15 dark and atmospheric decorating ideas

Swap white walls for moody hues with these inspiring ideas

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Dark, dramatic interiors are making a big impression. And it's easy to see why: dark schemes are a great backdrop for furniture, whether neutral or bold in colour and design; dark decorating schemes make rooms feel cosy and inviting – even in larger spaces; and they're practical too, hiding all manner of sins, from sticky fingerprints to irregularities in walls. 

And while there is no denying that we will continue to be obsessed with light, airy interiors (the brighter, and the whiter, the better), a blank white wall just doesn’t fill us with the same glee it once did. So, we think the time has come to move away from light-centred interiors to something a little more… dark. 

From gothic bathrooms and atmospheric living rooms to bold kitchens and moody hallways, we say ditch all-white everything and join the inky revolution with these inspiring dark decorating ideas…

1. Experiment with dark paint colours

You’ve heard it time and time again – paint is one of the most effective, budget friendly ways to transform a space. So if you want to dabble with the dark side but don’t want to spend a lot, paint is your best bet. 

Start off with an accent wall and once you are used to the colour, start creeping it around the rest of the room. But before you dip your brush into inkier hues, think about the finish. A glossy sheen can make a dark colour seem cold, so opt for a matt chalk paint like Annie Sloan’s Graphite for a softer, richer look. 

Pooky Hazel ceiling lamp

Hazel ceiling lamp, Pooky

(Image: © Pooky)

2. Add drama with black tiles 

How delicious are these glossy black metro tiles? More dramatic than paint or wallpaper, bold, dark tiles add heaps of glamour but are still in keeping with that moodier vibe. If this look is a bit too Tim Burton for you, try using black tiles over a smaller surface area like a kitchen splashback, the walls of a shower or around a fireplace

Want to get the look on a budget? Check out our guide to painting tiles

Fired Earth glossy black metro tiles

Metro tiles, Fired Earth

(Image: © Fired Earth)

3. Add texture with distressed walls

Before you panic, we aren't suggesting that rag-rolled walls are making a comeback... no, they can stay firmly in the '80s. But there is something sophisticated about a dark coloured, subtly distressed wall. While you could recreate this unfinished look with paint, we think the easiest way is with a grey wallpaper. For a similar look to the bedroom below, we love Cole and Son's Patina Haze

Find more grey bedroom ideas in our gallery.

Dark distress wallpaper in bedroom

(Image: © Nedgis)

4. Try out the colour blocking trend

If you are slightly dubious about dark interiors, colour blocking is a great way to incorporate the trend into your room, without fully committing. Here Farrow and Ball’s Railings has been combined with Estate Eggshell to give this bedroom a moody country vibe. Now who knew that was a look? 

Bedroom painted in Farrow and Ball Railing and Estate Eggshell

(Image: © Farrow and Ball)

5. Add warmth with earthy tones

Dark and moody interiors aren’t all about greys, blacks and blues – deep rusty oranges and reds are also fair game. Try combining a deep orange like Dulux’s Tuscan Terracotta with dark wood flooring and Mid-century furniture to re-create this cosy look. 

Mid-century modern inspired living room

Flooring by Carpetright

(Image: © CarpetRight)

6. Small space? Paint the ceiling 

We have a tendency to think that painting a ceiling white will make it look higher, and as a result make the room look bigger. But painting a ceiling the same dark hue as your walls means that you can’t actually read where the walls end and the ceiling begins, creating the illusion that the ceilings are in fact much, much higher. Genius, no?

Top tip: If your room is narrow, paint the two shortest walls a slightly lighter shade than the longer walls, and keep the floor and ceiling neutral to correct the room's proportions.

7. Pick accessories in contrasting colours 

Another myth about white paint is that it makes other colours 'pop'. WRONG. Dark walls accentuate colour, making them far more vibrant than a magnolia-blah background. Splashes of bold, bright colour – maybe even neon, for the braver of us – will make a strong statement, and cool pastel shades also contrast beautifully with darker tones. 

Dark blue dining area with bright light fittings

(Image: © Pooky)

And if vivid colours aren’t really your thing, accent metallics look incredible against a dark background, plus the reflective surfaces will help more light bounce around the room. 

Dark kitchen with cooper lights and accessories

(Image: © Pooky)

8. Blend in larger pieces of furniture

This is a brilliant trick if you are working with a smaller space. Painting furniture, especially bigger pieces like wardrobes and book shelves, the same dark colour as the walls can stop a small space feeling cluttered and keeps the room looking more open. 

As you are probably aware we love a gallery wall, and there’s no denying that they look best against a dark background. Whether you choose photos, artwork or mirrors, breaking up a dark wall with a well-curated display will always make a statement. 

Want to create your own? Check out our guide to hanging the perfect gallery wall

10. Get a style hit with dark florals

Florals don’t necessarily have to be all about pretty pink roses and whimsical daisy chains, they can be moody too. Our favourite way to incorporate them? A wall mural. A whole room of florals could get a bit psychedelic but we love the sophisticated look of this Dutch Masters-esque wall mural. You can find very similar prints at Surface View

Sofa.com Harper two and a half seat sofa in Deep Turquoise pure cotton matt velvet

Flooring by Carpetright

(Image: © Sofa.com)

11. Make dark colours work with any style

The beauty of dark interiors is that they can be adapted to work with any style. Yes even Scandi can be taken over to the dark side. Just check out this living room – the pared back, pale wooden furniture and the neutral hues of the accessories work perfectly with the deep blue feature wall

Find lots of inspiration for grey living rooms in our gallery.

Scandi-inspired living room by John Lewis

Scandi-inspired living room by John Lewis

(Image: © John Lewis)

12. Add depth with house plants 

Creating a moody interior isn’t all about covering walls in dark paint. Copious amounts of house plants can give even the lightest room a dark and atmospheric feel. This gorgeous bathroom should be super bright with it’s white walls and pale grey, glossy tiles, but the mini jungle going on in there gives it plenty of depth. 

13. Keep the lighting warm 

When it comes to lighting a darkly decorated room, it goes without saying that you should avoid anything too bright. Choose shades that cast a warm light – drum shades lined in gold or copper work best for keeping the light low and luxurious. If you can, have lighting on dimmer switches as this will only enhance the moody, atmospheric feel. 

Warm low lighting in a dark decorated kitchen

(Image: © Davey Lighting )

14. Darker colours can work in kids' rooms too

Didn’t think dark colours would work in a kid's room? Think again. The deep grey in this child's bedroom definitely fits with the whole dark and moody trend, but the whimsical wall stickers keep it from becoming too grown up. There’s a practical element here too – the general wear and tear that kids have a tendency to create is far easier to disguise with darker colours. 

Linn Wold Little Tobias print

(Image: © Linn Wold)

15. Chooser a richer colour palette 

Creating a dark interior doesn't have to be all about the cool greys and crisp blacks, deep plum shades add just as much drama but give a warmer, cosier feel. Try painting one wall in a deep, rich shade (something like Dulux's Mulberry Burst would work perfectly) and choosing a matching carpet to really enhance that sense of cocooning warmth and comfort. 

Carpetright Albion Twist Carpet in Mulberry

Carpetright Albion Twist Carpet in Mulberry, £6.99m2

(Image: © Carpetright)

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