Photo: Mimi & Hill
Out of all the tones on the color wheel, we firmly believe that the darker hues are the most misunderstood. For many, inky blues, deep charcoals, and pure blacks are the design-equivalent to the dark side of the Force: limiting, claustrophobic, and downright soul-sucking. But, in reality? They can be the exact opposite.
When used appropriately, darker tones can actually open up the space in question. And — since they’re arguably more dynamic than overplayed whites, creams, and beiges — they can offer a hefty helping of drama, minus the doom and gloom. The key, of course, is finding the right shade. With so many nuanced undertones to sift through, finding the perfect dark tone for your room can be an exhausting endeavor. But, to make your vetting process a little easier, we asked a handful of designers to share their tried-and-true tones.
Benjamin Moore Asphalt CC-548
Ready to make a statement? Turn the brightness all the way down with a deep charcoal. “I recently used Benjamin Moore Asphalt CC-548 in a walk-in closet and I loved the way it turned out,” shares Shawna Underwood. But, for the DC-based designer, how you use your dark color is just as important as the shade you select in the first place. “When using a dark wall color, try painting the trim and ceiling the same color for a moody and luxurious look,” she adds.
Benjamin Moore Southern Vine 2138-10
Anyone who is looking for a pop of color in a sea of darkness will find a lot to love about Benjamin Moore’s Southern Vine. “We love this shade of green because it has a slight gray undertone which makes it feel a bit historic and vintage,” explains Bria Hammel. “We find that it’s really such a versatile color to use in any space; moody enough for a showstopping powder bathroom or timeless enough to use on kitchen cabinetry!”
Sherwin-Williams Tricorn SW 6258
If you are painting a bathroom or kitchen, you’ll need to consider how your dark hue pairs with your hardware. That’s exactly why Breegan Jane is so fond of Sherwin-Williams’ Tricorn, a fabulous black shade that works well with gold and silver. “This is ideal for me as a designer, as no two clients desire the same look in their spaces,” she shares. “I can apply Tricorn without the worry of any selected hardware clashing because of varying undertones. This paint color isn’t just neutral, it’s extremely versatile.”
Fine Paints of Europe Carlyle Aubergine
Move over, black and gray: There’s a new dark power hue in town. “People often go right to grey, navy, and brown when thinking about dark paint colors, but I am a big fan of purple as a glamorous alternative,” shares designer Phillip Thomas. “In this bedroom, we chose Carlyle Aubergine from Carleton Varney’s collection from Fine Paints of Europe, which has a silky plum hue. It feels like the room is enveloping you in a hug.”
Portola Paints and Glazes Fade to Black Roman Clay
In case you didn’t get the memo, dark paint colors can be warm and inviting. However, if you need some extra convincing, look at Portola Paints and Glazes’ ‘Fade to Black’ Roman Clay. “Today’s industrial look still has that edginess that drew us all in originally, but it isn’t as basic as reclaimed wood and steel trim,” Stefani Stein says. “It’s less cold and more inviting—especially right now, when we all just want to be a bit more cozy. One of my all-time favorites is Portola Paints and Glazes ‘Fade to Black’ Roman Clay.” For the perfect finishing touch, Stein loves to pair this hue with softer tones and cozy textures.
Sherwin-Williams Seaworthy SW 7620
For Mimi & Hill’s Hillary Kaplan, Sherwin-Williams’ Seaworthy is the happy medium between dark and bold. “It provides a bit more nuance and character than a traditional navy and pairs beautifully with the gold accents,” she explains. If you want to give this power shade a sophisticated edge, take a cue from Kaplan, who paired it with a jute rug and textured wallpaper.
Benjamin Moore Downpour Blue 2063-20
Navy is the perfect shade for anyone who wants to go to the dark side, but isn’t ready to commit to an inky black or charcoal. However, with so many shades to choose from, finding the right one can be tricky. When in doubt, look to Benjamin Moore’s Downpour Blue, which will bring a “wow” factor to any room. But “[It’s] an amazing shade of navy that we recently used in a client’s music room,” share Zandy Gammons and Liles Dunnigan, the co-owners of the Warehouse Interiors in North Carolina. “The paint color gave the room such a warm, comforting feel that makes you never want to leave.”
Benjamin Moore Waller Green CW-510
According to designer Kati Curtis, you can’t go wrong with Benjamin Moore’s Waller Green. For this shade, the magic lies in its iridescent-like glow. “It’s a deep, moody green that goes greenish blue [or] black in some lighting,” she shares. “I love the richness it brings and the fact that it’s almost a neutral, but the green tones give it much more interest. It’s super-versatile.” Thanks to its subtle masculine edge, Curtis loves to incorporate this in smaller spaces such as a study or guest bedroom.
Sherwin-Williams Peppercorn SW 7674
On the hunt for a dark neutral that will work with your space, not against it? Meet Sherwin-Williams’ Peppercorn. “[It] provides the perfect foundation for a cozy and moody palette,” explain Kim Williams and Janelle Hughes, co-founders of KJ Design and Mortar Styling. “What [we] love most about it is the way it transforms to pick up a more brown, black, or grey feeling depending on the light distribution or time of day.” Whether you want to accent with bold pops of color or keep the decor neutral, this is one paint shade with unlimited possibilities.