Have you got a dark side?

Had you have asked me that questions a year ago, I would have categorically said no. I’d have argued that my little house, with its dark rooms, needs to be painted white. Or in very light shades at least. I would have guffawed at anyone who had even suggested I paint a single wall dark. If fact, only recently, I’ve been musing on some of the bad decorating choices I’ve made since moving into No. 31 in my vain attempt to make rooms feel bigger and lighter. So, where did it all start for me?

Early in the year I fancied ‘getting into’ interiors a bit more. I’ve always enjoyed leafing through magazines, and at the time was usually found on Pinterest. So I decided to step it up and buy a couple of books. The first was New Nordic Colour by Antonia AF Petersens. As Petersens herself admits, the term ‘Nordic colour’ seems like a contradiction in terms. However, as this very stylish book shows, Scandinavian style is no longer solely associated with the light, clean lines, bright spaces or monochrome interiors. There has been a dramatic shift towards bolder colours. This book is wonderful, and it was the chapter ‘Dark Eclectic’, that stopped me in my tracks. The next was Extraordinary Interiors from Rockett St George. Like New Nordic Colour, this book is crammed cover-to-cover with stylish, eye-catching images. Here they talk you through being bolder with colour. They also remind us that dark interiors are not a new fad, but a have been a significant part of the interior design for a long time, particularly popular during the Victorian era.  What Extraordinary Interiors also helped me with was dispelling that myth that painting your room dark will make it feel small, cold or uninviting. Of course, it’s not for every room and understanding the aspect of your room can be important as the light in south-facing rooms is different to those in north-facing. Likewise, east and west-facing, as I have, change throughout the day. Having some idea of how your room receives it light, and when you spend the most time in that room, is important to consider.

Then fast forward to May 2018 and that’s when I set up my Instagram account. Not only did I find this world of beautiful photos, heck no, I found a whole community of people taking pictures of their homes and gardens and chatting away about them. The beloved interior community!  Here I have found some wonderful people, who I can endlessly natter about paint, fabric, accessories and everything in between. This is where my dark side began to emerge.

For those who follow @gareth_at_31 on Instagram, you will know that I started tip-toeing into darker paint with the Hague Blue in my living room. This came after a long period of contemplation about whether I dare brave a new hue. At the time the living room had a deep, rich and warming red chimney breast. I was terrified of taking away the cosy feel. However, being the interior-faffer I am, there was no way I could resist and so went for it. I remember taking the lid off the paint, staring into the abyss, laughing nervously to myself and thinking ‘oh god, what am I about to do’. When I’m nervous, I become irrational, so without thinking, I just started to slap it on the walls. I painted the whole chimney breast before daring to step back and gain perspective. What happened? I fell in love instantly.

Living Room painted Farrow and Ball Hague Blue (chimney breast) and Valspar Gentle Shadows

But fully embracing ‘the dark side’ properly took a bit of time. It was only when it came to decorating the bedroom, which was a very pale grey and mustard colour at the time, did I take the leap. The indecision slowed the process down, but then, after much deliberation (and endless scrolling through Instagram and Pinterest) I just clicked order. That was it. Decision over, the Studio Green paint was on its way.

Now I am sold. And interestingly, because of the relatively tall ceilings for this small room, the dark contrasting with the white ceiling actually makes the room feel much bigger. When the walls were very pale too,you lost this contrast and the height was lost. But where did all this confidence come from? Well Instagram was a big part of it and I’ll share a few accounts with you that you should check out if you’re wondering whether dark interiors are for you.

One of my go-to darker interior accounts is @alfredandtheboy. Describing himself as an aesthete, it is clear that Stephen has an eye for that something special. His account is beautiful and eclectic and if you’re considering using darker colours in your home, check out the stunning effect it can have. His kitchen takes on Studio Green, Green Smoke and Brinjal and it was here I started to pore over Studio Green rooms online.

The other two accounts I got some of my inspiration and courage to go bold are @welcome_to_stepford and @a_story_of_home.

Both these accounts have their living rooms painted in dark grey. Scrolling through their posts you can see wonderful effect that these dark hues have. To me, they emanate an air of sophistication, elegance and comfort. 

Paired with some bold and beautiful accessories, as each of these accounts do, the feeling of quality that comes from a dark room is incredible. The simple elegance of Michael’s room is achieved through the monochrome styling of silver and greys. Sharon’s walls take on a darker, almost green, appearance through the use of accents and houseplants; giving that feeling of the wonderful apartments I was admiring on my recent trip to Amsterdam. In my own room, I’m using golds, natural wood and comforting textures to create a little haven. What this bold move has done, and what I wasn’t expecting, is that it has actually made the room feel bigger, more sophisticated and so much cosier. Win win.

Now dark interiors won’t be for everyone. And that’s fine, of course. Variety and all that. But, if you’re sat there, thinking about it, but like me, are either new to all this or a bit nervous I have one piece of advice. Just try it. Whatever that might be, just have a go. Perhaps start small – such as a chimney breast, feature wall or a room that you don’t spend a lot of time in. Take in the wonderful accounts shared here, and see what they have managed to achieve through their bold and beautiful styling. At the end of the day (and budgets dependent of course), one day you will be able to repaint it. Nothing is permanent. Who knows, like me your trepidation might transform into a new addiction.

So, do you have a dark side? I know I certainly do.

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