DARK MAT­TER

The nights might be draw­ing in, but that doesn’t mean we have to brighten up our in­door spa­ces

Harefield Gazette - - HOME STYLE - Chris Read is an in­te­rior de­signer at Read In­te­ri­ors (read­in­te­ri­ors.co.uk)

Every time you open an in­te­ri­ors mag­a­zine there are deep, rich and dark wall colours ev­ery­where at the mo­ment. Who are all th­ese peo­ple paint­ing their walls dark grey? Do they know we’re about to change the clocks and the light lev­els are go­ing to get lower and lower un­til we sink into the gloom of a good old wet, dank and misty Bri­tish win­ter?

Are they crazy or are they in­spired? Well, it can be in­spired.

The temp­ta­tion is to put light colours on the walls of a dark room, to make it feel lighter and brighter and big­ger. But of­ten all you’re do­ing is point­ing out the room’s de­fi­cien­cies and mak­ing it feel cold and clin­i­cal, with­out ac­tu­ally chang­ing the light lev­els ei­ther.

Dark colours, on the other hand, have a cos­set­ing ef­fect, mak­ing a room feel cosy and wel­com­ing.

The dark colour acts as a ‘hold­ing’ mech­a­nism, and can pro­vide a feel­ing of safety, one of our pri­mary needs from our home. If the colour has a cool base, such as grey, there is a vis­ual il­lu­sion mak­ing the space ap­pear big­ger – you don’t quite know where the edges of the room are.

Light­ing can be the key to mak­ing a dark scheme work – think of pools of lamp­light draw­ing you in, or down lighters wash­ing a wall or high­light­ing a paint­ing.

So how best to use dark colours? It’s a bit of a bal­anc­ing act.

Try us­ing dark paint on part of the walls only. Nearly al­ways, this should be the bot­tom half – it grounds the space. A darker colour above feels top heavy and al­most threat­en­ing: think of a re­ally stormy sky – it dom­i­nates.

In the im­age here from My­lands paints, they have used a half-pan­elled wall – the dark colour al­lows the white and pink bath to stand out beau­ti­fully, mak­ing it al­most into an ob­jet d’art by fram­ing and pre­sent­ing it.

A dark-walled bath­room can be a sanc­tu­ary, rather than a place to get in and out of ASAP. In­ci­den­tally, a half-pan­elled wall is a great de­vice – an easy DIY job and much nicer in a con­tem­po­rary space than a dado rail.

Paint­ing one wall dark and the oth­ers light doesn’t have the same ef­fect – it chops the room up, whereas this way al­lows a con­tin­u­ous band, pro­vid­ing that hold­ing mech­a­nism.

If half a wall doesn’t tick your box, an­other way is to bal­ance full dark walls with crisp white edges – all the wood work and the ceil­ing, and add in light fur­ni­ture.

An al­ter­na­tive to us­ing deep colour is a strong and large pat­tern, which has an en­liven­ing ef­fect. It di­lutes the ef­fect of solid block of dark colour, mak­ing it eas­ier to live with.

Choose a pa­per with colours close to each other, as this has a more co­he­sive ef­fect, es­pe­cially in a small room, where high con­trast would be a lit­tle in your face.

I rather like the walls shown be­hind the op­u­lent vel­vet chair shown here.

Crisp white gives a strong out­line to con­tain the deep colour and the pops of hot pink re­ally stand out and be­come hugely at­trac­tive.

A se­cond ex­am­ple is the mar­bled wall: here it is a ‘bro­ken’ pat­tern that pro­vides the re­lief from dark colour, which at­tracts the eye first. It also has the ef­fect of adding a touch of lux­ury.

Mir­rors are, of course, a great ad­di­tion in a dark room, as they bounce any avail­able light around, not just nat­u­ral light but light from lamps too.

There are al­ways two as­pects to light­ing – firstly, its ef­fect, that is the light it de­liv­ers.

In a dark room, di­rec­tional light is the most im­por­tant, hav­ing pools of light, where not all the room is seen at once.

This pro­vides that wel­com­ing glow that pulls you in, and also makes the shad­ows a part of the story.

The other as­pect is the fit­ting it­self which can be dec­o­ra­tive.

Some of th­ese look best against a dark back­ground, such as the mini as­ter­oids shown here.

Hang­ing stuff on the wall also helps dis­si­pate the strength of deep colour.

Two ex­am­ples here – the cir­cu­lar feather wall hang­ings are in­ter­est­ing, be­cause they are en­tirely about tex­ture, not im­age. The rep­e­ti­tion of shape and tex­ture mit­i­gates the depth of the wall colour be­hind and pro­vide a frame, so it is high­light­ing the items on the wall, not the wall it­self. A se­cond ex­am­ple is the lux­u­ri­ous bed­room: here the art­work stands out, both by it­self, but also with the rep­e­ti­tion of a gold metal­lic fin­ish of the pen­dant and open work bed­side ta­ble. The soft pool of light is also golden.

The dark wood wall is a ‘bro­ken’ fin­ish too, although in a very sub­tle way, and adds to the feel­ing of lux­ury.

This is a great com­bi­na­tion of fea­tures that could be repli­cated at a wide range of bud­gets.

So, the key to us­ing dark colour on the walls is to bal­ance it out, whether through cov­er­ing some of it up with art­work or fur­ni­ture that draws the eye and is held by the dark colour.

You can stop it be­ing over­whelm­ing by fram­ing the colour with white and en­hance its ef­fect with light­ing.

Ready to get the paint brush out yet?

The Lim­ited Edi­tion Petite Mill­brook Bath from the Cast Iron Bath Com­pany, painted in My­lands Rose Blush 1884, and the pan­elling in Sin­ner – who wouldn’t want that on their walls!

Above left: A rather sul­try mid-cen­tury am­bi­ence for your home, en­hanced by the mar­ble walls, lamp and trip­tych Wilde mir­ror, with the glo­ri­ous An­thony side­board be­low. All from Es­sen­tial Home. Above right: This mag­nif­i­cent bed­room has an invit­ing am­bi­ence – get the Saki pen­dant light and Manuka side ta­ble from Brabbu

The As­teroid pen­dant lamp in glass is from In­ner­most.net I love th­ese feather wall hang­ings and think they look great hung to­gether as a wall dis­play in dif­fer­ent colours and sizes to cre­ate a sense of drama. From Au­denza

The deep walls are painted in My­lands Berke­ley

The Percy arm­chair in deep turquoise is from Sofa.com

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