One Room Challenge

Before and After: A Blank Hallway’s “Afro-Eclectic” Redo Has Must-See Ceiling Drama

published Sep 18, 2023
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Hallway redos are often last on the home reno to-do list, but when you think about the fact that you can see a main thoroughfare from every room in the house, you might bump a lackluster hallway to the top of the list — and here are four hallways that will inspire you to do so. 

Interior designer Donyea Tollie’s (@rejuvenationhomestudio) stunning hallway is another one to add to the list, but it wasn’t always so beautiful. “For me it was uninspiring and lacked personality,” Donyea says of the hallway before. “Every day I walked it, I felt like it needed something.”

Credit: Donyea Tollie

Temporary fixes for the hallway weren’t cutting it. 

When Donyea and her husband and sons first moved in, the hallway had carpeting, and the walls were taupe. The Tollie family ripped up the carpeting, stained the concrete floors brown, and gave the walls a coat of white paint (Benjamin Moore’s Chantilly Lace), but still, Donyea knew the hallway wasn’t complete. During the One Room Challenge, she took it to the finish line. 

Credit: Donyea Tollie
Credit: Tina Sargeant

New flooring and millwork add character.

Donyea and her husband worked with a general contractor to have new flooring and trim installed. Donyea says the millwork is one of the biggest improvements to the space. “First was the crown molding and chair rail,” she says. “It took me several hours in Lowe’s to figure out the exact height and profile. I wanted something classic and timeless — not too big and not too small.”

Donyea says she knew she didn’t want her chair rail to go up to the typical “chair” height because the ceilings were low and she didn’t want the room to feel shorter, so she used AutoCAD to play around with different heights. Beneath the 3D strip of molding is a peel-and-stick wallpaper that extends about a foot over the baseboards and adds faux architectural interest.

Credit: Donyea Tollie
Credit: Tina Sargeant

The paint was a backup plan, but it works. 

In addition to new molding, Donyea also added new paint to the walls. Her original plan — textured grasscloth wallpaper — was out of her budget, so she first tried a DIY ombre-meets-textured method using multiple peach paint colors instead. “It was messy and inconsistent,” Donyea says. “I did one small wall, and it took me an entire day.”
Donyea’s backup plan to her backup plan was to paint the walls with one peach hue (Sherwin-Williams’ Nearly Peach) and to find a runner that added similar pattern and texture that she originally wanted in the wallpaper. The runner was an Etsy find.

Credit: Tina Sargeant

The ceiling brings the drama. 

Donyea did, however, have success in wallpapering the ceiling, a DIY “first” for her. “It was the most challenging DIY I have ever done,” she says of her peel-and-stick project. “I used a ladder, step stool, and a laser. I would suggest anyone doing this on their own having a partner. There were a couple of times I almost gave up. Wallpaper alone took me two weeks. I also ran out and had to wait on more because of so much waste from the angles in my hallway.”

One takeaway for someone wallpapering a room with odd angles? Go with a solid or less-intricate pattern, or be prepared to have lots of leftovers for future (smaller) projects. Donyea’s black and-white pick is from Mitchell Black. “It’s bold and added the instant personality the space needed,” she says.

The new ceiling medallions and wavy black light fixtures also add drama.

Credit: Tina Sargeant

New doors ditch the cookie-cutter vibe.

Donyea says that adding new doors helped out the hallway a lot, especially given that there are so many doors in the small space. “We changed out from six-panel hollow core doors to a full-panel solid core and painted them all black,” she says. (The paint is Sherwin-Williams’ Greenblack.) 

“Our home was built as a builder spec home, so even though it looks good the quality wasn’t so great. And they were MDF so they would swell at the bottom,” Donyea says of the doors before. Now, they’re sturdy, stylish, and have sleek hardware to boot. “The hardware was a no-brainer,” she adds. “We chose a marble handle with a rosette in matte black. It all turned out amazing, and I am glad we made that investment.”

Credit: Tina Sargeant

Decor completes the glam look. 

A new mirror, new bench, a pillow with custom fabric, and a cabinet from Target complete the hallway transformation and suit Donyea’s style, which she describes on her blog as “Afro-Eclectic.” In total, she spent about $9,000 on the redo.

“The new space does exactly what I needed it to do, which was inspire us,” she says, adding that both she and the new hallway got a major energy boost. “Even though I complete projects for other clients all the time, I’ve never felt as accomplished as I did from completing my own,” she says. 

Inspired? Submit your own project here.

This project was completed for the One Room Challenge, in partnership with Apartment Therapy. See even more of the One Room Challenge before and afters here.