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Using Dark Paint Colors For a Look You'll Love

Updated on September 15, 2009
Eddie Bauer, Cabin Red
Eddie Bauer, Cabin Red

Deep Colors Work Decorating Magic

Most DIY painters have experience with light, neutral paint colors. They are safe choices because they can be easily covered and carry zero possibility of criticism from family or friends. They are easy because they don't require primer in most cases, and a third coat isn't needed.

However, if excitement is what you crave, look no further than the deep, dark paint swatches at your favorite manufacturer display. Many people never consider using a dark paint color--they worry about endless coats, a cavelike result, and visiting naysayers. These are understandable concerns, but there are solutions that can free you to choose the colors you really want.

Dark paint colors are more work, but they are a labor of love!

To avoid four or five-coat nightmares, it is prudent to use a tinted primer. Primer acts as a basis for paint color, and has many advantages that make it worth the trouble. Primer covers stains and seals odors. It also has a leveling effect, helping to smooth out wall imperfections (which improves the overall result of your fresh paint job!) It provides extra grip for the paint you will be applying, which is especially important with semi-gloss and enamel finishes. And, finally, when primer is tinted, it provides all of the above plus a foundation of color to help create an opaque result after two coats of paint color are applied over it. Bring your swatch to the counter and ask to have your primer tinted and they will take care of the rest. For many of the deeps, one coat of tinted primer followed by two coats of your chosen color will be all you need!

A common concern about dark paint colors is that they will shrink a room, making it feel smaller. This is a well-known decorating dictum that does not apply to every situation. I have painted many a small room that felt no larger to me after applying light, airy paint colors. What is true is that you will need to supplement your lighting, because dark colors absorb light. You may want to increase the wattage in your lamps or overhead light fixtures. (With the new energy efficient light bulbs, the increase in wattage will cost much less than with conventional incandescent bulbs).

To combat any "cavelike" feeling in a dark room, paint the ceiling and moldings in a lighter hue that will complement the dominant color. There are many tinted whites to choose from that will work with a deeper color. It is also important to remember that a room color cannot be judged when the room is empty. Once the room is put back together, you will be able to see the beauty of your room's new background!

A large, cold room benefits from a strong color that can rein in the walls and unify the space. Are you looking to cozy up a living area? A color such as Eddie Bauer's Cabin Red is guaranteed to add warmth and tie a large room together. Furniture, wall-hangings, moldings and fireplaces will all pop off this red nicely. This particular paint color is less of a chore than many reds, because it has some brown in it. My only caveat is to use Valspar paint with the Eddie Bauer paint swatch--the high-end paint that goes with the Eddie Bauer palette is thick, gelatinous, and hard to roll out. (Valspar paint and Eddie Bauer paint colors are available at Lowes.)

What about those naysayers? Friends and family can sometimes be critical when it comes to dark paint choices, but you have to remember that you are decorating your home for your pleasure! You aren't giving daily tours, you are living in your home. Having others agree with your color choices isn't paramount. Colors have a feeling to them, and painting with one you love is a thrill! Put both feet in and give dark paint colors a whirl!

Additional color suggestions:

For a small bathroom, try Ralph Lauren's Opera, a deep theatrical purple. Gold is the perfect complement to this color--RL's Cypress is a medium gold that would create a lit up effect on the ceiling.

For a bedroom, try Mood Indigo by Behr for the walls. It will envelop the room with the feeling of the night sky. Behr's Silver Charm is an icy grey with blue undertones that could be used for the ceiling.

Note to readers:

Primer has stronger fumes than paint and your project area must be ventilated thoroughly.

Never judge a paint color while it is still wet or after the first coat.

If your new room color is a bit of a shock, press on and decorate. After a few days, you will be more used to the change and better able to judge the final color.


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