Perhaps the reason so many of us prefer to stick with neutrals, whites, and beiges is the sense of safety associated with them. But interior designer Laura Pankonien says the understated shades can oftentimes prove trickier to work with. “Don’t be afraid of dark colors, it’s actually the medium hues or muddy beige shades that tend to take the light out of a room,” she says.
Designers and paint color experts say dark colors are having a moment right now: Dark greens, deep blues, and other moody hues are predicted to be popular in 2023. Paint expert Patrick O’Donnell says part of the appeal of dark colors is how they can cocoon a space in comfort. But he warns that you have to fully commit to the shade if you really want your space to live up to its potential.
Whether you’re planning a dark statement wall or looking to add a bold shade to your kitchen cabinets, take inspiration from these pro tips. The paint experts are sharing their best advice for choosing and woking with dark paint colors.
How To Choose a Dark Paint Color
Even after you’ve decided to go with a dark paint color, selecting the ideal shade will take some time and consideration. “The color choice will depend upon various elements in your space—if starting from scratch, then the world is your oyster,” O’Donnell says. “If you have existing cloth through curtains and upholstery, think of the tones and look for a dark that shares some characteristics.”
No matter what color range you’re working with, it’s imperative to understand the difference between warm and cool undertones. Cool shades will have blue undertones, while warmer ones will have a more brown, yellow, or red base. “Consider your flooring, cabinetry, lighting fixtures, wood trim (painted or stained) and other accents and furniture elements in the room,” suggests color expert Sue Wadden. “The undertone of what you have in your home should match the undertone of the deep color you use.”
If you’re working with a paint swatch, you can more easily determine the undertone of the shade family by looking at the lightest color on the card, says Pankonien. That being said, she urges those looking for a dark, enveloping look to go for the deepest shade in order to really pull off the look—no playing it safe here!
The Best Shades to Complement Dark Paint Colors
Dark colors are best approached with a layered technique. A combination of natural materials, which can add lightness and a dimensional element, and contrasting colors that maintain a darker, moodier environment will deliver all the drama without going overboard. “I love a blue-black wall color with carrying moody shades of blue upholstery,” Pankonien says. “Incorporate camel or a deep aubergine for contrast while still keeping in a dark palette.” While Wadden isn’t averse to pairing white and neutrals with more saturated shades, she says it’s the dark pairings that truly have the potential to bring life and a bit of sparkle to the space.
Best Dark Green Paint Colors
Green Smoke by Farrow & Ball
For a gray green with a hint of drama, Farrow & Ball’s Green Smoke gets O’Donnell’s vote. “Try in a bedroom as greens help induce rest and calm,” he says. “Team with natural linens and furniture in cane or bamboo for a lovely, relaxed aesthetic.”
Paint color: Green Smoke by Farrow & Ball
Pewter Green by Sherwin-Williams
Wadden is a fan of deep, nature-inspired greens as a way to help bring the outdoors in. “Typically, when we think of bringing nature in, our mind immediately goes to natural materials like flowers or plants. However, the colors of nature can also add so much life to a space,” she suggests. Sherwin-Williams’ Pewter Green is a winner for bringing depth and richness to the space and mixes wonderfully with rustic materials.
Paint Color: Pewter Green by Sherwin-Williams
Best Dark Blue Paint Colors
French Beret by Benjamin Moore
This deep gray brings a hint of blue for a bit of cool drama. “Benjamin Moore French Beret is a great blue-black that looks amazing on cabinetry,” Pankonien says. “It looks rich in a well-lit room when you want a color that feels a tad deeper than navy.”
Paint color: French Beret by Benjamin Moore
Railings by Farrow & Ball
While dark paint colors are often the first thought for a cozy study, bold half-bath, or dramatic dining room, the home’s exterior is also prime real estate for a splash of something saturated. For exterior trim, O’Donnell suggests Farrow & Ball Railings. It brings an edge of sophistication and undeniable panache to your home’s first impression.
Paint Color: Railings by Farrow & Ball
Naval by Sherwin-Williams
Navy blue has become the new greige. Wadden explains the appeal of colors like Sherwin-Williams’ Naval come from the fact that it feels both relaxing and luxurious while remaining incredibly versatile. “This deep blue pairs well with the natural materials that have come into favor recently, such as marble, metallics, and textiles commonly used in coastal decor,” she says.
Paint color: Naval by Sherwin-Williams
Best Dark Gray Paint Colors
Down Pipe by Farrow & Ball
Undertones in gray shades can completely change the look and feel of a space. Case in point: Farrow & Ball’s Down Pipe. One of the brand’s top-sellers, the dark gray brings a green undertone that delivers softness and warmth. “It’s wonderful in a dining room where it will add an elegant drama,” O’Donnell says.
Paint color: Down Pipe by Farrow & Ball
Peppercorn by Sherwin-Williams
“Dark gray is dramatic and can serve as a focal point by using it for an accent wall or serve to add even more dimension to a room by painting an entire space this moody hue,” Wadden explains. Due to its neutral roots, even the boldest of grays can become easy partners for more vibrant shades and be used in just about any space. “You can use a dark gray, like Peppercorn, to help ground a nursery or kid’s playroom by pairing the hue with bright yellow, mint, pink, or blue,” she says.
Paint color: Peppercorn by Sherwin-Williams
Best Cool Dark Paint Colors
Inchyra Blue by Farrow & Ball
When you find the right dark shade for your space, it can completely transform the look and feel of your home. “We used Farrow & Ball Inchyra Blue, a deep blue-green, in a beautiful kitchen project with white walls and white oak and unlacquered brass accents throughout,” Pankonien says. “That color opened up the space and set the tone for the entire project.”
Paint color: Inchyra Blue by Farrow & Ball
Stiffkey Blue by Farrow & Ball
When choosing a paint color, consider your surroundings. If you live in a 1950s rancher with low ceilings and long hallways, you might want to hold off on a deep shade. But if you have tall ceilings and good natural light, O’Donnell recommends Stiffkey Blue, a classic dark navy becasue it can impart a classic look when paired with white.
Paint color: Stiffkey Blue by Farrow & Ball
Best Warm Dark Paint Colors:
London Clay by Farrow & Ball
“Browns are effortlessly chic,” O’Donnell says. London Clay is a brown shade that skews warm thanks to red undertones. He suggests using it in a hallway, sitting room, or anywhere else, as it’s a versatile earthy shade. “Dark browns are a joy to play with and will team beautifully with a breadth of colors, from dusky rose pinks, to soft earthy mid-greens, to effortless neutrals or gentle off-whites,” he says.
Paint color: London Clay by Farrow & Ball
Iron Ore by Sherwin-Williams
Charcoal provides the ideal level of warm neutrality and, according to Pankonien, works just as easily in a well-lit room as it does in a dark and cozy one. Her pick for the go-with-the-flow shade is Iron Ore. “I’ve used it as a wall color to add a soothing tone in a warm modern living space with wood and leather accents and also with light countertops and zellige tile to create contrast in a bright kitchen,” Pankonien says.
Paint color: Iron Ore by Sherwin-Williams