Balancing Colors: Come Over To The Dark Side

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Contemporary Living Room by New York Photographers Rikki Snyder

Many people shy away from dark colors when designing the interior of a room. Dark colors have a reputation for being distracting and for making rooms feel small. But with the right eye for detail, you can seamlessly add dark colors into your decor. Unlike the common conceptions, when done well, dark colors will liven a room and add a bold twist to your design scheme.

Paint an accent wall

If you don’t want to paint an entire room in a dark color, consider instead doing an accent wall. Choose a dark color that complements other elements in the room, like a piece of furniture or some of the knickknacks you might have on display. That way everything ties together and the accent wall is integrated into the rest of your interior design. Don’t forget to balance the accent wall with darker shades on the other side of the room, like curtains or throw pillows.

Traditional Entry by Other Metro Furniture & Accessories Homesense

Balance dark with light

Even in a small room, dark walls don’t have to mean the room looks smaller. Accent the bold walls with light trim around your windows and doors. Add light curtains that match the rest of your room’s color scheme. Dark with white accents draws the eye and highlights your design details, and the white or light colors keep your dark paint from overpowering the room or making it feel small.

Create two-tone walls

Walls with more than one color can look very elegant when done right. Wainscoting done in a light color looks great when the upper portion of the wall is painted a rich, dark color. Don’t worry if you don’t have architectural elements in your home that lend themselves so easily to multi-toned walls. You could pair a dark paint with a lighter shade of the same color and create stripes or other stenciled designs depending on what fits the rest of your decor.

Contemporary Home Office by Scottsdale Interior Designers & Decorators Ownby Design

Utilize your lighting

A room that receives a lot of natural light will be able to handle a bolder, darker shade on the walls than one with few windows. Similarly, if you have lots of lamps spread around the room rather than a single overhead light, those lamps will keep the dark walls from feeling cave-like. A decorative mirror or two will also add light to a room. With the right lighting, for example, a rich brown wall will feel cozy and intimate, the perfect atmosphere for a den or a TV room.

Add accent furniture

You don’t have to limit your dark colors to paint. Some large furniture pieces look beautiful in dark colors. Consider the elegance of a walnut bookshelf or a cherry bed frame. When placing dark accent furniture, remember that your room needs to have balance. Like with an accent wall, put similar shades on the other side of the room so you don’t end up with a shadowy cluster in one corner.

Traditional Family Room by Chicago Architects & Building Designers Rugo/ Raff Ltd. Architects

Add brightness by embracing the dark

Instead of coming across as overpowering or dreary, dark colors are a wonderful way to add brightness to your space and to highlight architectural or design details you love. It’s the power of contrast! Decide which method of integrating dark colors is right for you, and have fun re-imagining your decor in new, unexpected ways!


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Cate Morgan-Harlow

Cate Morgan-Harlow is an all arounder, writing about how-to, DIY, and design with gusto. She is a shadowy figure with a mysterious past.