Interior design: Giving in to the dark side

One of the myths of decorating is that lighter colors work best because they make your rooms look larger and more cheerful, while darker colors make rooms feel small, drab and gloomy. Because of this preconception, many DIY decorators shy away from deeper shades and instead opt for old reliables such as off-white and beige. But the truth about light and dark colors is not so black and white.

Dark walls, flooring or furniture add considerable drama to a room, and they also envelop you like a warm hug. Just flip through any current home décor catalog or magazine and you’ll see that stylemakers are embracing the dark side — from navy blue walls and charcoal gray wood flooring to midnight black accessories.

So go ahead and be bold. With these tips, you don’t have to be afraid of the dark anymore.

Dark can still mean color

Think beyond black, gray or navy. A dark color palette can include deeper shades of red, green, brown or even purple. These deeper shades are, in fact, much richer than their lighter variations and add an instant chic factor to a room.

It’s all about balance

Dark colors make more impact when there’s contrast. If you have dark walls, balance them with light floors or furniture. Allow the dark elements to bring out the light ones, and vice versa.

Don’t go dark in every room

Again, contrast is key. A whole house of dark rooms would be monotonous, not to mention very “Addams Family.” It’s very comforting for the eyes — and relaxing to the spirit — to go from a light-colored room to a dark one.

Keep it simple

Dark colors are bold enough, so allow everything else in the room to be more subdued. Avoid busy textures or patterns that might fight with the intense hues.

Try an accent

If you want to just dip your toe into this design trend, choose a dark color only on an accent wall or a door. (I’m asked all the time if accent walls are still a thing, and I say “definitely.”) Dark colors also are dramatic on floorboards and window frames.

Use it in small rooms

Rather than making small rooms look tinier, as many people believe, dark colors give presence to a room and make it feel expansive. My favorite example to illustrate this point is the “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride at Disneyland, where the ceiling is painted black to suggest an infinite sky.

Add pops of color

Dark walls and furniture are perfect backdrops for bright colors such as yellow, orange and pink, which can provide striking contrast. Try these pops of color with pillows, candleholders or picture frames.


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