Rules to Remember When You Want Dark Walls in a Small Space

updated Jul 17, 2020
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A bed with brown bedspread and a black wall
(Image credit: Minette Hand)

Angie Teater‘s Midtown East studio apartment in Manhattan is, quite simply, stunning. There’s plenty of furniture arrangement inspiration for your own studio apartment, but there’s something special Angie aced in her home: She used dark wall paint without making her small (350 square feet, to be exact) apartment feel like a cave.Below, the smart ways she pulled it off translated into “rules” to keep in mind if you are planning on going over to the dark side.

(Image credit: Minette Hand)

Paint the right surfaces dark

The two longest walls in Angie’s apartment were painted a dark black color (Benjamin Moore’s “Onyx,”) but the ceiling and the wall with the windows are painted a lighter neutral, “Skimming Stone” by Farrow & Ball. This design choice is smart for two reasons. Firstly, the two long black walls emphasize the length of the apartment, making the space feel a little larger than it is. And leaving the window wall a light color fools the eye into experiencing the whole wall as a light source.

As Nancy wrote in this great post, High Contrast: A Design Trick That Makes Small Spaces Seem Larger, “Dark colors read as receding from the viewer, so the accent wall visually enlarges the space (and sets up a nice contrast that can make the rest of the space seem brighter by comparison).”

(Image credit: Minette Hand)

Pick the right finish

Notice too the finish that Angie chose for her dark black walls. The fact that they’re not glossy works in their favor. The edges and boundaries of the small studio are disguised by the matte black finish, which also makes the space feel larger than it is.

(Image credit: Minette Hand)

Let big things blend

Angie also made sure that the large, utilitarian furniture pieces — like the bookcase and the dining table — are also in a black finish, allowing them to blend in (and not stick out visually) and reiterate the length of the wall.

(Image credit: Minette Hand)

Choose decor that contrasts

From the chic light beige sofa to the creamy headboard to the over-sized white picture frame mats, this is an arrangement of furniture that was chosen with contrast in mind.

(Image credit: Minette Hand)

Reflect the natural light you do have

In Angie’s small space, there’s a huge, leaning floor mirror and a large mirrored credenza. And both are placed on the opposite end of the apartment from the window. They both reflect the window’s sunshine and help spread the natural light a little farther.

More dark wall inspiration