How to make dark walls in a small space work

Modern style kitchen interior design with dark blue wall.3d rendering

Your mom probably drilled into your head, “You can’t paint small rooms dark colors! They’ll look small!” This bit of advice probably came just before she told you not to eat half an hour before swimming.

Like most of mom’s advice, yes, she was right—to a point. Yes, you can have dark walls in small spaces and rooms, but there are ways to do it well. Just like, yes, you can probably go swimming after eating that lone peanut butter cracker.

You probably shouldn’t eat a heavy meal of steak and potatoes and then go swimming—that’d be overdoing it. Likewise, walls in small rooms need a paint color that, like your laps, exercises moderation with some safety precautions.

Utilize natural light to lighten it up a little

Dark walls can be cozy, warm, and depending on your personality, fit in well. Maybe that man cave or reading nook should feel small, safe, and friendly.

  • To help small spaces along, paint your longest walls dark paint colors.
  • Deep colors like pewters, bronze, and charcoal emphasize the length of the longer walls if you…
  • A wall with a window is an excellent choice for a lighter accent wall. It tricks people into thinking the window and wall recede together. Leave the shorter walls a neutral, lighter color.

This is because dark color walls recede from the onlooker, whereas light colors on an accent wall sets up a contrast to bring it in close with brightness and more light.

Use matte instead of a glossy finish

Modern living room interior with sofa and green plants,lamp,table on dark wall background. 3d renderingChoose a matte or flat finish for your paint so you maintain the receding wall look you’re going for. You want to add depth, not sheen. A glossy dark wall will take most light from the fixtures and all the natural light in the room and reflect it around, eliminating that cozy room feel you’re going for.

Your light source matters, so changes in curtains or shutters can make a big difference later.

Pro tip: you can extend your natural light by using large mirrors on the opposite walls. They’ll lighten up the darker walls a bit and add more light to a small room. This is a nice way to add light to a space afterward if you went a little too dark.

Remember, dark rooms get darker at night

Unless you have a streetlight that shines in your windows all night, remember the mood and tone of your rooms change as the seasons and sun change. Winter has a way of throwing a blue-gray tinge over everything. 

At night your dark paint colors are likely to appear even darker. A dark shade of blue or green may appear almost black. And your lamps and overhead fixtures can cast yellow-ish or amber tones across the space.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. That amber color from lamps can make a small living room feel like a library.

If you’re worried you went a little overboard or the shadows are too hard in the edges, horizontal stripes along the walls are a quick and easy way to inject some color back into a blank canvas. It’ll add light and make the space feel bigger.

Add visual interest with your decor

If your furniture is on the dark side, this is good because large items like beds, tables, bookcases, and couches can

melt into the wall they’re sitting beside. This makes them appear less visible. If you had a black couch against a white wall or vice versa, the whole room will focus right on that furniture. You want the focus to be over the entire room.

Just be careful your colors aren’t t one-note. A dark blue wall with a gray bed cover or gold accents would work well in a small bedroom. One easy trick is to use the same color family, like a charcoal wall and a dark gray couch.

You can add pops of color and high contrast, especially along white walls around windows or accent walls, with pillows, throws, rugs, and even table settings.

Using dark paint colors in the bathroom

A small bathroom should embrace a light shower curtain, if you have one.

Since bathrooms rarely have windows, the shower curtain is a defacto wall when closed.

However, if your bathroom has a large mirror and lots of light, bright white fixtures on one wall, you can choose to make that your accent wall. Just be mindful of the square footage of bathrooms.

If your bathroom has a lot of tile, this can be hard to work around short of replacing it. You probably want to keep the wall colors in the same color family as any tile accent colors, like greens or blues.

Mom will embrace dark colors in small spaces

Dark walls work with the right light and decor. Your goal is an illusion that blends the edges of the room and ceiling together in a cohesive way. Dark colors and shades are bold and can make small rooms unique and distinctive—just like you.

If you’re interested in dark paint colors for your large rooms or small spaces, we can help you make some decisions. 

Our professional paint consultants can bring samples and swatches to your door. Then you can hold them up in the light against your existing furniture and decor and find all the ways to make the room appear just as you imagined it.

Get started by giving us a call at (925) 595-3081 or drop us an email.

Mom will come around when she sees what you create with darker tones. Her common advice on swimming, though, is probably worth listening to.