Going to the dark side: How to transform a dull space into a stylish and vibrant room with dark-hued colour trends

  • 01/08/2022
  • Sponsored by - Resene
Going to the dark side: How to transform a dull space into a stylish and vibrant room with dark-hued colour trends
Photo credit: Supplied

Look beyond whites and brights, there are dramatic colour trends doing the rounds – dark-hued rooms that are cocooning, welcoming, stylish and, despite something of a bad reputation, surprisingly space-enhancing. 

"For a lot of people, dark colours can be a little intimidating to decorate with," says Resene colour expert Rebecca Long. 

"They seem to carry with them an unfortunate myth that you'll be left with a gloomy, depressing or unwelcoming room. But to avoid dark colours completely is to miss the opportunity to really inject personality and drama into a room," she says.

Test (pot) run

When choosing colours, Resene colour consultant Brenda Ngatai recommends using a test pot first – and this is even more important when it comes to darker shades. 

"Before committing to a colour we always recommend you test pot out the colour first. Once you've identified one or two good potentials, purchase the test pots, and paint them out on a large piece of cardboard (make sure to paint two coats, as this is important). This allows you to move the colour around the room so you can look at it from different angles. This simple exercise helps hugely in making your decision," says Brenda.

Considered colour

Dark shades offer a plethora of opportunities to set the mood of your room, whether you're after a bit of drama or keen to keep things more low-key and neutral.

"Many of us think of neutrals as whites or pale colours but very dark colours can also be neutral," says Rebecca.

Going to the dark side: How to transform a dull space into a stylish and vibrant room with dark-hued colour trends
Photo credit: Supplied

Here are some darker palettes to consider from within Resene's full spectrum of paint hues:

  • Blacks. Just like whites, there are many, many different shades of 'blacks'. Some have a touch of brown, some green and some blue.

  • Charcoals such as Resene Gravel, Resene Double Stack and Resene Tuna are flinty and sophisticated - these colours provide a cool, urban edginess.

  • Deep browns like Resene Bokara Grey, Resene Oilskin and Resene Mondo. If true black feels too severe and cool, these types of colours have soothing warm undertones.

  • Greens. Some of the darker neutrals in the Resene colour collections have an edge of green, making them earthy and interesting, for example Resene Swamp, Resene Tapa or Resene Masala. These colours give a more earthy twist to darker neutrals, and can look quite different from room to room depending on the light - both natural and artificial. 

  • Blues. Close to green on the colour wheel, these colours are cool and calming, adding relaxation and depth. Check out Resene New Denim Blue and Resene Raven.

Five darker Resene colours Brenda says are currently popular due to their calm, warm qualities include Resene Armadillo (charcoal grey with green undertones), Resene Karaka (dark earthy green undertones), Resene Porter (charcoal black/brown), Resene Coast (dark blue/grey undertones) and Resene Element (soft black).

Start small

If you're particularly nervous about going for a dark shade on the walls, think about trying it out in the smallest rooms – such as the toilet or laundry – first. 

These are spaces that are prime for experimenting as they're not a centrepiece room so if you change your mind, it's a small room to re-paint. A white toilet, hand basin or washer and dryer will contrast perfectly with moody colours like Resene Indian Ink or Resene Foundry. 

Sleep on it

Much has been written about how colour can affect our state of mind, and there's no better example than bedrooms. 

Yes, your eyes might be shut tight for most of the time you're in a bedroom, but anyone who has spent the hour before lights out looking at a brightly coloured screen will know that being surrounded by dark, restful tones makes for better quality snoozing.

Colour commitment  

One way to use dark shades to give a sense of space to a living area or bedroom is to fully commit to one shade. If you can match your couch and armchairs to the shade of your walls and use variations of the tone in your other decorations and furnishing, with a pop of lighter contrast in a shade such as Resene White Pointer. 

Rebecca suggests trying Resene Safehaven on walls with a closely matching couch, then adding layers of similar shades such as Resene Cello or Resene Seachange on a painted table top or shelves. Add curtains in similar shades and cushions in a mix of matching and contrasting colours. 

"By keeping a room largely to shades of one colour it gives it a cohesiveness that implies size and space and allows you to showcase some of the features of the room, such as decorative ceilings, polished timber floors, or a prized piece of art," she explains.

Going to the dark side: How to transform a dull space into a stylish and vibrant room with dark-hued colour trends
Photo credit: Supplied

Adjust the contrast 

Adding contrasting colours around an evocative dark wall can take a room from flat to fabulous. 

When you're choosing your wall colour, talk to a Resene Colour Consultant about shades that will not only match it, but really make it stand out. 

"Some combinations to try are Resene Coast with Resene Karaka, or the smoky brown Resene Ironsand with dusky pinks such as Resene Sorbet or olive greens such as Resene New Leaf," says Rebecca.

"Use these colours as highlights to emphasise the wall colour – think mirror frames, shelves or even skirtings and ceilings. Then take these colours further into your soft furnishings through cushions, rugs and curtains."

Break the rules

The number one 'rule' that can (and should) be broken is that you shouldn't use dark colours in small rooms – it's simply not true. While it may depend on what you use the room for and how it is lit, opting for dark colours won't automatically make a small room feel claustrophobic. 

While all white walls can reveal shadows and dark corners, darker shades of colour in a smaller room can actually disguise the fact that it’s small; instead, dark colours absorb light and create depth and the appearance of a larger space.

Shades like Resene Element or Resene Nocturnal actually have cool bases, which makes walls recessive and become more of a dramatic background to showcase your furnishings rather than dominating the space. 

For smaller rooms that lack natural light, Brenda suggests painting one wall in a dark colour and leaving the remaining walls in an off-white colour – cool or warm, depending on the flooring and furniture. 

Larger or brighter rooms allow for more flexibility when it comes to colour options. "With a lot of natural light coming in, a room can certainly handle colour, and it can be as dark as you like to a pastel tone or lighter," Brenda adds.

Go low sheen

When it comes to choosing a matt or gloss finish, Brenda recommends using a low sheen finish for walls as it won't be too shiny but has enough sheen to reflect and bounce off the walls, "unlike a flat finish which can look dull and lifeless."

This article was created for Resene.