Decor Dispute: Should You Paint A Small Room A Dark Color?

Can you paint a small room a dark color?

It's a widely known design "rule" that painting a room a light color makes it feel larger. So, therefore, painting a small room a dark color will make it feel even smaller. But others feel that dark walls recede visually into the background making a space feel larger. And some people don't care about the rules to begin with.    

Small rooms with dark colored paint on the walls.

1. Image number one above shows an example of a small bathroom with no natural light painted in a dark eggplant purple. Are the white accents enough to offset the dark walls? [Photo: Apartment Therapy]

2. This living room is primarily dark navy, giving it a bit of a masculine feel. [Photo: House Beautiful]

3. Here, gold and cream touches give the dark space a sense of lightness. It feels just a tad over-crowded in my opinion though. Your thoughts? [Photo: Patrick Cline]

Dark rooms, small spaces.

4. I adore this library space with its painted trim and built-ins. [Photo: Via Decor Pad]

5. Here we have the addition of lots of mirrors... maybe in an attempt to counteract the darkness of the walls. Did it work? [Photo: Domaine]

Yay or nay? Small spaces painted with dark colors...

6. This makeover was shown on Curbly a few days ago... and I think it's a great example of dark walls working well in a tiny space. [Photo: The Vault Files]

7. This bedroom feels small, but in a cozy sort of way. [Photo: Apartment Therapy]

Personally, I love the small, dark look (yet I still haven't had the guts to actually do it in my own home). So what do you think, are rules made to be broken? Or are these design principles around for a reason? Sound off in the comments section below... I'd love to hear other people's opinions! 

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faith-towers on May 10, 2017:

That's a really great point Francois, thank you!!

Francois on May 10, 2017:

I had my master bath painted in taupe aka smoked oyster (BM), 50% lighter . But it turned out to be dark...still. It's a small bath in a townhouse and it doesn't have natural lighting. The bathroom fixtures are bone/biscuit color so that's why I needed a bigger contrast. It looks bold and dramatic and I don't have a problem with that but I will have to change the light bulbs into daylight color temperature to provide that natural lighting effect. This is the only missing piece. Natural lighting contributes a "wow factor" as dark colors absorb too much light. In other words, don't be afraid to go dark so long as you're not missing that bright or natural lighting.

faith-towers on Apr 26, 2014:

That's a really great point about the bathroom Stephanie - amount of time spent in the room is a good thing to consider. I've been thinking of painting my closet a dark color....

Stephanie on Apr 26, 2014:

I generally prefer brights and airy for living spaces, but I like dramatic colours for bathrooms because you aren't in there too long, so it doesn't overwhelm your mood.  (My bathroom is currently a dark grey-purple.)  My bedroom used to be a medium-dark rosy brown and it made me feel like I was in a cave.  (My husband loved it though.)

I have seen bright and dark colours done beautifully, but I don't think I could take it myself.

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