These Are the Best Paint Colors for Dark Spaces, According to Interior Designers
It can be a struggle to find the right paint for a room, much less one with limited-to-no natural light. While it's tempting to try and brighten things up with a pale neutral, the consensus among interior designers? If you can't beat them, join them. "Contrary to popular belief, pale colors will not enhance a dark space," states Amy Kummer of Amy Kummer Interiors in Houston, Texas. "They will only accentuate the shadows in the dark room and make the space feel dull. It's better to embrace the moodiness and inject personality with a deep, dramatic color." To help you with your search, we tapped interior designers across the South for the paint colors they've used and swear by for dark spaces:
When it came time to select the paint for her office with limited natural light, Tori Alexander of Alexander Interiors in Nashville, Tennessee, went with Porpoise by Sherwin Williams. This rich, medium-dark brown was used everywhere: the walls, trim, cabinetry, and ceiling. "It allowed the one small window to really pop, and that contrast created more brightness within the space," Alexander explains. "The darker color becomes a great backdrop, and by placing lighter items within the space and on the walls, it creates even more contrast."
Jeremy Clark of Jeremy D. Clark Studio in Birmingham, Alabama, takes a similar approach to contrast as Alexander. "For a space that doesn't have windows yet might function terrifically as a [walk-in] pantry or party closet, go dark to highlight the items in which you're displaying," he advises before recommending Bronze Green by Papers and Paints in a light-reflecting glossy finish.
While designing a client's home office, Margaret Kirkland of Kirkland Interiors in Atlanta, Georgia, also had to consider its use after-hours as a small lounge for watching television. This led her to choose Alexandria Beige by Benjamin Moore, a sophisticated yet welcoming brown that serves as a member of the brand's Historic Color collection. "We wanted the room to feel really warm and cozy," Kirkland explains.
Maggie Bratton Dillon of Maggie Dillon Interiors in Raleigh, North Carolina, is just as much a proponent of leaning into the darkness of a room as everyone else, while recognizing function is also a key consideration. "For the small powder room that needs some character but requires guests to be able to see themselves while washing their hands, I recommend Setting Plaster by Farrow & Ball," she says. This soft pink has a whole lot of depth, creating a beautiful balance between the paint and (lack of) light.
Another recommendation for a windowless powder room comes from Clark, with feminine paint a few shades darker than Setting Plaster called Dead Salmon by Farrow & Ball. "This is a color that depends on the viewer, but leans towards a soft pink and pale mushroom, all at once," he shares. "Your space will feel warm and inviting without diving into the unknown of khaki or beige."
Oval Room Blue by Farrow & Ball is a best seller, darker and more traditional than other blue hues. "The color is simply gorgeous," Kummer says. "It's so pretty mixed with brown antiques." This is another shade that comes to life in different ways depending on the light, bouncing between a mid-tone with lots of green to a sophisticated, moody blue-gray (what you'll likely see more of in a darker room).
"For my own small library that serves double duty as my husband's dressing room, I enveloped the space in high gloss Bancha Green by Farrow & Ball," shares former Southern Living Decorating Editor Elly Poston Cooper of Elly Poston Interiors in Richmond, Virginia. Of the strong, olive-like tone, she continues, "It is cool and masculine, especially with all the lights on a dimmer, and is intentionally designed to be enjoyed in the evening."
There's an exception to every rule, and Lea Burton of Lea Honour Interiors in Charleston, South Carolina, found it: Glazed Green by Benjamin Moore. Used in a nursery with just two small windows, "it's the perfect pale green with cool undertones to help reflect natural light and flood even the smallest rooms with an airy and natural feel," she says.
Hague Blue by Farrow & Ball, a strong blue that brings the drama, received two votes. Dillon describes it as ideal for "the windowless study begging for a glass of wine and a record player." Kummer elaborates on this, saying, "Because of the richness and depth it has, this moody blue would be stunning in a dark office or media room."
In a dark corner of one of her clients' dens, Kirkland installed a small at-home bar and papered the walls with dark blue grass cloth before painting the millwork Naval by Sherwin Williams to match. "We really wanted the bar to be a jewel box that would pop peeping through the top of the Dutch door [leading into the space]," Kirkland explains.
On the hunt for something bold yet classic? According to Kummer, Green Smoke by Farrow & Ball is right up your alley. Farrow & Ball says this rich, elegant green (that's also quite peaceful) was popular during the late 19th century, which Kummer confirms. "It's about as traditional and timeless as you can get," she says.