Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark

Michelle Hopkins
February 9, 2016

As seen in...

Westcoast Condominium

Contrary to popular belief, dark hues are a great way to add a sense of elegance, drama and depth to a small space. The opposite thought is a common misconception of small-space design, along with the idea that less furniture makes an apartment feel larger. Instead, before you begin a painting project, it’s important to consider your overall floor plan, says Erika Woelfel, vice president of Color Marketing for BEHR.

“If you’re looking to create a seamless flow between connecting spaces, we recommend using either the same colour or varying shades within the same colour family,” says Woelfel. “To make one room or space stand out on its own, try infusing a pop of colour with an accent wall.”

One of the best ways to expand a space is to keep these rich shades from being too overpowering or jarring – work with more neutral darks like black, charcoal, slate, navy, chocolate or plum.

“These tones will make a statement without overpowering the eye and actually making the room feel less cramped and confining than it is,” she adds. “When contrasting a dark hue with brilliant pops of colour, you can create an illusion of depth, making the edges of a room disappear.”

Over the last few years, darker tones have been making a comeback. However, consider how much light the room receives – whether natural or artificial. Woelfel cautions that if your room doesn’t get a lot of natural light or if it is a windowless room, dark colours can create the illusion that the space is smaller than it is.

Lastly, consider the major furniture pieces and décor items you already have, or intend to use, in the space. Odds are you don’t want to pick colours that will clash with those items.

Woelfel, who deals with colour and interior design all the time, answers West Coast Condominium’squestions and offers up her best tips and tricks for making your condo come alive with bursts of colour.

What should you avoid when choosing dark or bright colours?

When making a bolder colour choice, achieving balance in your space becomes a lot more important, but can it actually be easier to do. If your walls are black or navy, be sure to decorate and furnish the room with a larger amount of light-coloured or white pieces. For hues that are a few shades lighter, but still rich in tone, you will still need to use lighter accents, but it’s also possible to achieve the same effect with reflective or metallic accents like mirrors or frames.

Are there paint colours small-space dwellers should avoid?

At Behr, we don’t think any colour is off-limits if it speaks to you. However, there are some general guidelines to make sure the fire engine red or chartreuse you love won’t become a paint decision you regret.

First off, consider how you want the space to feel. If you want a calming effect in your bedroom or bathroom, bright and bold hues are probably not the way to go; look to sage green, lavender or airy blue. On the other hand, if you want to create an energetic and welcoming space, warm-toned hues would be a great choice and you should take a look at brick red, cozy beige and sunny yellow.

After picking the perfect colour, make sure you sample it in large swatches throughout your space to see how light affects its appearance (keeping in mind that natural light will change throughout the day). Depending on your light source, your crisp white could look more like cream or your slate could skew towards navy.

Once you pick your desired shade, make careful decisions about where it is to be used and the other colours you would like to incorporate into your palette. As fun as colours can be, you don’t want to be overstimulated every time you step in your door, or have your paint clash with key furniture pieces and décor. This is where balance and choosing your palette comes into play.

Next, and often overlooked, is the decision on what sheen to use. Part of this can be decided by the light in the space, but you should also consider how much the space is used. Matte or flat sheens will absorb more light and make imperfections less noticeable, but can be difficult to clean. Eggshell and satin finishes will help reflect light and brighten a space, while also being easy to scrub off marks and stains. Semi-gloss or hi-gloss enamel will appear almost glass-like and make cleaning a breeze, but in light-filled spaces, it could create a glare.

How can you connect spaces with different shades?

To create a sense of cohesion between different coloured rooms, pick complementary paint shades and add accessories that pick up on key hues in the other space. These accessories could either be the same hue as prominent colours in the other room or a consistent accent colour throughout your space. For example, you could pick a beige rug for your living room to match the beige paint in the hallway, or use bold red as a decorative accent in each space.

How do you choose colours that create balance?

It’s important to have a mix of warm and cool tones. Spaces that use only cool tones can look cold and uninviting, whereas warm-only rooms can be overwhelming. If you prefer one family over the other, remember that small touches, such as glassware and artwork or metallic and wood accents can help bring about the balance you need without a cool or warm paint colour you hate. It’s also an option to use the opposite colour family as your accent hue, if you’re worried about getting too many colours in the mix. 

Michelle Hopkins
Michelle Hopkins is a Vancouver-based freelance writer with extensive magazine, newspaper and online writing experience in home décor, new home developments, culinary adventures, wine, travel and more. Michelle writes for many notable publications including Real Estate Weekly and other Glacier Media Group publications, Western Living Magazine, Vancouver Magazine, Home Décor & Renovations, to name just a few. Michelle is passionate about anything to do with real estate.