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Dark Interior Design Ideas: How To Use Colours

How to use dark colours in the home by Kate Watson-Smyth

It is a truth, perhaps not quite yet universally acknowledged, that once you’ve painted something pale or mid-grey, you will eventually want to go darker and be more daring. If that sounds like you and you're looking to take the plunge into an all-together moodier interiors colour palette, Kate Watson-Smyth - interiors journalist and founder of - here shares her top tips for making dark colours work in the home and walks us through the all-important dos and don’ts of getting it right...

Dark colours in small spaces

It's a myth that you have to paint a small room light. Sometimes it's better not to fight what nature (or the builder) has given you and embrace the size. If it's small and dark then paint it dark - make a feature of that - and throw in some bright colours to lift it. If you're not a big fan of colour then go with black and white and add touches of a third accent colour: orange, pink, green or all three.

Make pictures pop

In our sitting room, a space that tends to be used only in the evenings, the dark walls have proved to be a great success. During the day the pictures on the wall really pop and look so much more exciting than they did against a white wall, while at night the soft glow from the lamps creates pools of light that cast interesting shapes on the walls.

Expect the unexpected

I think it's absolutely vital to do something unexpected in a house. To add some wit or have some fun. It's your home. It should make you smile. I have painted the downstairs loo completely black. That sticks with the principle of embracing the small. But, I have added a glitter ball and the black is chalkboard paint. There is always a small pot of chalk next to the soap. Reading the graffiti the morning after friends have been for supper is always entertaining.
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Build up to darker colours

I'm definitely going to redo these charcoal shelves in black. It will look great with the soft white walls (it's a chalky white which is very important - it mustn't be a bright white), the white crockery and jumble of wooden boards that are arranged on them. Wood warms up a monochrome palette which might otherwise be a little stark and in a room that is mostly white, the shelves have become a decorative feature as well as a practical way of storing everything.

Break up the space with metallics

The final element that is important if you are going over to the dark side is metallics. A mirror to bounce the light around, candlesticks, picture frames, lighting in metallic finishes. Copper is very on trend, brass and gold are warmer. Chrome is a bit cold, try the darker pewter shades. And you can mix them up too. Copper and pewter, brass and silver. Sometimes you just have to dare. After all, it's only a tin of paint.

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