Rich hues don’t have to be gloomy.
Move over, light and bright, and let the darkness in. Contrary to what you might think, a dark color palette can liven up your living room rather than weigh it down. Moody colors needn’t feel gloomy, and they can actually ground a space. “Living rooms are the gathering places in most of our homes and a retreat from the hustle and bustle of our busy lives,” says Phillip Thomas, the founder of the eponymous New York–based interior design firm. “Creating spaces that incorporate dark colors and really envelop you is a wonderful way to achieve this goal. The key is to create a balance, a tension that complements the space with the goal you are trying to achieve.”
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What’s more, a dark color palette or furnishings in saturated hues can provide depth and character, and they can prevent your overall design from being too one-note and flat, says Bria Hammel, CEO and creative director of Bria Hammel Interiors in Mendota Heights, Minnesota. “For most of our clients, the moodier areas often end up being their favorite spaces,” she says. “It’s a conversation starter!”
Read on for tips (that are anything but dreary) on how to successfully incorporate dark accents into your living room.
Jess Weeth, the founder of the Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, design studio Weeth Home, recommends tonality when going for a dramatic color. “Try the same color on walls and trim with a different sheen on each and a tonal color on another big element in the room, like drapery,” she says. “To me, that makes it feel as though the color is enveloping you, rather than jumping out and grabbing the attention.”
Photo: Keyanna Bowen
Photo: Christopher Stark
EASE IN WITH OMBRE
If you are at all timid about color, ombre is a great solution, says designer Holly A. Kopman, the founder of an eponymous design firm in Mill Valley, California. “The gradient effect strikes the perfect balance between dark and light,” she says. In a recent project, for example, Kopman tasked decorative artist Caroline Lizarraga to paint ombre walls, which created an attractive effect. “I had the team painstakingly mix the colors, so the walls faded like fog does in the Bay Area,” she says.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF NATURAL LIGHT
When a room is already bright, dark colors have more leeway. Hammel used a deep, navy paint to adorn the built-in bookshelves in a client’s home office, which has an abundance of light from the bay window, the sconces, and a large chandelier. “Opting for a darker paint wasn’t that big of a risk,” Hammel says. “The room still has a great, open feeling.” She further balanced out the space by opting for lighter wood tones on the desk, a lighter blue rug, and a cream seat cushion for their window bench.
The dark wood floors, Thomas points out, are chic and compliment any design. “For ultra-drama, do a bright, high-gloss paint on the ceiling. The shine will reflect light and keep the dark floors from overpowering the living room,” he says.
Photo: Spacecrafting Photography
Photo: Adam Murphy
INCORPORATE DARK ACCESSORIES
Embracing a dark color palette doesn’t mean going all out. The Tulsa-based designer Jill Croka favors accessories, like a planter or side table, when she’s adding darker colors to living rooms because she thinks that they help create a sense of comfort and relaxation. To keep larger furniture pieces from looking stark and out of place, Croka recommends saturated colors like a rich but subtle grey. These can be offset by light rugs and blankets.
MIX WITH EARTHY TONES
Take inspiration from nature and soften even the darkest paint colors with earthy tones, often found in leather furnishings. For a reading nook, Hammel painted the room a verdant shade to echo the woods outside, and brought in a leather chair, beige shades, and a textured side table in light wood. The charcoal carpet tied it all together. “We wanted the space to feel just as earthy as the scenery right out their window,” she says.
Photo: Spacecrafting Photography
Photo: Michael Mundy
ADD JEWEL COLORS
The easiest way to make a dark color palette less ominous is to inject the space with vibrant accoutrements. Thomas suggests layering in cheerful fabrics when it comes to your pillows and upholstery to create a cozy jewel box of a space.
SURPRISE WITH A POP OF DARK
When you prefer to keep your space bright but want to layer in a dark element, a fireplace framed in a rich tone is always chic and less of a style commitment, Thomas says. You can also add an accent of deeper color in an otherwise white room with a piece dark furniture to lounge on.
Photo: William Geddes
Content originally seen in Architectural Digest.
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