How to Decorate With Dark Colors

When done right, dark rooms can be energizing and full of life

Decorating with Dark Colors
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There’s an assumption out there that rooms decorated in dark colors are gloomy and depressing. Some people even say that dark rooms feel small and claustrophobic. But nothing could be further from the truth. When dark palettes are executed properly they are cozy, dramatic and full of life.

Here are seven tips for decorating with dark colors.

Use Dark Colors to Unify a Room

Dark colors can be great for tying together elements from different eras, making it great for those who are fans of eclectic decorating.

Dark walls, window treatments, and furniture have a way of uniting disparate elements and creating a cohesive look.​

Use Dark Colors in Rooms of Any Size

Despite what many people believe, dark colors are not a bad idea for small rooms. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Dark colors can be dramatic, thus giving a small room a much bigger presence than it might otherwise have. (We usually recommend light colors for small rooms that want to look bigger, but if you love dark colors don't rule them out.) Dark palettes are also great for large rooms as they can help warm them up and make them feel cozier. There’s no need for deep hues to be confined to rooms of any particular size.

Create Contrast and Balance

In dark rooms, it is very important to create contrast as well as a sense of balance. A mix of materials is essential – use different textures in your fabrics as well as your hard surfaces. Some items should pop against a dark background, so use some light and/or bold colors on occasion and make use of interesting shapes as well.

Use Patterns Sparingly

It’s always great to have some pattern in every room, but in a dark room, it’s good to limit it to only one or two. Dark rooms are inherently dramatic so you don’t want to overdo it. Textures such as wood, metal and rattan, and fabrics such as velvet, linen, and suede will add depth to the space – adding too many patterns will start to make the room look cluttered.

However, don’t let that scare you away from using a single bold element such as a zebra-pattern rug on the floor. The number of patterns appropriate for a space will always vary from room to room so trust your eye and your instincts.

Include Architectural Details

Dark rooms can benefit greatly from architectural details such as applied molding on the walls, crown molding and decorative ceiling medallions. These details add interest and depth to rooms that could otherwise become dull.

Use Energizing Darks

When deciding to go dark with a color palette it’s important to make sure to use some crisp, energizing darks. Consider using glossy finishes on trim, ceilings, and architectural details. Washed out colors can be effective in some cases, but too many will give a dark room a dull and gloomy feeling. Keep your dark colors interesting and fresh and mix them with some bold accents.

Choose the Right Room

Any room can benefit from a dark palette, but if you’re unsure or unwilling to go big, try it in a small room. It’s generally agreed upon that the number one room to experiment with color and pattern is the powder room. Not only are powder rooms small, but they are not rooms where people generally spend a lot of time.

This makes them perfect for experimenting with bold schemes that could be overwhelming in smaller rooms. Inherently cozy rooms are also great for dark palettes. Libraries, media rooms, and even dining rooms are great.

Decorating with dark colors can certainly be intimidating, but there’s really no need to be scared. For inspiration and ideas, or if you just need a little convincing, check out these stunning photos of dark rooms.