The Power of the Dark Side

Inspiration 3Navigating deep color in design.

by Theresa Rolen Long   

Vader is dead. Star Wars 7 looms, and we again must contemplate good versus evil—light versus…the dark. We may fear the Dark Side, but—from an interior designer’s vantage—light and dark are both righteous. It simply depends on Jedi-like application.

Before humankind evolved into socially advanced builders of houses and villages, we had to first emerge from caves. Prehistoric hominids found caves provided a natural, safe sanctuary from elements and predators. Our DNA desires this ingrained “cozy cave” feeling, luring us to relax by firelight, to snuggle up in candlelit rooms. After all, dark and moody is indeed soothing and cool.

We obviously no longer inhabit caverns for protection. And open, airy homes with an abundance of windows and pale-colored walls are just as appealing to our souls. But sometimes, our homes call for a dose of darkness.

Deep hues of chocolate, ruby, emerald, marine, aubergine, and charcoal are classic, elegant, and sophisticated. And because dark colors recede, a small room, when painted or stained a medium to deep color, actually appears larger. Dark rooms can be both dramatic and intimate, encouraging deep dining room conversations and cocooning bedrooms. Wherever you gather at night and for whatever purpose, dark colors make a room feel snug. It is important to consider when you inhabit a room and also how it looks in the light of both day and night. Most homes can benefit from the yin/yang balance of having both dark and light in their décor. Here are a few things to consider when adding a caliginous touch to your home:

Inspiration 2•If the exterior of your home is “too tall”, painting the top portion a darker color brings it down. Similarly, darkening a high ceiling, with paint or other material, brings it closer to human scale and focuses the eye on the walls and furnishings.

•Deeply colored walls provide a contrast for architectural elements like unique windows or millwork. The reverse works as well. Pale walls with darkly stained or painted millwork highlight beautiful detailing.

•Don’t be afraid of black trim. Glossy black paneled interior doors are beautiful, especially when accented with brass hardware. Black stair treads and banisters are easy to care for. Black bookcases provide a beautiful backdrop for colorful book spines, and black fireplace surrounds will nod to neighboring artworks also framed in black.

•Dark floors pair well with light walls, cabinetry, and counter tops, just as white flooring sets off darker furnishings, providing a modern, clean, and bright feel.

•Dark cabinetry is actually low maintenance, and the perfect support for a statement counter stone. Distressed black cabinetry lends a vintage, euro-country feel. Conversely, black countertops in an all-white kitchen are classic and provide a nice graphic contrast.

•Love black but scared of solid black paint? Try printed wallpaper with a metallic sheen, or a small wall painted with chalkboard paint.

•If a room has low ceilings, is windowless, or receives little or no natural light, shades of white can appear dingy. Powder rooms are a perfect place to experiment with darker hues. Also, white porcelain fixtures and tubs punctuate bathroom tile and cabinetry in deeper shades.

Inspiration•A dark, neutral color provides a frame backdrop for a gallery wall just as nicely as a white wall can. And a deeply colored accent wall adds personality at the end of a white hallway, especially if decorated with an ornate mirror or piece of art.

•Avoid an oppressive atmosphere by paying attention to lighting and contrast. Have trim, furnishings, or accessories pop from dark walls. Add ambient and task lighting near seating areas and overhead lighting along darkened wall perimeters to highlight artwork and avoid harshness.

My simplistic interpretation of Plato’s examination of light and dark, The Allegory of the Cave, is that it can be good both inside the cave and out. It is all about your personal perception of the world. So don’t be afraid to embrace darkness in your own home. Yoda may raise a green brow, but in the world of design, the forces of both light and dark win.

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