Ask an interior designer about rich, dark colors and they're likely to bubble over with praise. Chocolate brown, midnight blue, deep scarlet — even black, deep colors are welcoming and cozy, they say. If you're thinking of taking the plunge, here's some advice from designers Brian Patrick Flynn, Mallory Mathison and Janine Carendi on using dark colors without creating a black hole: Choose the right room
In large rooms, Flynn says, dark colors are a great problem-solver. The sprawling size and high ceilings of living rooms commonly found in newer houses can make a home feel impersonal. Deep colors add warmth and coziness, he says, especially if you opt to paint the walls and ceiling the same rich color. These large rooms are often flooded with natural light, which helps to balance dark walls or furniture. But large, well-lit rooms aren't your only option: Carendi says dark colors can be dramatic in tiny spaces with little natural light. She uses them to add glamour to hallways and small bathrooms — places where you don't spend a lot of time and thus won't get overwhelmed by the impact. One caveat if you use dark colors in a small space: You'll need to beef up the presence of artificial light. That 100-watt bulb you used before, Carendi says, probably won't be enough anymore.
Don't use every element
Contrast is key: "Define the room with a perimeter of brightness," says Mathison, by balancing dark walls with light-colored molding. (Molding can be added inexpensively, if the room doesn't already have it). Besides adding brightness, Flynn says, light-colored paint will highlight the beauty of intricate molding against a dark background. "It pops in a completely different way," he says. Dark walls also can be leavened by white or pale window treatments. If you're planning a dark floor — a chocolate brown rug, for example — choose one made of natural fibers that includes a sprinkling of blonde or ivory, Mathison says. Then top it with furniture upholstered in those lighter shades. Get creative with color pairings: Navy and white are deliciously crisp together, while dark brown is warm and inviting with pale green accents. Flynn's favorite? Contrasting stark black with a classic Tiffany blue.
If you're painting walls dark, consider using high-gloss paint rather than a flat or eggshell finish, say the experts. Glossy paint reflects light, multiplying it and adding sparkle to the room. Keep in mind, though, that this draws attention to any imperfections on the surface of the walls. You may have to refinish the walls before painting.