Breaking Rules: Dark Colors, Small Spaces

My first day on the job at RWI I realized that Rebecca encourages people to break the “rules” of interior design – at least once we understand the rules in the first place. That first day of work I was with Rebecca on one of her Quick Action Sessions and she suggested a dark paint color for the client’s tiny powder room.

The color fit perfectly with the client’s fun and eclectic vibe. I wondered, though. Wouldn’t the darker color in the small space make the room feel cramped? But then I listened as Rebecca explained to the client that the other finishes in the room (white vanity, white medicine cabinet, and white toilet) would not only provide the brightness needed to keep the room from feeling like a cave, but that the contrast between the white items and dark paint would actually make the bright elements look even brighter.

Better yet, the dark color would behave somewhat like a shadow, receding from view and actually making the space look BIGGER! Then she called on the power of Google to share some examples with the client to illustrate the design idea. Turns out, this is a secret a number of people have discovered…

Marina Home

Powder Room by JL Interior Design

The key to good design, Rebecca reminded us, is the combination of the ingredients, not any single ingredient in the space. So sure, technically the color was dark, but just like when cooking curry for dinner, just because a dish includes cayenne doesn’t mean it will be overwhelmingly spicy. Equally, the paint color is just one ingredient adding the spice to the room.

Traditional Bathroom

Deliciously dark paint in bathroom on Houzz – Lesueur Interiors

Because color is only one ingredient in the “recipe” of a wonderful room, it turns out that there are no “bad” colors (though maybe there are questionable color combinations). The combination of colors come together with the textures, patterns, line and scale to create the space.

Powder Room

Deep and dark powder room by architect David Seidel, AIA

Once you understand how the different ingredients will interact with each other, just like with cooking, you are free to play with curious combinations. And that means that you never have to stay away from a color that you love just because it’s not trendy or someone says it’s “taboo”.

Ultimately your space and how it makes you feel is the first priority in designing your home. Sometimes design rules can be a helpful guide, but it isn’t necessary to follow them to the tee. Breaking the rules can result in creative and happy interiors that support your personal goal.

Here’s to your happy home!

Team Member at RWI

Hi! I’m Rebecca West.

I’m not your classic interior designer because, frankly, I don’t care if you buy a new sofa. I do care if your home supports your goals and feels like “you.” Remember, happy starts at home!