How To Use Dark Shades In Small Spaces

When faced with redecorating a small space, it’s natural to be drawn to light, bright neutral hues that you’ve been told will open up even the pokiest spaces. But choosing a brave, dark colour can be much more effective, creating a cool, dramatic look with an on-trend vibe. From moody hallways to sultry bathrooms, we’ve enlisted the help of some top designers from our SheerLuxe Interiors Panel, to give their tips on how to work dark shades into your home…

Add Drama

“Dark colours can fit in an entrance way, a guest WC, snug or library. Push the boundaries by painting the walls and the woodwork in the same colour.  A water based emulsion is ideal, but if you have the budget use a gloss paint from Farrow & Ball or Konig Colours – just remember, you’ll need perfectly smooth surfaces before you start painting.” Award-winning London and New York-based interior designer, April Russell

Choose The Right Shade

“Plump for a paint shade with a rich tonal quality and your move to the dark side won't fall flat. Charcoal greys, moody navies and inky indigoes all work as a base palette for furniture and décor, adding dark drama without stealing the spotlight.”’s resident style expert Nadia McCowan Hill

“If you can’t quite find the colour you are after but have a favourite piece of clothing or soft furnishing, you can colour match it. If you take it to B&Q, they scan it and can produce a Valspar paint in the exact shade.” Contemporary interior stylist Mel Massey


Create A Sanctuary

“Dark design schemes work particularly well in smaller rooms, such as a library, study or cloakroom, as they can be cosy and inviting. If your room is limited with natural night, display quirky accessories and artwork, using decorative lamps to highlight key pieces and guide the space. Add glamour to a bedroom with navy silk walls, offset by crisp white bedding and a scattering of cushions and throws in dark, luscious textures.” Studio K Design

“Create a moody atmosphere in a guest bathroom by either painting the walls with a dark hue or applying a dark, textured wallcovering. This adds drama in any space – including a living room. Conservatories are ideal for darker shades – you have the dark walls, the light of the glass and plenty of gorgeous greenery.” Woolf Interior Architecture & Design

Pair With Metallics

“For a beautifully inviting interior scheme, pair dark colours with metallic tones, jewel hues and tactile fabrics such as velvets. Inky blues, emerald greens, chocolate browns and charcoal greys all work well, providing a depth of colour and interest to any small room. Accessorising with metallic tones, reflective surfaces and layers of light adds warmth, visual interest and bounces light throughout a small space.” Studio K Design


Work In Textures

“An effective way to enhance a small, dark room is to use different textures – think suede, leather and acrylic – coupled with fantastic lighting. It’s worth splashing out on good-quality lighting to create an intimate and luxurious space. “ Kelling Designs

“Statement, oversize pattern rugs bring dark rooms to life, whilst silk rugs and parquet will make a room look rich and warm.” Burchdaume

“Be bold and daring – use paint but also use textured wallpapers like dark grass cloth or dark silk, by adding such textures you’re not only creating drama but interest.” Debra Kacher, of DK Interiors

“Use dark or rich colours in a study with joinery, such as bookcases painted black or the use a dark wood veneer, as it creates a bold, dramatic, gentleman’s club feel. Compliment with dark black gloss furniture, contrasting textures and metallic accessories.” Debra Kacher, of DK Interiors


Add Light

“Lighting is critical in dark spaces for them to be functional, but you don’t want to ruin the ambience of a moody room, with bright, cold lighting. Think about dressing your space with a selection of quirky lamps, which will throw out light in different ways, helping to create real drama and bring the tones to life.” Contemporary interior stylist Mel Massey

“Dark tones absorb light, so to introduce light and brightness you have to play with mirrors, light reflecting accessories and, of course, multiple forms of lighting. To layer lighting use LED cornicing under mounted accent lighting, feature pendants, wall lights and sculptural floor lights.” Woolf Interior Architecture & Design


Decorate With Foliage

“Including lush botanicals is a great way to make a small dark space seem less oppressive. Verdant green pops beautifully against dark, inky walls so get green-fingered and pot up some plants for your pad.”’s resident style expert Nadia McCowan Hill

“Shade loving plants come into their own against rich, dark hues – ferns like Staghorns look stunning hung over a decorative bowl – and pops of jewel colours in a velvet, silk or horsehair will also look great.“Burchdaume


Be Bold

“Going dark in the bedroom can bring a sumptuous serenity to your space. Choose an inky tone such as Little Greene Paint’s Hicks Blue or Farrow & Ball’s Downpipe or Railings for an elegant finish, then get cosy with layers of linens and soft woollen throws. Opting for an inky hue will bring instant drama to a narrow and featureless hallway. Go bold with your paint and then amp up the character with a shimmering chandelier or a quirky gallery wall.”’s resident style expert Nadia McCowan Hill

No. 26 Downpipe | Farrow & Ball

Hicks' Blue | Little Greene

No. 31 Railings | Farrow & Ball


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