Narrow Hallway Makeover: Creepy and Dark to Cheerful and Bright

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by Robin

Steven Avery was the inspiration for a recent update in our Mobile Home Makeover.  If you know who he is, you're probably baffled.  If you don't know who he is, you may wonder if there's a hot new designer you should know about.

Nope, he's no designer.  About as far from it as possible.  He's a (perhaps wrongfully) convicted murderer.

Last spring you may have been, like Ed and I,  glued to the screen to binge watch episodes of the riveting and discouraging documentary series on Netflix, Making of a Murderer.  It was really well done and awfully disturbing.

And decoratively inspiring?  Not for anyone else, I'm sure. Just for me.

You see, during every intro and break, or moments they wanted to illustrate just how depressingly, creepy his home was, they would show film of the long, dark, wood panelled, hallway in his mobile home.

Guess who had the exact same dreary hallway?

Us.  We had the exact same dreary hallway!
(And honestly - did I really need to label the photo: Before???)

Every time the show's camera wandered herky-jerky down that ominous hallway, Ed would glance over at me.  At first, we smiled and chuckled, "Ha, ha, look familiar?"

But the longer we watched, the less funny it got.

Our mobile home's hallway was the universal symbol of creepiness.

Decorating that hallway was forced up higher our todo list.  To the very tippy top.  I was not going to think of that upsetting documentary every single time I walked up and down the hallway of our weekend retreat.

Murder-y: not the vibe I'm going for there.

So here's what we did:

First off, you may remember this:

Oops - I forgot to label this photo: Before.  Should I go back and do that?
Or does the fact that you can see the ground through that huge rotting hole in the subfloor and joist make it clear enough?

The first task of our Mobile Home Makeover was to correct the problem above.  What you see there is an enormous hole that was rotted subfloor hidden under carpeting that gave way about 4 days after we took possession.  (Yes - we had a home inspector - don't get me started...)

This meant a huge repair bill, along with all new windows and doors.  (For about a year we were back in debt - deep.)  We had planned for the new windows and doors and negotiated down the purchase price.  We didn't plan for all the rot in so many places.

The new doors we chose bring in many rays of light to the hallway.  We splurged and got 3/4 window doors with louvred blinds inside the glass (similar to these).  Over the top?  Maybe, but we needed the light - and we also needed a way to cover the window at night and when we weren't there to discourage burglars.

Also, I didn't want to hang a blind on the door and have to holler at the kids over and over when they slammed it and got the blind caught in the door six-dozen times a day.  So: light, peace-of-mind, and frustration reduction lead to this costly choice.

But we're very happy.  These doors were the perfect choice.

In Progress.  Pretty new door and hole-less floor.
We still need to do baseboards, etc. - but you get the idea of the new doors, floors and painted panelling.  So bright and fresh!

We had the doors installed so the swing out, instead of in.  In a narrow space like ours, that's a blessing.  No doors to open into in the hall and in the living area means we don't need to account for the swing with furniture placement.  (We don't use the property in the snowy months, so this choice is still practical.  Otherwise, you could get a little trapped inside when snow piles up outside your door.)

Our next project was to paint the panelling.  This made a huge, bright difference!  I've always loved painted panelling.  We chose Behr's Swiss Coffee.  It's a nice, soft white that's not too stark for a cozy cottage.  It also looks good with the white vinyl of the new windows.  

Next, over the Mother's Day weekend, my gift was the whole family pitching in, tearing up nasty carpet and laying down these rustic wood-look laminate floors.  

But, what really moved this hallway from creepy to cheerful - and added the cheerful quirkiness our retreat was begging for - was painting the interior doors.  

When I sampled the swatches I got a few head-scratching sorts of reactions.  My son advocated for white right up until the end.  And now he loves them too!  Which I knew he would.
Ya gotta have faith in your old mom, son.

Yellow!  Does it get more fun that yellow?  And where can you have solar bright, citrus doors if not at your weekend retreat mobile home in the woods?

The shade I chose is Lemon Drizzle from Beauti-tone available at Home Hardware, a Canadian company. (As soon as I find my Benjamin Moore paint deck, which is missing, I'll update this post with a more internationally available shade for our other readers.)

I had debated replacing the interior doors or dressing them up with mouldings.  But this was the most frugal and easy choice.  I just filled some holes and splinters with wood fill then primed and painted.

Word to the wise: yellow paint does not have great coverage.  Plan on 3 coats, or more.

Here're some quick hallway shots.  (All these shots are taken with my iPhone and don't remotely do anything justice.  One day I'll remember to take our good camera there!)

Lots of work is still needed, of course, like painting the ceiling, new window covering, better light fixture and trim and... But doesn't the yellow door help distract from all that?  There are two more yellow doors on the right (one is the bathroom and the other is the kids' bedroom)

In case you forgot, here's a side-by-side view:

Would you believe these photos were both taken in the middle of very bright afternoons?

In order to exorcise more creepiness,
we wallpapered the back bedroom wall with birch paper (from Bouclair, similar to this)
and added bedside swing-arm sconces (a kijiji score!).  Trim to follow soon.

Remember this project that my daughter and I painted last year?  These three windmill shaped mirrors reflect even more light into the hallway.  I am still amazed how well the secret ingredient worked to make this painted faux rust finish!

I've got more planned.  I want to make or adapt a light fixture,  And I want to put some more fun stuff up on the walls.  And maybe a runner?  

Given that it's winter now, and our pipes are winterized with antifreeze, we haven't been up for months - likely not until late April.  But writing this post has me such a hankering to get up there and do more projects!  (And sit in the hot tub next to the fire with a glass of wine.)

I've got such lofty design goals for the place, don't I?  It's a big win for me that our hallway is less murder-y!  (And after all our work rodent proofing - the place is mouse free too!)

For more of our Mobile Home Makeover story and projects head here.


  1. What a fun project! Don't you just pinch yourself when you look down that hallway now? The change is remarkable. And I am a yellow lover from way back...so your door is right up my alley.

    And I watched that show too...kept me glued to the TV.

    Have a great weekend Robin.

    Hugs, LYnn

    1. Thanks, Lynn! I love the change - so so so awful before. There is not better colour to banish creepiness! :)

  2. I can't wait to see what it looks like when you have put can lights or something in there. THAT will make a gigantic difference. PS we have a dreary hallway, too. Lights!

    1. I wish I could put can lights in there, TresJolie! That would make a huge difference. But it’s a mobile home and sadly there is no way that’s possible. The roof structure just isn’t there. :(

    2. You could install the "new" can-less can lights. They are LED and quite amazing. And since they are LED, they use very little electricity!

  3. Love the changes! I wonder what horizontal stripes on the end door/wall & on the ceiling would do to make the hall appear wider?

    1. Hmmm...maybe, LindaLee! I’ve been considering a runner with stripes going sideways. I just need to find one that would clean itself! πŸ˜‹

  4. Love your writing! (Esp: looks less murder-y, rotfl). May I suggest that you consider a mural for either the walls or the ceiling to really exercize that murdery ghost, lol! Imaging a soft sun shining on your beautiful yellow door, butterlies winging their way past a sparrow, a birthday balloon, perhaps a kite, the tops of trees or mountains, a tiny faery. Oh gosh, now I have to go paint mine!

    1. Glad you enjoyed my writing! I’m glad people still stop scrolling long enough to read. 😊 A mural is a really fun idea!

  5. Already seeing an improvement. Nice!

  6. great work love the colors and, love reading your posts😊

    1. Oh thank you so much, Laura! I hope you subscribed to our newsletter and stay in touch! :)


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