Design Recipes: The do’s and don’ts of using dark colors


When thinking of colors such as ruby red, indigo blue, forest green and chocolate brown, what images come to mind? These colors are dark, bold and rich and can be used either separately or in some cases in combination without feeling dark and gloomy. The key is to use color carefully and purposefully and in moderation. In nearly all cases, having a color plan is also helpful. In other words, knowing where and why you are going to use certain colors will go a long way in creating a cohesive look.

When looking to incorporate dark colors, here are some top tips.


1. Consider darker colors for some of your foundational pieces such as upholstery.

2. Paint walls in dark colors, especially accent walls. Be careful when using unusually deep colors for entire rooms, as it may overwhelm.

3. Use tints, tones and shades of your darker colors in the same space. It will help make the room feel less overwhelming.

4. Consider using more than one dark color in the same space, especially in accessories and accents.

5. Use dark colors in overly bright spaces, as it will help to ground the room.


1. Touch up dark paint colors on walls. Dark colors will not allow for touch-ups; entire surfaces will need to be repainted.

2. Use dark flooring in a dark room. It will serve to make the space feel even darker.

3. Paint ceilings a dark color, as the effect will make ceilings feel lower.

4. Forget dark colors will make a room feel smaller. But darker colors in a larger space can feel warm and cozy.

5. Forget to add a sense of contrast when using dark colors such as adding a light-colored rug or artwork in a space in which you have dark furniture and furnishings.

Cathy Hobbs, based in New York City, is an Emmy Award-winning television host and a nationally known interior design and home staging expert with offices in New York City, Boston and Washington, D.C. Contact her at [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]> or visit her website at <>.

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