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Embracing Bold Colours for Maximum Impact

The Dark Side of the Room: Embracing Bold Colours for Maximum Impact, by Guest Editor - Claudia Baillie, Design & Interiors journalist.

Claudia Baillie is a London based design and interiors journalist. Formerly the interiors editor at Sunday Times Style, and editor at ELLE Decoration Country, she now writes for a broad range of publications across all areas from designer profiles to homes, trends, architecture and travel.

There's something undeniably sexy about using dark colours in your interior. Whether it's a velvety red, deep forest green, vivid teal or even a rich chocolate brown, the strategic use of powerful shades can evoke a feeling of sophistication and warmth that lighter colours often fail to provide. A room doused in strong tones can also feel instantly more refined, making dark paint an ideal choice for living rooms, formal dining areas and home offices. Equally, moody hues can be cosy and comforting, transforming any bedroom into a cocooning sleep sanctuary.

Dispelling the Space and Brightness Myth

Contrary to popular belief and even to what might seem like straightforward logic, the idea that light colours make a room brighter is due for a rethink. While it's true that paler shades reflect more natural light, they can sometimes result in a washed-out and sterile atmosphere, particularly in shadowy, north facing rooms.
Conversely, dark colours absorb and manipulate light in a way that creates a sense of real depth. As such, an intense palette can make a room feel wonderfully intimate and infinitely more inviting, especially when balanced with a well thought out lighting scheme.

Similarly, light colours won't necessarily make a small space appear bigger. In fact, richer tones can help blur the boundaries of a room, especially if every surface including the ceiling and woodwork is treated in the same colour - a technique known as colour drenching. This creates an illusion of expansiveness, tricking the eye into thinking the room is larger than it actually is.

The Impact of Dark Woodwork

Though the majority of homes tend to have white woodwork as standard, opting for a dark colour can be a game changer when it comes to your overall scheme. Contrasting lighter walls with punchier trims creates definition and adds a sense of refinement to a space, making even the most modest spaces feel luxurious and 'done'.

Walls: White Dove OC-17
Woodwork and Ceiling: Regent Green 2136-20

Rich Shades as a Foil for Art

Whereas white walls were once considered the ideal backdrop for art, interior designers and even museums are increasingly using deep colours to display collections. These darker shades can provide an intense foil for paintings, photography and other decorative items, allowing each piece to really stand out.

Walls: Wenge AF-180
Woodwork and Ceiling: White Heron OC-57

The Power of a Dark Ceiling

Traditionally, ceilings were painted white to create an illusion of height. But believe it or not, if a room is very lofty dark paint can visually lower the ceiling resulting in a cosier and more welcoming environment. A bold ceiling will also add drama but counteract darkness overhead with plenty of gentle illumination to avoid things feeling oppressive. 

Walls: Deep Caviar 2130-20

Different Finishes for Different Effects

Your choice of finish can have a huge influence on the way dark coloured paint behaves on the wall. Matt formulations tend to absorb more light, which in turn makes surfaces appear soft and velvety. On the flip side, gloss paints reflect light, and as a result the effect will be more vibrant and dynamic. Though gloss can work well on walls, beware of any unevenness as the reflective nature of the paint will highlight imperfections. Combing both finishes can be visually very striking, adding layers of subtle interest to the overall aesthetic.

Walls: Admiral Blue 2065-10

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