Small Room Dark Colours

By: Janice Clements

I received a question from Martha of Aurora who writes, “I like dark wall colours but don’t have a big house.  Is it true that a dark colour will make my small rooms look even smaller?”

Martha you ask a good question, particularly because the perception of colour is a very personal and individual experience.  What I know for sure is that similar to the dark- colours-should-never-be-used-in-a-small-room train of thought, there are many design and decorating rules that people adhere to almost habitually.

It can be these very rules that stop otherwise creative people from truly making their home a reflection of who they are, often creating a challenging decorating process.  And so, I will answer your question regarding using dark colours in a small space in much the same way I do a number of other design questions: it depends. 

Our perception of colour is a direct result of how, how much and what kind of light is available in a space.  I am a firm believer that if a room is generally flooded with lots of natural light, then the darkness of a colour is not as important as it is in a room where there is no light at all. 

If your room faces south, you may need a stronger or darker colour on your walls just to ensure the paint colour doesn't get washed away and look "builder beige" during daytime hours.  If the room you're concerned about faces north and as such has little or no natural light, feel free to put a bright, bold or darker toned yellow on your walls to create the illusion of light where there is none.

If your goal is to make a small room feel larger, you’re best to limit the number of visual changes that happen in the space.  Stick to a monochromatic colour scheme, using various shades of one colour to decorate.  Select a main colour (whether it's light or dark, on a fabric or on a wall) and base all other colours in the room on this, choosing light and dark versions of the initial colour you selected.  Determine how dark your wall colour can be based on how much natural light is available in each individual space.

In many homes it's the smallest room that if decorated properly, often results in a space that's cozy, warm and welcoming.  Smaller spaces bring to mind more intimate settings for quiet times and can encourage privacy and solitude - a saving grace in a hectic home environment.

In fact, you may decide to go with a dark wall colour in a room with very little light in order to create a comfy, cocoon-like space.  Be sure to have determined how you intend to use the room before you commit to a dark colour, but know that ultimately you're only dealing with painted walls, which can be changed if you're not getting the effect you were hoping for.

Furniture scale can greatly impact how large a room looks, which brings us to yet another, almost instinctive tendency: the only-furnish-a-small-room-with-small-furnishings "rule".  While you need to be careful not to buy furniture that is physically too large to properly fit into a space, small furniture can make a room look juvenile... like a dollhouse. 

Moreover, filling your small room with a multitude of small furnishings will simply serve to create clutter.  Select a few stylish larger pieces, remove any unnecessary end tables and go light on the fluff and frill created by too many throws and ornate pillows. 

In any small space, try to select furniture with cleaner lines and limit larger rolled armrests on seating to maximize the number of people who can use the space.  Don't clutter the room with lots of small tchotchkes that take up visual space.  Avoid the urge to hang draperies that require lots of fabric to be pooled on the floor or gathered around window frames.

Know that the old adage "rules were mean to be broken" is true for anyone brave enough to create a home that is a reflection of who they are. Sure, check out the pages of home decor magazines for inspiration, but don't let them mould your home into something you're not comfortable with.   

The best compliment I have ever received as a decorator was from a client's daughter who, just before leaving from having paid a visit to her mother's newly decorated home turned to her and said, "I love it.  This house now looks just like you."

Words to live by.







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