Paint Your Small Room Dark For Big Effects

Living in a 1,250-square-foot home, I’m pretty used to small spaces. With the four people, five cats, and one chubby Chihuahua that live here, I’m always trying to figure out ways to make our house feel open and spacious without tearing down walls or cutting in new windows. And one simple way to do that is with paint. Dark paint.

A long time ago, on a back page of Domino, I remember there were tips on living large in small spaces. A quote from Jonathan Adler struck a chord with me — to paraphrase, he was reported to say that the best way to make a small space feel bigger is to paint it a dark color. I was elated because I had just done so with my living room, making it a deep garnet color.
Three years later, almost every room in my house is a dark jewel tone — I even have a black bedroom. And Mr. Adler’s advice couldn’t have proven more true in making my small rooms feel less cramped.
You see, when using a dark color, what you’re actually doing is tricking the eye (and brain) into processing your walls as negative space. Your brain immediately discounts the surface as practically non-existent, whereas with lighter walls your brain registers positive space, actually making the room feel more closed in. So all those old-wives’ design tales about using light and pale colors to make a room feel bigger are actually just that — tall tales.
Of course, it helps that I have 11-foot ceilings in most rooms, but I’ve been painting those the same color as the walls for a more cohesive look. Add staining/painting our hardwoods darker as we refinish them, and our tiny rooms instantly feel larger and more luxe than if we’d attempted a pale or neutral palette. Once you mix in proper lighting and accessories, your new dark room will actually feel lush and inviting and not at all cave-like or depressing.
What dark colors have you gone for with gusto? Let us know in the comments, and if you have links to photos, please share those as well!

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