Decor Disputes: Does dark paint make a room feel smaller?

By: Mollymc Apr 24, 2012

created at: 04/23/2012

Raise your hand if you're scared of picking a color from the bottom of the paint chip. Does it really make a room feel smaller? Is that always a bad thing? Whether you see the light or stand firmly on the dark side, read on and chime in.

I first dabbled in dark paint when we painted the back wall of our master bedroom a dark, chocolate brown in order to make an arrangement of white plates stand out. I was really scared when we started painting, but when it was done I noticed something cool.

Dark Brown Accent Wall

The color is SO dark, that it actually recedes. It looks as if the wall is further back than it really is. 

This amazeballs bathroom featured in Lonny another example.

black bathroom

You can tell it's not a huge room, but the dark color of the walls make them fall away.

Now let's look at a similar bathroom, painted in a medium red tone.

red bathroom

A perfectly lovely bathroom, but I think that you notice the size of the room more acutely with a medium tone like this. The walls are just...there. The darker shades manage to push the walls back and envelop you at the same time.

Color (or I should say, Colour) expert Maria Killam has a great point of view on this. She says that the crux of a dark room does not lie in the paint color but in the amount of light it gets. Light colored rooms work best when they have a large amount of natural light to bounce around in them.

white dining room

Maria says a light paint color is never going to cure a dark room, so you might as well embrace the cozy space and let a deep color make it feel rich and luminous.

What do you think? Have you tried bringing dark colors into your home? Any success? 

Top photo: Dark bedroom by Courtney Giles. Light bedroom from Country Living.




I have a family room with no natural light (unless I leave a bathroom and bedroom door open then it gets a little bit peaking in) it has a dropped ceiling so it is about a foot lower than average. I want to do a nice dark cozy space but friends keep on "advising" me not too. I disagree! lol! But what would be a great dark colour? I was thinking like eggplant or midnight blue? any thoughts??

Thank you


My livingroom has light carpet and a large bay window with white trim .  The furniture is dark ..sofa kind of a mocha brown tone.  Would a deeper tone paint in a brown tone make the room too dark?  The window covering is a woven wood looking pleated shade.  Window is completely uncovered most of the time and faces north to northwest.

id like to paint the walls in my bathroom dark grey, but will it be hard to do my makeup when its nightime?
I don't think 10x11 bedroom is tiny

welcome to the dark side!

I've always wanted to paint the back wall of my pink bedroom grey. So I did. I painted a medium grey but the result wasn't what I expected. So I repainted! And this time a dark charcoal grey! And then I hang white drapery from the ceiling, and the effect is absolutely stunning! 

Have you ever seen what dark paint, furnishings, window coverings, etc. do to the light in a room? They can SUCK up a significant amount of light! I want to see what's in the room. I don't want to have to guess. I know of an office that had light paint and enough sufficient natural light that the lights didn't even need to be turned on to work.  Along came the "inferior desicrater" and she had all the walls painted some very dark, "in style" paint. Guess what? ALL the lights got turned on.

@Tien I think Anthropologie? 

Anyone know where to the get puckered white duvet cover in the left bedroom of the first photo? Super cute! I have a dark blue accent wall behind my bed and the other walls are white! I think it's fine as long as you balance it with lighter accents!

I think balancing dark walls with bright or reflective accents can also help a room feel larger.  I love the white plates you have on your master bedroom wall there, I think they pop really well and pick up some of the brightness from other areas of the room.

I love bold colors and unless it's a very small, think half bath, room it can look very inviting. Our library is Green Bay Packer green with deep redish brown built in book cases and trim.  I can't imagine it looking better in a lighter color.

I've actually seen some pretty small bathrooms looks smashing in deep jeweltone colors too, so even that's possible really. Yep, I love deep dark colored walls.

I love the idea of dark colors with white trim.  I painted my tiny (10x11) bedroom red.  It doesn't get much light and I only sleep in it, so it doesn't feel dark at all.  I think you don't need to be afraid of a dark color especially in a small room because it's not really going to feel bigger in a lighter color.  

Glad to see all the fans of dark paint come out! I really think it's such a great surprise!

As for the plates, Paulitaz, that's your call, but personally I'm a fan. :)

I also painted my bedroom a relatively dark blue (Sherwin Williams Dynamic Blue). It's a smallish bedroom and my bedroom furniture is blond wood. I love, love, love the look! Wish I'd done it years ago.

I painted the backsplash in the kitchen dark gray and I love it. Everything else is white, but gray counters. I feel it makes the kitchen recede rather than look smaller.

Question: Do I want plates on my bedroom wall?  Two pic show plates on the bedroom wall so I have to ask the question.

My bedroom is dark, but with high ceilings, and was a ghastly pale mint/sea green.  I painted it a dark blue, and love it.  My bedding is light, I have silver accents in frames that I need to hang up to help break up the dark.

In a much smaller room, I took the doors off of a small closet, and just made it shelving for an office space, painting the back wall of the shelves a dark grey, with white shelving.  I love that too.  

I think dark rooms depend a lot on the accent colors used and accessorizing to make it pull it from cave to cozy.

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