Halls, stairs and landings are usually exposed to harder and more constant wear than any other area in the home; make sure the surfaces are tough.
Any large and awkwardly shaped article brought into the home or carried from one room to another is almost bound to knock into the walls somewhere en route and thin wallpaper or poor quality paint will soon show scars.
If there are children in the house (with their toys, bicycles and sticky fingers) and animals, stick to hard surfaces such as paint (vinyl silk is very durable) or wood cladding. Cork, too, will take a lot of wear and can help to insulate adjacent rooms.
If you decide on wallpaper, the best choice would be a dark-coloured, textured design which is coated with vinyl to make it washable and extra tough. Since the lower part of walls is likely to get the most wear, you could fix a dado rail (a strip of half-round moulding would do) so you can use a hard covering on the lower part and wallpaper on the upper part. Since walls are so vulnerable, it would be a good idea to buy a couple of additional rolls of wallpaper in case of accidents.
Paint any skirting boards with extra durable gloss or strip them down to the wood and seal them so any damage will appear less obvious.
Sheet mirrors or mirror tiles make any hall or passa2e look larger or brighter, but they will of course shatter if struck sharply. Therefore this kind of treatment is probably best suited to households where there are no children.
If you like the idea of hard floor surfaces such as wood, brick, slate or quarry tiles, halls and landings may be the best place for them. The threshold of your home is bound to take the most traffic so the floor covering you choose should be really tough and easy to clean. Semi-hard floors such as cork, vinyl and linoleum are equally suitable, as is short pile carpet if it is of the highest quality (this is no place to economize by settling for second best).
You may want to use the same carpeting throughout the home — halls, stairs and landings as well as rooms — to link areas together and enlarge them visually. If this is the case, choose your carpet from a range which offers its designs and colours in several different grades so you can pick the best one for each location. Avoid shaggy carpets in heavy traffic areas because they tend to hold the dirt and can look grubby after a very short time.
A large doormat will catch a lot of dirt and mud before it gets to the rest of your home; for maximum safety and improved appearance, recess this mat into the floor wherever possible.
Floor paint an easy and inexpensive way to brighten up stairs. But you will probably find it has to be renewed fairly frequently to look its best. Carpeted stairs are probably safest, but you may not want to spend the extra money which might be involved in carpeting them. A single width of narrow carpet will cover the stairs adequately and you can sand and seal the borders or paint them to match the carpet or the walls. Choose a dark, irregularly patterned or flecked carpet which will not show dirt and be sure it is laid well, without any wrinkles.
If you have a large remnant of carpet left over, you could cut and fix pieces on the treads only, as you would do on open tread stairs. You may prefer to keep the look of sanded and sealed wood; if so, be sure to use a good non-slip polish for cleaning to avoid accidents.