How to style dark colours
Tint Stylist Alexis shows us how to come to the dark side, but in style.
Clients often ask me what to do with their cold or dark room and how to make them seem lighter and brighter. But dark doesn’t have to mean depressing — depending on what the architecture of the home offers and what the room will be used for, sometimes it’s better to lean into the darkness. Let dark take you on a journey to bold, cosy, moody, sensual and relaxing. So here’s how to unleash your inner Batman and be at one with the darkness.
Let there be light darkness
How much a colour stands out is determined by the amount of light coming into the room. In a dark space a light colour with lots of white can get washed out but a dark and saturated colour will shine through. The pigment can add richness to a space that will give the room a feeling of depth without trying to bounce light around.
Cool or warm balance
Leverage colour to impact the temperature of a room. If the room feels cold go for warm colours like Plum Intended, Rocky Racoon, Hygge or Sheet Society Rust. These earthy colours will add richness and depth. Make the most of them with warm light globes, which actually help humans see red pigment easier!
If the room feels neutral you can play with a myriad of colours including Doom, Sunken Treasure, Kong or Wild Thing. The world is your oyster.
For a warmer feeling room, you will likely have a lot of light too. Whilst you may not be on the hunt for a dark colour, they can look incredibly bold in good light! Look to a strongly pigmented cool colour like Do Not Disturb, Jungle Look, After Dark or Alter Ego.
Contrast is your friend
People commonly get tripped up when they use too much of the mid gradient in their colour palette. ‘But Alexis, what is a gradient’ I hear you ask? Without getting too technical and into the nitty gritty of colour theory, a gradient is the movement from light to dark or unsaturated to saturated.
The mid ranges of the gradient are right in the middle and can feel very safe, likeable and easy to work with. But once you start layering lots of similar mid tones everything can start to feel one-note and bland.
So if your house is feeling flat and uninspired add some contrast. Imagine the palettes below mixed across paint, furniture and soft furnishings:
Their contrast in colour, depth and temperature makes for an interesting balanced palette — the light wouldn’t pop without the darker colours, and vice versa.
Typically you’d opt for the lighter tones in these palettes to paint walls, but try switching it up and use the darker colours instead. Add light and mid contrast through accessories and soft furnishings. Don’t forget that your ceiling doesn’t have to be white either....
Where do you want to draw the eye?
Contrast in a space will pull focus and draw the eye, so use it where you’d like to draw attention. Consider what features you want to highlight, but also what you want to draw attention away from.
For example, feature walls are often the largest walls in a room. However, they can also be home to things like air conditions! If you paint your wall a dark colour and your air condition is white, the old A/C will provide large amounts of contrast and draw your eye to it. Now I'm a big fan (no pun intended) of my air conditioner but it’s not because of its aesthetic charm.
Use dark colours and contrast strategically and channel focus where you do or don’t want it . At the end of a hall a dark colour will draw you into the next space. A dark wall behind a television will make the TV disappear.
There are so many wonderful things you can do with texture to take your space to the next level. Pops of gold create wonderful contrast and warmth, with a sense of nostalgia or luxury against dark colours.
Timber can be a great way to introduce colour and contrast in one! Polished stone also provides wonderful texture and captures reflections for a sense of light movement. Velvets, linens and floor rugs also provide an opportunity to add texture so layer in varied soft furnishings.
Dark houses may seem daunting (or haunting!) but in reality they are very neutral, incredibly elegant, and easy to get right. Plus there's the added bonus of being easy to maintain which is a huge draw card.
This stunning house by Salt at Shoal Bay is a great example of how wonderful dark houses of any period can be. Try Paper Plane trim, eaves, gutters and fascia with Doom walls and downpipes for this stunning look.
Dip your toes
If a full dark wall is too much or you’re the kind of person who likes to test the water before jumping in, you can always dabble with a half wall or smaller feature wall. Try using half, three quarters or a picture rail as a divider. And get creative above the fold — you don’t have to put white on the top half either.
As Darth Vader once said ‘Give yourself to the Dark Side’ and try something bold in your space this winter.