An interior designer reveals the 5 mistakes to avoid when painting with dark colors

These common mistakes when painting with dark colors can compromise the entire look of your space - and put off future buyers

Black living room with open fireplace to demonstrate painting with dark colors effectively
(Image credit: Getty Images | Nicola Margaret)

The trend for painting with dark colors has gone stratospheric in recent years, as we have become braver with using color and expressing personality in our homes.

Interior designers are often encouraging about using bold color within our homes. The latest interior paint color trends are all about bringing bright shades and vibrant hues into the home, but if venturing to the dark side of the color pallet, there are a few easily made mistakes to be aware of and avoid.

Leading interior designer Kate Watson-Smyth, author of the Mad About The House series of books, and host of an online course at Create Academy (opens in new tab), shares her penchant for painting with dark colors in her beautiful home on Instagram @madaboutthehouse (opens in new tab). Speaking exclusively to w&h Kate reveals her top tips for getting it right when it comes to decorating with dark paint colors and what we're doing wrong when it comes to painting in darker tones.

5 Mistakes to avoid when painting with dark colors

1. Not thinking about how you use the room

dark green bedroom to show mistakes to avoid when painting with dark colors

(Image credit: Future)

Thinking about how and when you use the room is crucial when choosing any paint color, but even more so when decorating with dark colors because the shade can be greatly influenced by its surrounding environment.  

“If you need to be in there all day, then painting the whole room in navy blue probably won’t inspire joyful play or inspirational work," says Kate. "Keep dark shades for evening rooms or rooms you are only in from time to time." 

For instance, darker tones often make an ideal bedroom paint color because they create a cocooning, ambient atmosphere which is more desirable in a room you typically use more at night.

It can often be this mistake that earns darker shades the bad reputation of being one of the paint colors that can devalue homes – because the color can hinder rather than enhance a room.

2. Not incorporating the woodwork

Black kitchen showing how statement painting with dark colors can be

(Image credit: Future)

“Dark colors look much more modern and dramatic when the woodwork matches," says Kate. "This also makes ceilings look higher. If you don’t want to go fully over to the dark side consider a toning, or paler, version of your base color.” 

The action of painting every surface – walls, woodwork and doorframes – in one color is better known as ‘color drenching’. This idea is most effective when using darker paint colors because it avoids your skirting boards from appearing like white socks at the bottom of your well-dressed wall, distracting from the statement color.

While radiators are essential to keeping a house warm, they might not always be the most attractive design element, and therefore run the risk of distracting from your best styling efforts with your newly dark walls. Kate offers a top styling tip to overcome this problem: "Paint your radiators to match your walls or you will draw attention to them and most of them aren’t beautiful. This way you can hide them."

3. Losing confidence and ending up with a feature wall

Living room with dark blue walls to show how to decorate with dark colors to maximum effect

(Image credit: Getty Images | Vanit Janthra)

This is not to say that feature walls are not still incredibly effective, but if your intention is to paint the whole room dark it may feel like a mistake if you start but don't finish the job. 

"While a feature wall can work if there’s a feature to highlight, painting one wall dark and leaving the rest white looks as if you didn’t have the courage to go for the full wraparound," Kate explains. 

"If you are worried the room will be too dark. do all four walls halfway up and use a paler shade for the top and ceiling." This method of using color is also a great way to make a room look bigger with paint.

4. Ignoring your flooring

dark gray living room with woodwork painted the same color to show the how stylists decorate with dark colors

(Image credit: Future)

If you've decided to take the plunge and venture to the dark side by painting with dark colors, don't forget the influence your flooring will have on the overall effect. Forgetting the floor is a common mistake people make when decorating with grey, where the depth of the shade is hugely impacted by the flooring.

"Painting a room dark is a bold move that can look stunning, but you can’t do it in isolation," says Kate. "You can keep the floor and ceiling pale but you need to follow through with cool flooring – an oatmeal twist carpet and a forest green wall aren’t going to work."

This is essential to keep in mind when choosing living room paint colors, as this key entertaining space will set the tone for your home and so should feel balanced and considered. 

5. Forgetting about natural light

Dark gray living room with large window with white shutter to show how considering natural light is essential when painting with dark colors

(Image credit: Future)

"A well-lit room can take dark colors but a small space with no windows will also work if you want to embrace its lack of natural light," Kate explains. "But you must take into consideration the architecture of your home. If painting a room dark means being under electric lights all day, you need to think if that is how you want to live."

Considering natural light is not only relevant when painting with dark colors. The same rules also apply when choosing the best white paint because the light quality will determine the depth and warmth of the shade and therefore the overall look it creates.

Tamara Kelly
Lifestyle Editor

Tamara is a highly experienced homes and interiors journalist, with a career spanning 19 years. Now the Lifestyle Editor of womanandhome.com, she has spent the last 16 years working with the style teams at Country Homes & Interiors and Ideal Home, and it’s with these award-winning interiors teams that she gained a wealth of knowledge and honed her skills and passion for shopping, styling and writing about every aspect of lifestyle and interiors.


With a keen eye for the latest interior trends, there's not a lot she doesn't know about home decor – whether it’s what colour we should be painting our living rooms next season, or if the latest 'must-have' buys are actually worth investing in.


A true homes and interiors expert, Tamara has served as an ambassador for leading interior brands on multiple occasions, including appearing on Matalan’s The Show and presenting at top interiors trend events such as the Autumn Fair and Spring Fair.