Go to any interior design website or open any interior design magazine and you’re likely to see something a little bolder, a little brighter or maybe a little darker than you’ve considered for your own home. But interior designers know strategic uses of bold, bright and dark don’t have to overwhelm your space. Take dark walls, for example. While some paint companies, like PPG Paints have selected a dark hue as their color for 2018, most of us would be hesitant to try this look out in our own space. But there are some great design reasons to try this out in your space, and the best part is that a little can go a long way.
A dark wall can make a small room appear larger
After years living in a calm moss green bedroom, I decided to change things up by painting the wall behind the bed with Benjamin Moore’s Marine Blue (the rest of the walls are white). Although the room is fairly compact the dark behind the bed actually made the space feel much larger.
Why is that? Two reasons.
First, though the common thinking is that light walls make a space feel more open and larger (and dark walls would do the opposite), the truth is both design choices can make a room seem larger. White reflects all colors, creating a sense of brightness and openness. This is even more true in spaces with a lot of natural light. But white will also highlight shadows anywhere a plane changes (basically in the corners and where the walls meet the ceiling). Dark colors absorb light and actually change throughout the day as the light moves in a room. Even in a black room the wall color will change from black to charcoal to dark green depending on how the light is hitting it. These changes help to blur those plane edges, making the space appear larger.
The other effect is what I like to call a “night sky” effect. When we look up into the night sky, or into a dark forest, we feel the sense of infinity because we do not see an end point. Dark walls have this effect as well, especially in smaller spaces. Again, instead of your eye stopping at the corners of the room, your brain assumes that there is more, making the room appear larger. We definitely noticed both of these phenomena after painting our wall blue.
Pro Tip: If you are painting yourself, use a dark-tinted primer! This will ensure even coverage and hopefully cut down on coats.
Dark walls highlight and create architectural interest
While dark paint is great at hiding small imperfections, it is also great at highlighting interesting architectural features. A great example of this effect is in the study of Melissa & Keye Lee’s Brooklyn Brownstone, as pictured on Design*Sponge. The board and batten grid walls stand out even more because of the enhanced shadows and changes of color throughout the day as the light in the room changes. In this kitchen, the dark cabinets frame the tiled backsplash so that it is the star of the room.
Dark walls help colors “pop”
Dark walls are a great way to get bright colors to pop. The dark background in this bedroom helps the brightly colored flowers to take center stage.
The dark wall and art in this incredible living space by interior designer John Jacob means the green in the sofa is the first thing that pops in the room.
“Dark” doesn’t need to mean “black”
So you’re thinking you like the dark look but aren’t ready to head to black? You still have a lot of choices. Dark blues, greens and reds can all accomplish the same effect.
The moral to this decorating story is there’s no reason to be afraid of the dark.