3 Tips For Using Dark Paint Colors in Small Spaces

Don't fear dark paint shades. Learn how to use them properly

By Seattle Mag November 5, 2014


This article originally appeared in the November 2014 issue of Seattle Magazine.

In fashion, it’s universally accepted that black is slimming and white adds volume, but that rule is primed to be broken when it comes to interior design. While the natural inclination is to paint a small, dark room a light, bright shade, color experts assert that a carefully chosen dark hue causes the walls to recede, tricking the eye into perceiving a larger space. We asked a pro, interior designer Leah Steen, owner of Revival Home & Garden (revivalhomeandgarden.com) and consulting-designer partner with Brian Paquette Interiors (brianpaquetteinteriors.com), for her top three tips for making a dark color uplift a dark room.

1. Never select paint from a swatch without viewing it in the room where it will be used, Steen stresses. “Lighting is so important and widely variant. Colors can change throughout the day with the daylight, so consider a color in all types of lighting that will occur in the room.” Most paint and hardware stores sell 16-ounce sample-size pints for around $7, making it easy and affordable to slap different colors up on the wall, live with them awhile, and see how they change in the light.

2. Incorporate reflective materials such as metal and mirrors to open up a space. “Strategic placement of a mirror to reflect natural or artificial light can be transformative,” Steen says.

3. Accessorize with textiles in lighter colors to balance the deeper wall color and combine texture and pattern for visual interest. “No amount of white paint is going to make a dark space feel bright, so why not embrace the darkness and emphasize the coziness that a dark space can convey?”


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