flickr_dark room

You may be one of those people who automatically rule out dark paint colors for your home. And your reason probably is because you don’t want your rooms to “look small” or feel “closed in.”  Or maybe you just want a space that appears “light and airy.”  I know it’s hard to use a color if you feel it’s too dark, but deeper colors do have great qualities that can really give your home character.  Here are 5 things you can do to overcome your doubts about using dark colors:


When I first started doing color consultations for clients, I learned early on that when it comes to colors the word ‘dark’ is very subjective. I would suggest colors I saw as being ‘mid-tone’ — or even ‘light’ in some cases, and the client would insist that those colors were too dark.  To understand whether or not a color is really too dark for you, compare that specific color to a deeper tone in the same color family.  For example, below are three colors from Benjamin Moore:  Pool Blue, Pikes Peak Gray and Purple Easter Egg.

mid tones

At first glance, these colors may appear dark to you but look at the color just below them on the same color strip:

darker hues

Now compare the first set of colors to the second set.  There is just enough of a difference to show you that the first set of colors may not be as dark as you think.  And look at the third set.  These really are actually dark:


The trick here is to compare colors to their darker counterparts, not the lighter ones.  That will help you to gauge what true dark colors look like.

2.  Understand what makes a room look small

If you paint a 12×12 room black, the room will still measure 12×12.  Often it is not the color of a room that makes it appear smaller, but the amount of contrast and furnishings (i.e. big, bulky sofas, too many accessories or over-scaled draperies).  A dark wall color will actually help a space feel cozier and more welcoming, which is especially important in larger rooms or spaces with very high ceilings.

Also, if you have a room with a series of windows or a lot of trim and molding, a dark color will enhance those features.  In this situation a dark color will look like more of an accent instead of the main color.

3.  Think about dark colors in a new way

Think of a dark room as you would a dark evening gown (or little black dress).  Then you can begin to see it as elegant and sophisticated.  Take for example, the modern glamour design-style.  The works of designer Kelly Wearstler exemplify the brilliant use of darker hues in this swanky style.  She is famous for using colors such charcoal gray, emerald, indigo and black to create chic, unforgettable spaces.

4.  Indulge in courageousness
boys bedroom2
SW Honorable Blue – design by Kelly Porter

Just like our tastebuds sometimes crave for a rich, delicious dessert, our eyes also need doses of decadence.  Dark paint colors are very saturated which makes them look richer and more luxurious than lighter ones. For example, chocolate brown appears more sumptuous than taupe. The same is true with claret, which looks more opulent than rose. Emerald looks ritzier than celery green, and Navy looks crisper than sky blue. Paler colors can sometimes appear washed out, but many deeper hues are very vibrant and can add energy and personality to a space.

There are a few things to keep in mind when using dark colors. The walls could require two or three coats of paint, and the room’s lighting may need to be adjusted. Even with these extra considerations and the dose of courage it may take, a dark room can make a fabulous addition to your home.

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  1. Suzanne Melton
    May 12, 2015 at 5:46 pm (3 years ago)

    Kelly, I love that one of the BM paint strips you chose was 2073 (purple).

    We’re creating a steampunk library and painting the walls 2073-10/Dark Purple, the darkest color on the strip. The ceiling will be 2073-40/Purple Hyacinth, your center sample above.

    Yes, we know the room will be dark…we’re also making dark purple velvet “curtains” for the openings into the living room and dining room.

    But, we’ll have seven 7-foot-tall teak bookcases with lots of colorful books.

    Thank you for posting about darker colors. I wish more people were adventurous.

    • Kelly
      May 12, 2015 at 10:03 pm (3 years ago)

      Hi Suzanne,

      Your room will be simply dreamy! I do hope you’ll send pictures. Thanks so much for your comment!



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