Functional Hallways: Good Design Means Energy Efficiency

functional hallway

I have never been a fan of hallways, probably because I can’t stand waste of any kind. The typical hallway is a dark tunnel leading from the living area to a handful of bedrooms and a bathroom. Or maybe it’s a long walk from the garage or front door to the kitchen and other living spaces. I much prefer functional hallways.

When you build new, you are paying per square foot. If you have space that is not being used (the infamous hallway), you are essentially wasting your money. Empty space also needs to be heated, cooled and maintained. So what is the benefit of the hallway if it costs you over and over?

Functional Hallways

A recent Houzz article has some great advice about creating functional hallways in new construction. Hallways should serve a purpose besides just being the circulation pathway.

Every house I have ever designed has had double duty areas for traffic. Even the house I grew up in had functional hallways. One section had my parents’ bedroom and the main bath off of it (long before the master bed and bath became trendy). The linen closet was there as well as a smaller storage area adjacent to the tv room where we stored board games and other kid stuff. There was no wasted space here. Every wall of the space was used.

One wall of that hallway led to a bedroom that became a home office and sewing room as well as the main thoroughfare to the kids’ bedrooms. Those bedrooms were connected by a tiny hallway that was large enough to hold a hamper for us to toss our dirty clothes into. When I was a pre-teen, the hamper was removed, and a record player was put in a small table. I’d drag a stool out in the hall and play Beatles records for hours. In the hallway! It always had a dual function.

Hallways that worked for me

When I designed and built my first house, the downstairs was an open living/dining/kitchen area. It was only 16’x24′, so there was not enough room for a lot of walls! The entryway was defined by a wall between it and the kitchen. Opposite the wall was the stairway leading to the bedroom and a bathroom. At the top of the stairs, though, was a large open space that I created specifically as a work area. I had a large table and a sewing machine, boxes of fabrics and yarns, and lots of craft books. This ‘hallway’ had a dual function, too.

When I remodeled the house I’m in now, I created a hallway leading to two bedrooms and a bathroom for my kids. I call it a hallway, but it’s a passive solar greenhouse. It provides heat and food, and it’s a sitting area on cold, sunny winter days. It’s almost like the girls have their own living room, but it’s also the only way to travel to their rooms.

Other Ideas

Whether you are building new or remodeling, cut back on square footage by opening up living spaces and cutting back on travel spaces. Alternatively, make hallways wider to incorporate storage, a seating area with bookshelves, a home office, a study area or a library. Outdoorsy families can add coat hooks and seating for putting on boots and shoes. Add a closet for gear storage – bikes, camping equipment, skis – and packing becomes a more organized affair.

Look at the floor plans in the article to see the difference between wasted space and dual function space.

Make your hallway a destination, not a footpath. Construction costs will be less, and so will heating, cooling and maintenance costs over the lifetime of the home. That’s energy efficient!


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