As an interior designer specializing in lobby and hallway makeovers, my clients are mostly coop/condo communities and management companies in the New York City metropolitan area.

To the untrained eye, choosing paint could seem to be one of the less challenging aspects of lobby and hallway renovation – especially when choosing the right paint for hallway doors. But it is not for the faint of heart. It’s an art…and a science.

My firm, Sygrove Associates Design Group, is in the business of renovating and redecorating the common areas of apartment buildings that, for the most part, were built between the early 1900s and 1960s. Lobby and hallway interior design work is always challenging and it’s even more challenging for those of us who focus on older buildings as opposed to new construction. We do not start with a blank slate.


A large part of what we do involves un-doing sometimes horrifying previous renovations and updates. I have literally gasped when viewing the results of some of these renovations and updates such as the before picture above. But I don’t blame interior design disasters on previous designers because, quite often, it was the residents themselves who chose the colors in an effort to “spiff up” between renovations.

As the lead designer at my firm, get to work creating the warm and welcoming spaces that we’re known for. And choosing the right paint for hallway doors is a critical decision.

(To view more before and after images, link here.)

Choosing The Right Paint For Hallway Doors - Function

Hallway Renovations: Wallcovering vs. Paint. Which is Better for Your Apartment Building?

To choose the right paint for hallway doors, my staff and I first think about the function of each type of door and how often it is used.

Apartment doors are the workhorses of the door world and subsequently, they get a ton of abuse. Dirty fingerprints, scuffs and marks from strollers and shopping carts, scratches from furniture deliveries, kicks, bumps, etc., make apartment doors the most mistreated doors in a hallway.

Next are trash and compactor room doors. They endure all kinds of daily humiliations. Sticky handprints, drips from leaking garbage bags, spills, and more. I’m sure I don’t have to tell apartment dwellers how gross these doors can get.

Then we have elevator doors. I’m sure you don’t spend much time thinking about how ill-treated the elevator doors in your building are. But we do! Scratches, bumps, and dirty hands are just some of the indignities they endure.

Last, we have stairwell access doors and service doors. Although they’re used less frequently than apartment doors, trash room doors, etc., they must look good.

Choosing The Right Paint For Hallway Doors - Color

Here’s a bit about how we choose the color for each type of door:

Apartment Doors: Choosing the right color for these hallway doors is tricky. We select a color that compliments the hallway design scheme. We don’t want them to stand out too much.

Elevator Doors: Here’s where we can have some fun. We like to use stand-out colors to help residents and their guests easily find the elevator landing area.

Stairwell Access & Service Doors: When choosing the right paint for these hallway doors, we look for colors that help them melt into the wall color. This is especially true for short hallways that contain multiple doors.

Trash & Compactor Room Doors: Here we use medium-range colors pulled from the hallway design scheme. Generally, we select a lighter shade than the darkest color in the scheme.

Choosing The Right Paint For Hallway Doors - The Impact Of Carpet

Many of our hallway projects include custom carpeting in beautiful patterns and colors. We will pick up a motif we are using in other areas of the building, such as the lobby.

We love patterned carpet because it does a great job of hiding dirt and traffic patterns. It also gives us a rich palette to work with. The most popular colors for hallway carpet today are in the deep charcoal grey, warm mid-range grey, warm brown, and taupe families. Certain warm greens and blues also have dirt and traffic-concealing properties.

Despite being relatively neutral in terms of color, patterned carpets are anything but boring. They play a significant role in choosing the right hallway door paint, wall paint, and wall coverings for a hallway.

Our clients absolutely love it when we find a unique trait about their property and use it in the design scheme. Some of our clients have asked us to help them “brand” their building so they can compete with new apartment buildings going up around them. This involves giving their building a name, creating a logo, and a website – all inspired by their new lobby and hallway décor.

In fact, a few weeks ago, I was asked to lead a seminar for the trade publication, The Cooperator, entitled, Branding Your Building. We have heard from a number of condo/coop communities and realtors who are interested in this concept. You can watch the seminar replay here.

Choosing The Right Paint For Hallway Doors - Paint Type

Choosing the right type of paint for hallway doors is just as important as choosing the right color. Doors that get frequent usage need tough coatings, such as apartment and trash room doors. We are in love with Benjamin Moore’s extremely durable product called Scuff-X. It is infinitely more resilient and cleanable than any other type of paint on the market. We specify Scuff-X in satin finish for doors and frames.

Choosing The Right Paint For Hallway Doors - Conclusion

At Sygrove, we’re thrilled about the plethora of new paint products from some major manufacturers – especially Benjamin Moore Paints, the maker of Scuff-X. These products make it easy for interior designers (like us!) to adhere to the new codes that require us to use paint with low VOCs (volatile organic compounds). They are serviceable, durable, and beautiful – all at the same time.

As you can see, choosing the right paint for hallway doors is more complicated than picking a pretty color. It’s a strategic endeavor that takes into account how frequently each type of door is used, how much abuse it will be expected to take and its visual impact on the entire design scheme.

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Sygrove Interior Design Services

Sygrove Associates Design Group is an NYC interior design company. Our company’s founder Marilyn Sygrove is the lead interior designer on all projects. And she’s as tough as you are when it comes to quality, aesthetics, and coming in on time and on budget.

It all starts with a design consultation with Marilyn. She takes the time to thoroughly understand your design needs then personally directs all interior design, planning, and installation activities. Her work has been delighting clients, co-op and condo boards, and homeowners for over 30 years.

You can reach Marilyn by email at or call her directly at 212.757.0631.

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