider taking the banister off the stairs to create a feeling of space. Also, why not open up the cupboard? This will make it easier to get at, and a more convenient place to hang coats. Or have some shelving put up; in smaller houses, a built-in desk can make this into office space.

A more expensive option is to remake the stairs entirely, by installing drawers under them for shoes and bags. If you don't want to call the builders in, though, don't despair: there are cool storage solutions out there.

Coats

Hand Hooks, £90
These resin sculptures with a high lacquer finish come in a range of gestures: the friendly Thumbs Up; the Wave; the Up Yours. Install them along one wall at differing heights to create a mix of practical hooks and art.
www.hiddenartshop.com; 020-7729 3800



Coat rack, £199
Based on the old luggage racks of the Paris Metro, this is perfect for a narrow hall. Keep coats on the hooks and hats, bags and other paraphernalia on the shelf above.
www.thefrenchhouse.net; 0870 901 4547



Appendialbero, £45
These wooden hangers are interconnecting, so you can buy as few or as many as you want and use them as wall decorations. William Morris would be proud: this adheres to his mantra that you should have nothing that isn't either practical or beautiful. They come in either light, dark or black wood. Each branch has three hooks; you really need three or four to create a good effect. Still, it's cheaper than buying art.
www.colours.ltd.uk; 01252 733 476



Manto Fluo, £35.53
These hooks look like giant Smarties and will add a bit of colour to a neutral, modern hallway. They're good for both coats and bags. Buy as many as you can afford: they double up as decoration. Manto Fluo come in 10cm or 12 cm, in pink, yellow, orange, green and red.
www.madeindesign.co.uk; 020-7043 0835



Shoes

j-me shoerack, £44.95
There's nothing worse than a mouldering pile of trainers left in an untidy heap – usually at the bottom of the stairs for someone to trip over. Keeping them in a box usually results in someone chucking them all out while looking for their own shoes and "forgetting" to put them back. This stainless-steel shelf can sit along the top of the skirting board; shoes simply slot in. It appears to float, so it makes the floor space look larger, and makes it easy to see all the shoes at a glance.
www.hiddenartshop.com; 020-7729 3800



Sandnes, £69.90
Ikea's solution looks like a narrow chest of drawers, but has legs only at the front, allowing it to sit flat to the wall above the skirting board. Each drawer tips forward and fits three pairs of shoes.
www.ikea.com; 0845 355 1141



Tables

Black perspex console right angle, £995
A more contemporary version of the table above. It doesn't have the added practicality of a second shelf, true, but if you are living in the sort of modern, minimalist flat into which this black perspex table would fit so well, then you likely won't have any clutter in the first place, so this will be perfect.
www.conranshop.co.uk; 020-75897401



Babilonia Big Irony Zeus, £608
Three tables joined together: not only does it make for an interesting shape, but it triples the storage options. Children can perch on the end to put their shoes on.
www.madeindesign.co.uk; 020-7043 0835



General storage

Wicker stair basket, £25
It's not the most attractive bit of kit, but show me a family that lives in a house with stairs who doesn't constantly leave things at the bottom waiting to go up. This is a practical solution.
www.aplaceforeverything.co.uk; 0870 224 2660



Hucks Designchain, £149
This chain comes with 10 tubes that you can hang in any pattern you want. Perfect for keys, phones and change. If you don't want to hang it on the wall, arrange it along a table so that objects can be stored upright; each family member can have their own tube.
www.allupandon.co.uk; 0845 034 5050



Din Don bookshelf, £169
A good idea for a hall that doesn't have much space. The shelves are removable and take up less space than a table, while arguably being able to hold more. Use it for the telephone and directories as well as keys, change and post.
www.theholdingcompany.co.uk; 020- 8445 2888



Key and post rack, £15
This wall-mounted magnetic panel will hold the keys and the day's post.
www.aplaceforeverything.co.uk; 0870 224 2660



Handmade birch storage cube, £180
These 40cm cubes make good storage for shoes or other clutter. A row of three or more will double up as a stylish bench.
www.aplaceforeverything.co.uk; 0870 224 2660



Paso doble, £132.66
Umbrellas have to be in easy view or they get forgotten. This striking red stand is the perfect solution. It is made from polyethylene, so it won't mind have soggy brollies stored in it. And if you could ever trust it to stop raining, you could even put flowers in it.
www.madeindesign.co.uk; 020-7043 0835



Decorative touches

Mirrors
We all know that mirrors can increase the sense of space and amplify available light. Either a single big one or several small ones will do to fill a wall – though if you go for the smaller ones, try to ensure that the frames match. And make sure that each member of the family has at least some reflective surface at head height!

Blackboards
Blackboards are not only decorative, they are perfect for reminder notes.

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