12 Nov DECORATING IN THE DARK – 10 THINGS I’VE LEARNED FROM HAVING DARK WALLS
Every time I put up images of our house on Instagram, I trigger a chorus of questions about having dark walls. So here are some secrets of the dark side, revealed.
My goth phase started in 1995 when I discovered Nick Cave, but about five years ago it spilled over onto my walls. I jumped on board the dark interior trend when we painted the kids’ room navy and our lounge dark grey and I felt like I’d found my look. Then we renovated we decided to paint the whole open plan living area dark navy. And it was awesome. We’ve just painted our new lounge navy and this time we grew some balls and included the ceiling.
All the pictures in this post are from our house or our old flat. You’ll see the same pieces of furniture styled slightly differently each time as well as how the colours react to different types of lighting.
WON’T IT BE TOO DARK?
Yes, it will be dark. But with enough lighting, some colour pops and a mirror opposite a window to bounce light around, it will look amazing.
We painted our previous lounge room very dark grey, Downpipe F&B. It was already a dark room with no big windows, only getting sunlight for an hour or so in the morning but it worked really well. The room was never going to be a light and bright room, so with that in mind, we went with a cosy style. The dark grey helped the colours of the room pop and we kept the ceiling white which still bounced light back into the room. If the ceiling and floor are also dark, it will feel gloomy.
SHOULD I JUST DO A FEATURE WALL?
No, feature walls are for wimps. You won’t make an impact with a feature wall, go big or go home. Immersive colour is the way forward. Plus, a room immersed in dark colour makes skin tones look amazing. You’ll feel like you’re in a film.
WILL IT MARK?
Yes, it will. Be prepared to touch it up every six months. I usually go around with a sample pot and a cotton bud touching up dings and scratches.
SHOULD I PAINT THE CEILING?
In my experience, the room will look more edgy if you paint the ceiling. If you’re after a cool look, paint everything the same colour, skirting boards, doors, fireplaces. Then make sure you add lots of soft furnishings otherwise you run the risk of looking like a gastropub or a nightclub in the daytime – Eeew, sticky floors.
If you want a less edgy and more chic or ‘preppy’ look (which can look fantastic with navy or grey) keep the ceiling and skirting boards white or pale grey.
WILL IT MAKE THE ROOM LOOK SMALLER?
Defining the corners of a room will always make them seem closer, so if the ceiling is left white (or another light colour), the room will seem smaller – which could be good in an open plan space, to give the space some structure. If you’re painting a very small room like a bathroom, it will look bigger if you cover the ceiling too.
MATTE OR SATIN?
Matte, always and matte eggshell for woodwork so it’s wipeable.
WOULD IT SUIT A KIDS ROOM?
Absolutely. Unless you’re one of those neat monochrome freaks,* a white kids’ room always looks messy. All the elements of the room are disjointed, and the multitude of colours from toys and other junk make it feel bitty. Once you paint it dark, the colours all pop and the darkness brings it all together. Plus there’s the added bonus of making it even darker for naps – which might just get you an extra half hour of peace a day. Hallelujah!
* I say freaks but really, I’m in awe of you, you crazy organised monochrome people!
WHY IS EVERYONE OBSESSED WITH FARROW & BALL?
Simply because it’s easy to find a good tone and you can get sample pots.
Looking at an overwhelming paint chart with hundreds of colours is a waste of everyone’s time. You’ll talk yourself in and out of so many colours and you often can’t get a sample pot made up. Fancy paint companies like Farrow & Ball, Little Greene and Sanderson spend a lot of time figuring out what tones will go with trends and sit nicely together.
You don’t have to use Farrow & Ball, but it’s better if you do. It’s more matte and chalky which looks good for dark colours. You can find a paint supplier who will colour match Farrow & Ball in a cheaper paint but the colour might be slightly off and the paint will have a very slight sheen compared to the real deal, but you need fewer coats with a cheaper paint. If you can’t afford the fancy paint, I say, do it with cheaper paint in a matte finish, it will still look brilliant. We have done it both ways and it’s great either way.
You could always try a few sample pots of the good stuff, then say – I like this one, but slightly darker / lighter / less mole’s breathy and find your perfect colour in good old Dulux.
HOW MANY COATS WILL I NEED?
At least two to cover white. Three if the paint you’re using is quite thin, four for a really great finish. Use a spotlight or desk lamp to help when you’re painting the second and third coats, it’s easier to see the bits you’ve missed.
AND FINALLY… DON’T PANIC!
If you do one coat and you’re standing there thinking, “Fuck, I’ve ruined my house!” try it out before you do the next coat. Take up the dust sheets, put all the furniture back in (leave the masking tape up) and see what you think. You’ll probably love it. Just do it. Grow some balls and paint it all black.
- Colours will pop
- It will feel cosy
- It will look less messy
- It’s badass
- It will mark
- Taking pictures (and insta stories!) at night will be harder
- You’ll need to shop for more lamps… not necessarily a bad thing
Try my favourites: Hague blue, Downpipe, Railings and Inchyra blue.
Styling: Emma Scott-Child
Photography: Emma Scott-Child and Kate Berry
This post isn’t sponsored by a paint company, all these opinions are mine. Not an ad, just a fan.