Let’s face it, dark wallpaper and dark paint colours are reserved for interior designers and people on Instagram. Because moving over to the dark side is just too risky for most of us, right? Unless you have advanced design skills or an endless budget, nailing this trend can’t be easy.
Well, we disagree. In fact, it’s not hard to learn how to make dark walls work. Once you have the tools and know-how, dark hues can elevate any room. Even if your space is small. Even if it’s not south-facing. That’s right. Forget the usual interior design rules about light and dark. It’s time to bust the myths around this enigmatic home style. Here’s our advice on how to use dark colours in a room, including top tips from some of our favourite interior experts.
Do dark colours make a room look smaller?
When it comes to inspiration and advice, who better to turn to than the Queen of Darkness herself – interior expert and product designer Abigail Ahern. She was one of the first to indulge in moody aesthetics, and her methodology teach us how to dark colours in a room – any room – regardless of its size.
We asked her “Do dark colours make a room look smaller?” and her answer assures us that nothing could be further from the truth. Providing advice on paint colour selection, she asserts that investing in the right products is key:
“Dark hues don't make rooms appear dingy if you choose the right paints. My biggest tip is to choose paints that are made from pigments of the earth so have sand, stone, earth, even rocks in them, because then you get these nuances of colour and lots of undertones within. So as the light changes around the house, the colour changes, and if you use synthetic paint you don't get the undertones and the colour always appears flat and a little miserable. You can tell a synthetic paint apart from ones made from pigments of the earth by the price point as they are always so much cheaper.”
Of course, dark hues can also be embraced with wallpaper and murals, which can eliminate the risk of flatness with the power of pattern and illusion. In the same context as Abigail’s advice on choosing multi-dimensional paints, it’s worth looking at wallpapers with embossing or deep, interesting textures.
All of these techniques can also make a room look bigger, flying directly in the face of the myth that dark colours make a room feel smaller.
Vanessa Battaglia from Young & Battaglia provides invaluable advice on combining both paint and wallpaper to make the most of your space: “I actually feel that if you have used a dark wallpaper and painted the rest similar dark hue, the room will appear less chaotic, and so less small, blurring all the contours and softening the edges of the room, it will create a feeling of space and set the right mood.” The Young & Battaglia brand continually uses dark hues in its design narrative to create unique and emotive products for the home. This makes their wallpaper designs an excellent choice for dark interior beginners.
What do dark colours do to a room?
The biggest reservation when it comes to using dark colours in interior design is not knowing whether a space is suitable for this kind of colour scheme. For instance, some homeowners may worry about going too dark in the bedroom or living room and altering the ambience. Others may be hesitant with functional family rooms that see a lot of daily activity or small spaces that they feel need light colours.
But Abigail explains that dark colours can be hugely transformative, creating an ambience in the home that is as much a conversation-starter as it is a mood-setter:
“Any room can benefit from dark colours. I think my biggest tip is to be brave. As scary as it may seem, dark colours bring rooms to life – from small rooms to big rooms. They make them appear cosy, cocooning, dramatic and intriguing.”
How do you brighten a room with a dark wall?
Another myth is that dark wallpapers and wall colours only work if your room is very well-lit (and ideally south-facing). While having ample natural light is still the best case scenario, there are other ways to make your home appear brighter.
Vanessa Battaglia confirms that working with north-facing rooms or rooms with few windows is still possible: “Yes it can still work, but it is best, in my opinion if the room has a big source of natural light because it will show the natural tones and texture of the materials used around the room.”
If your space doesn’t have a good source of natural light, or the light only reaches certain parts of the room due to an L-shaped or awkward layout, mirrors can be extremely helpful to reflect light deeper into the room. This is interior home décor 101 for knowing how to use dark colours in a room that isn’t sun-drenched.
Place mirrors near the light source and angle them towards the dark wall. Multiple mirrors work best as they can work together in creating better light distribution.
Incorporating furniture with shiny and reflective surfaces such as glass, lacquer or metal can also help to bounce light around. Even the smallest décor items such as a light fitting, sculpture or ornament can elevate your space visually. Gold and brass are a great option as these finishes can really bring a navy, charcoal or black wall to life, while also maintaining a level of warmth, moodiness and sense of high-end opulence. Understanding how to make dark walls work is all about your ability to manipulate light. As long as there’s a source, you can make it stretch with a few easy tricks.
What’s the best advice for homeowners using dark colours?
Learning how to use dark colours in a room effectively starts with experimentation. As Abigail suggests, courage is the number one ingredient to a successful design concept. Bravery is your best friend when it comes to trying those moody, mysterious colours for the first time.
If you’re unsure, start small. Test out an accent wall or choose a removable wallpaper that doesn’t require complete commitment. Vanessa Battaglia also provides some practical tips on how to get started:
“Choose one room (even the smallest room) and paint or wallpaper all the walls the dark colour you love. This will give you that ‘blank canvas’ feel that you can start working with, adding textures with furniture and rugs, and accent colours with cushions and curtains.
If you don't feel brave enough painting walls, you can also just start by using dark coloured area rugs combined with black glass lights and dark accessories such as figurines, clocks and ceramics.” Now you know how to use dark colours in a room of any size, it’s time to get experimenting. See the full range of dark wallpapers online at Mineheart.