Paint a room a dark color, then add light accents.

Paint a room a dark color, then add light accents.

Do you love the colors dark bottle green, deep red, sapphire blue, amethyst purple, chocolate-brown, and maybe even black? Are you one of those people who admires dark rooms in magazines, but wonders if it would work in your house? If these kinds of decorating thoughts are going through your head, and you are thinking about painting a room a dark color, I say “Go for it“.

Painting a room a dark shade, is a little different from painting a room a light color. When you paint a room a light color, you will most likely get good coverage with two coats of paint. Light to medium colored paints have a lot of white in them, as their base. The chalk-white base is very opaque, so you will have density of paint color. When you paint a room a dark color, the base is more translucent. You have bonding agent and color pigments, so you will have to paint three or more coats of dark color to get proper coverage. Some people even tint the primer in the desired color to help get rich-even coverage quickly.

When buying a dark-colored paint, pick a paint finish that is at least satin or semi-gloss. Dark colored paints, in flat finishes and egg shell can easily bruise (scuff) when you rub over them. The bruising is like a burnished light spot, and is easily noticeable. The glossy skin of satin, semi-gloss, and even gloss paints provide more of a protective finish for the dark color.

When you start painting your room a dark color, don’t be afraid of what you are seeing. The color might look lighter than what you picked, it will dry darker. If the paint finish looks streaked, and your room starts looking like a dark hole, that is closing in on you, Keep The Faith, and continue painting. Don’t turn back! Apply the three or so coats of color to get the paint job done.

After choosing a dark color for a room, think dove, cream, or bright white for the wood work, and ceiling. If you have chair rail molding in the room, paint the chair rail molding, and the bottom portion of the room, below it , dove, cream, or bright white. The lower part of the room, painted in a white color will act like a pedestal, holding up the dark color on the upper portion of the wall. If the room had a dark toned bottom, and light on top, the room would feel bottom heavy.

A wonderful thing about painting a room a dark color is that it ties together mismatched furniture. If you put mismatched furniture in a white, or light-colored room, you look at each piece separately, as you would see art work hung in a gallery. When you put mismatched furniture in a dark-colored room, you first see the color of the walls, then your eye looks at the furniture and decorations. The color has a way of uniting all the unrelated elements in that space.

A dark-colored room needs a lot of light and bright furniture and accessories to counterbalance it. When it comes to window treatments, hang white or cream-colored curtains or drapes. Drapes also made up in light pastels, or bold to bright colors would be fine.

Hang large paintings, with subject matter that is colorful, bold, and bright. No somber colored subject matter! Prints or drawings should have large white or cream mats. Mirrors, with large-thick gold or silver toned frames, would also add visual interest, and shine against the dark color of the walls.

When it comes to carpeting, sofa and chair fabric, pillows, throws, etc., again thing light and bright! Pick whites, creams, golds, pastels, and bright pastels. Stay away from dark jewel toned colors.

Lighting is an important factor in a dark-colored room. Dark colored walls eat up light in the room. Think ceiling lights, floor lamps, table lamps, and accent lights. Put lighting fixtures all around the room to illuminate the space. Position lights on tables, behind chairs, and in corners. Work light around the room as much as possible.

I have a Ming Red TV room (dark licorice red). If you saw it empty, without furniture and decorative accessories, you would say it is quite claustrophobic. The red walls loom in at you. When artwork, drapes, a rug, lighting, and furniture are added, the red recedes, and it becomes a wonderful-cozy space. Everyone who comes loves the red room, and I have inspired many people to have their own.

Hopefully now, you have some insight into painting and decorating the dark-colored room. Don’t be afraid, Just go for it! Your next assignment is to look through decorating magazines, and analyze the dark room. Look how Light, Bright, and Bold things, were added to the dark space, to give it life. Happy Painting!

Companion Posts
Pick (use) four colors when decorating a room. 3-7-2011,
Interior decorating is all about equal balance. 2-27-2011 ,
The Right way to hang Curtains and Drapes. 5-3-2011,
The Right height of table lamp for your end table. 5-19-2011
It’s Easy to make a Grouping of Pictures 6-29-2011,
Making an Interesting Arrangement of Pictures 7-8-2011,
It’s Easy to Hang Pictures up on the Wall 7-17-2011,
Hanging Pictures Around a Room 8-3-2011,
ACCENT WALLS..Some ideas for Painting or Wallpapering an Accent Wall in your Home 10-29-2013,
It’s EASY to Paint Horizontal Stripes on a Wall, step by step instructions 11-8-2013


About fredgonsowskigardenhome

Your eyes deserve to view beauty. I hope Fred Gonsowski Garden Home helps to turn your vision, into a reality.
This entry was posted in Interior Decorating Principles, Picking Paint Colors Interior / Exterior / Front Door / Roof, San Francisco Chronicle / eHow references or resources. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Paint a room a dark color, then add light accents.

  1. Hamish says:

    Superb, what a blog it is! This web site provides valuable information to us, keep it up.

  2. Ciara says:

    Hi Fred,
    You have a very thorough approach to writing your articles and I find that I constantly refer back to them for help in decorating my home. It’s such a great resource!
    On the subject of painting rooms a dark color, I’ve been wondering if I should repaint my main living area a dark shade of brown or just stick to good old faithful beige. It’s an open floor plan living/dining area currently painted a boring shade of creamish grey. I have a basic off white sofa and the rest of the furnishings are mostly shades of brown with a few taupe, gold, and red accents. The room faces west which means that we mostly get afternoon light. Would a dark wall color work for this, or should I stay safe with a lighter neutral color? Its like my gut is telling me I should go darker but other interior decorating articles say to go with cool neutrals for West facing rooms. Would appreciate your thoughts on this. Thanks!

    • Hi there Ciara, I would say go with your heart and do the brown wall. First take the brown from one of your fabrics and find a paint color strip with its exact match on it. There will also be some lighter and darker versions of the brown on that strip. Any of those brown will work because the exact brown from your furniture fabric is on it. You could paint the main wall in the living room and the main wall in the dining room the dark brown that you choose. For the other walls pick one of the lighter brown tones from that same paint color strip. The lighter tones will be the brown you have with more white added to it to lighten it. When it comes to dark walls, don’t go too dark as the paint on the chip will look darker in your house as the room shadows at night. Could you find a taupe, gold and red patterned area rug, with some browns in it. That would be a wonderful focal point that would bring all the colors together.

      Another thought is to do your two brown walls, and do the other walls in a taupe color. Taupe being a brown-gray would be an interesting look. If you picked those two colors, you would have to match a taupe paint to your taupe fabric, just as I told you how to pick the brown. After finding every brown and taupe that you could possibly work with, take all of your fabric samples and put them together and lay the different brown and taupe paint samples with everything. You will, after seeing all the parts of your decorating puzzle together, two paint color chips that will work together and you can live with. Good luck with your project.

      I don’t really want people sending me their photos, as this is just a hobby of mine and I’m not getting paid for my advice. If you like, you could try linking a photo to your comment, and if it takes I will look at it there. My readership will also be able to see your room.

      Anyway good luck with your project, glad you have been inspired by my articles ;-}

  3. Ciara says:

    I wouldn’t mind sending you a photo of the room so I could get your input. Do let me know!

  4. Ciara says:

    Thanks a lot for your input Fred! Gives me more confidence now to proceed. Now for some paint shopping.

  5. Julia says:

    What a great article, with some hugely fabulous advice. We are now in 2016 and this is still point on.

    I have been a big fan of all-white danish interiors, with teak and walnut mid-century furniture, for years, even before it became a the major trend (so I scored very nice Danish furniture for close to nothing).

    Well, who would have tought I would be so bold as to paint one living room wall matte black on day; my friends, who have tons of punched up colors on their walls, all said I was crazy.

    The wall is behind a mid-century teak modular unit with lots of plants and one huge floor plant in the corner. It has come alive in more ways than I ever imagined! As you wrote: the black wall ties everything together very nicely. I added some touches of mid-century pieces of brass (vase, hanging lamp), and it really pops! The other walls are all crisp white. It is a large nook in an open-floor concept.

    Now, I am toying with the idea of painting my son’s bedroom (he’s 10) in a very dark indigo-navy, and I would like to know your toughts. I am unsure if I should go for all the walls (the room is quite small) or just one accent wall.

    The room is West-Northwest facing, but gets mostly Western light. It gets very nice and bright at the end of the afternoon. We have long and very cold winters. The furniture is two mid-century Danish walnut modular units, by designer Poul Cadovius, which I inserted in bright white wooden frames and added legs (for both style and protection from the sweet inocence of children) on each side of the bed (a desk and a dresser). I plan on white curtains, floor height; bright white moldings and ceilings; a small galery wall corner of colorful prints, with large white mats; white lamps (or brass, I’m unsure, but I do have a vintage brass boat porthole that would be fun to use in the room); a large white Danish rug (I could use an original shag); and a few (very few, but very bold) touches of playful primary colors.The top of the very large wall facing the bed will have a garland of fairy lights (and tiny square 3D mirrors in silver of gold, depending on whether or not I use the brass porthole).

    Do you think doing a dark navy on ALL walls would be too much? I’m thinking something of a dark, deep, very rich, inky, indigo-navy.

    Thank you so much for your advice.

    • Hi there Julia, first of all for your son’s room, I would get the dark blue paint in a shiny finish, versus a flat one. Being that it’s a boys room, and there might be more of a chance of rubbing up against the paint’s surface, the shiny paint surface would be stronger and not scuff soo easy. Not seeing the room, I would say paint the wall behind the bed first, and see how it looks, just that way. At that point, if you are brave and want to go further, then do the whole room. In my mind I would love seeing the room done in a gloss paint, at least for the focal point wall behind the bed, and a less shiny surface for the other walls, if you do the room totally dark blue or not. I think bright accents like red, or orange-ed, lime green, or yellow would work well.

      Read two articles that I’ve written It’s Easy to Paint Horizontal Stripes on a Wall, step-by-step Instructions, (the visuals for that post might inspire you) and look at the photo of my red room in the article How to pick paint colors that go with an Oriental rug and Step-by-Step Instructions for Hanging a Gallery Wall.

      Julia, in life there are “Taste Makers” and Taste Followers, I think you are one of the Taste Makers, so I say go with the dark blue, as it is calling to you. I think once you start, you will keep working on it until it works for you, as there is an adventurous part to your spirit. Best of luck with your project,… if for some reason it does not work out, prime the walls with Kilz and start over.

  6. Julia says:

    Oh, just one more thought… The room will have some plants, as we all love them and my son really wants some in his room. And the tiny accent color will be bright red, since it is present in larger or smaller touches throughout the house.

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