6 No-Fail Tips for Painting with Dark Colors

published Oct 6, 2019
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Credit: Cathy Pyle

Nothing makes a statement quite like a dark paint color. But it can seem intimidating: How do you ensure that your room looks cozy and chic, instead of tiny and bleak? To answer that, we spoke to a few of our favorite designers on their best tips and tricks to help you navigate all of your dark paint questions.

Credit: Brittany Ambridge

Play it up with light-colored furniture

For Caroline Grant and Dolores Suarez of Dekar Design, the trick to making sure you don’t weigh down the whole room comes down to the furniture. “It might sound counterintuitive, but if you paint a room a dark color and then put light furniture in it, it tricks your eye into thinking the room is not only bigger but has more natural light,” say Grant and Suarez.  As for their deep, dark go-to: “We are big fans of Blueberry by Benjamin Moore when you are looking for a deep and true blue,” they say.

Credit: Marius Chira

Use “muddled-up” paint colors

For a fresh take on dark, Alexander Doherty of Alexander Doherty Design recommends using “dirty” hues. These are colors that have a hint of gray or black added to the formula, making them more muted and not as crisp and clean.  Added bonus? “Using muddled-up reds, grays, and blues allows art to jump off the walls,” Doherty says.

Credit: Eric Piasecki

Think outside the walls

If you want to make a real statement, think about bringing color to more than just the walls, says Kevin Dumais of Dumais. “In this foyer hall, the walls, ceiling, and custom millwork were painted the same shade, Hague Blue by Farrow & Ball,” he says. “It gives the space a coherent look that makes it look like it’s naturally lit with daylight.”  Especially for those who have limited wall space, Dumais says, continuing the same color on the trim, doors, and ceiling amplifies the boldness.

Credit: Eric Piasecki

Don’t forget about the ceiling

Dark paint can turn the fifth wall into a focal point. “Pick a color that is subtly represented in the other materials used in the room,” says Dumais. “In this family room we choose an oxblood red that was in the background of the area rug, which tied the floor and the ceiling together.”

Credit: Christian Torres

Consider the amount of light in a room

Crystal Sinclair of Crystal Sinclair Designs says rooms that are already dark and small are ideal for playing around with dark colors. “Play to the room’s natural light,” she says. “If it’s a tucked-away space with little or no light, lean into that with a darker color,” she says. Deep hues also work great in intimate spaces—think bedrooms, dens, and powder baths—since they up the moody factor. Or, try them in a pass-through spaces like entryways, hallways, and powder rooms.

Credit: Claire Esparros

Balance it out

Dark, dramatic walls like contrast, says Sinclair: “When using darker colors, make sure that there’s something to balance it, a lighter floor or ceiling, bright art, or even a mirror.”

Inspired to take the plunge? Don’t forget to read our handy guide first. Happy painting!