Are You Ready To Go Over to the Dark Side?
One of the most dramatic interiors trends in the last few years involves dark colour schemes. Forget neutral or pastel palettes or the odd dramatic feature wall – we’re talking about embracing dark hues ranging from greys and blacks to inky blues, earthy browns, deep greens, or purples. Any colour, in fact, as long as it’s really dark!
There is no doubt that choosing a dark interior scheme can produce an elegant and dramatic vibe that makes a big impact in any room. But, it’s one thing to admire the clever use of moody hues on Pinterest, Instagram or homes & interiors blogs and quite another to take the plunge in your own home.
Before we explore how you can use dark colours to the best effect in your home, let’s debunk a couple of common fears and misconceptions that are stopping many of us from embracing the dark side.
NOT TRUE: Dark colours will make the space look smaller
We’ve all been taught that painting a room in light colours creates the illusion of space as a result of light bouncing around the room. It’s why millions of north-facing rooms and box rooms all over the country are painted in whites, neutrals and pastels. It, therefore, follows that dark colours will make a room look smaller – except that’s not necessarily the case.
In fact, the opposite may be true. A room painted in a dark hue – walls and ceilings – blurs the lines that define the room’s dimensions and makes the space recede.
NOT TRUE: Dark colours won’t work with my interiors style
If you think you need to go full-on Victorian parlour for a dark colour palette to work, you are missing a massive trick. Take a look at spaces designed by contemporary interior designers and you will find that dark shades can partner with any interiors style – modern and traditional – including Parisian, Mid-Century, Boho, Scandi and Wabi-Sabi!
Introducing a dark version of what would normally be taken as the whitest and brightest home design styles will add interest and intrigue without changing the underlying principles.
Below is a fabulous example of a modern Stockholm apartment with mid-century vibes and eclectic accessories.
What are the benefits of choosing dark interiors?
So, why should you go dark and what does it do to the ambience in the room? Interior designer Abigail Ahern, one of the best known advocates of ‘moody interiors’, sums it up nicely: “Paint is the cheapest and most transformative change you can make to any room. It’s a game-changer. When you go dark, you suddenly create this vibe that almost exaggerates cosiness; you just want to hunker down and never want to leave”.
For sure, if you want to create intimate spaces that are peaceful and relaxing, dark hues are one of the easiest ways to achieve it. Dial down the energy in the room that bright colour palettes bring and use darker shades and plenty of soft textures to emphasise comfort and cosiness. See the luxurious bedroom scheme below to see how well this can work.
TOP TIP: Adding colourful soft furnishings and accessories along with bright furniture will make the space look dynamic. Highlight some areas of interest by bathing them in pools of warm light with the clever positioning of wall and ceiling lights and floor lamps.
Dark colour palettes add depth, character and a bit of drama to a space that lighter colours simply cannot deliver. If you’re looking for luxury and elegance, aiming to make your room classy and chic without much effort, go dark! Take a peek inside Abigail’s own home to see how effective this is.
TOP TIP: It’s amazing to see how well adding some lush greenery to your dark interiors work. Vary your choice of plants and their locations and let Mother Nature help you soften the room’s ambience. Fresh, dried and even fake botanicals can all be used to great effect.
Showcase for art and curios
Dark blue, green or black walls serve as the perfect backdrop for artwork or ornaments. They help to draw the eye in and frame the item, creating a focal point in the room, whether you’re showcasing a piece of furniture, a gallery wall of family photos or a quirky find. The eclectic mix of furniture and art in this rock’n roll living room (see below) illustrate the point.
TOP TIP: Choose a wide variety of textures to add more interest to your room and bring it alive as a sensory experience. How about patterned furniture, rugs or carpets? Bold wallpapers or glamorous metallics? Soft cushions against smooth leather seats or shaggy carpet on old parquet flooring?
Image Credit: Pati Robins
Unlike light colour palettes that highlight each and every imperfection of the painted surface, dark colours are much more forgiving. Whether you choose midnight black, chocolate brown, bottle green or navy blue, all dark shades have a key advantage in that they hide a multitude of sins. They allow imperfections to fade into the background so they become virtually invisible.
This is particularly useful in period properties, as the quaint seating arrangement (see below) shows.
TOP TIP: Make use of reflective surfaces and materials to add to the sense of mystery and drama, diffusing the light and tricking the eye. Mirrors or metallics, ceramic tiles or gloss paint can all be deployed to great effect.
Your next steps
Embracing dark interiors can be a big step and if you’re feeling a little hesitant, we would advise you to go slow. Maybe start with one room and see how it feels? Or paint the walls in a dark colour but leave the ceiling white? Even if you start with only one wall in a room and use it as a gallery, it may give you a taste for more darkness.
As far as Abigail is concerned, it's a no brainer: “It’s so much more interesting to play with colour than to keep things bright and white. It makes you grin with delight, adds drama and movement, and mixes beautifully with neutrals. It becomes addictive, and you actually want to linger longer in a space. Promise!"