How to bring a touch of darkness into your interiors

By Anna Clarke

Photo: Svenskt Tenn

It’s not always about pared back, lighter hues. In fact, darker, bolder tones can help fashion a seriously snug and welcoming ambience. We speak to two interiors experts to hear how to master the dark art of going grungy

The majority of homes here in Scandinavia tend to err on the side of bright and airy, embracing the white-on-white trend and using light wood and soft hues, opting to steer well clear of any darker shades. With the worry often being that deeper colours can leave a room feeling small, tight and claustrophobic, hues such as black and navy are sometimes considered no-go zones. But floor-to-ceiling dark walls aren’t necessarily just for moody emo teens and gloomy goths, and bidding goodbye to lighter colour schemes and opting for slightly less conventional colours (think dark blues or deep purples) can actually prove beneficial – both psychologically and aesthetically.


‘When you use darker colours in a room it can feel more dramatic and interesting. It can also have a calming effect,” explains interior designer Hanna Tunemar. “If the room's space feels smaller, then you can use that for making a room feel more cosy and harmonic.”

In fact, one study, which explored the impact of colour on cognitive performance, found that blue was a better aid for approach-based, exploratory tasks, which tend to be associated with creative thinking. So if you’re someone who works from home a lot, or uses your base to do a bit of pondering, a new lick of paint might be just in order to get those creative juices flowing.

Here’s the expert tips to keep in mind when you do:

Forget the feature wall

One clever way to really open up a home and space is to fully embrace the darkness, and rather than just focus on one small feature wall, take a deep breath, grab the paintbrush and paint the walls, ceiling and the woodwork too, including the skirting boards and doors, in your chosen shade. This way, your eye is able to ‘read’ the room much more easily, rather than if you framed it with a focussed feature wall.

“This means the eye isn't drawn to the edges of the space, and instead gives the impression of an expansive, open room with no start and no finish,” explains interior designer Mia Karlsson.

And still, an all-white interior can feel a little stayed. Granted, white is a clean and minimalist option when it comes to giving your walls an update, but you run the risk that you're left with a room that feels far too bare, and frankly a little dull. “If you paint in traditional white, the room and interior can easily feel a bit anonymous and empty, even if it is bigger. Darker colours are a good way to add some soul to the space,” says Tunemar.

Choose your colour palette carefully

A major benefit of opting for a darker palette when it comes to decoration is that it provides an ideal neutral base on which to add to, and there are a lot of accent colours which look luxurious when teamed with darker hues. “What we are seeing a lot of this year is biophilic design, reflecting colours and shapes that can be found in nature thus creating a calmer interior environment,” says Karlsson. “This has meant clients are favouring dark greens and other dark earthy tones with a pop of a brighter colour from soft furnishings and accessories.”

And when it comes to choosing the right colour for each room of your house, consider that in the bedroom, calming, natural colours such as blues and greens are good options, whereas in a hallway a warmer, welcoming colour, such as rust, works well.

You can always start small

A dark feature wall can actually end up making a space feel more cramped, as your eye tends to be drawn to that particular feature. But if you aren’t quite ready to take the full plunge, then there are still some baby steps you can adopt to add a touch of moodiness to your home. “If you do want to start with a feature, consider painting the lower or upper section of the wall in a darker colour, or perhaps just the skirting and wood work to create a bold contrast,” Kalrsson cleverly suggests.

Lighting is key

When considering a darker scheme, then how much light – and where you place it – is key to creating an ambient interior. And a dark background provides an ideal canvas on which to play with more decorative light fittings. “If you are looking for a luxurious, slightly moody, boutique feel then adding warm metal tones such as antique brass and copper through light fittings and ironmongery would work really well,” recommends Karlsson.

“If you are trying to create a contemporary, calm space then pairing your darker scheme with some wooden furniture in a teak or walnut will look fantastic, or if you want to go for a contrast then a lighter piece of wooden furniture will really stand out.”

The finishing touches

Once you've got your base, then the final add-ons can really help to elevate things to the next level. “Mirrors can be an effective way to make a darker room feel more spacious. And you can work with chosen areas or corners where you build beautiful still lifes into,” says Tunemar. They also help to bounce sunlight around your room, but stay cautious, as remember, the pull of a darker colour scheme is the cosy factor, which can be easily lost.

House plants of different heights and sizes also help to create levels in a space. But it’s also not always necessary to go overboard with the final touches: let a dark colour speak for itself. Karlsson, who has worked with clients on both ends of the spectrum says, “some have gone for very minimal accessories in a dark room where the walls and ceilings are all the same colour and this has been incredibly impactful.”

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