Ask the Expert: Shedding Light on Dark Colors

Color and lighting are very much a part of the outdoor beauty in the Hamptons this time of year, and the same can apply to the interior of  your home—if done correctly, that is. “Decorating with dark tones and colors can be tough to tackle,” says Lee Najman of Lee Najman Designs. “So I’d like to address this question”:

Lee Najman DesignsWhat are some of the tricks of the trade that you can use to create a dramatic interior using darker color? 

The key is lighting. With a darker space, draperies or other window treatments should be installed to control light coming through the windows. Bright light produces uncomfortable glare and the overall tonal contrast with the darker interior will break that dramatic look. This is not to say that no sunlight should be allowed in, but it should be controlled to work with the overall theme of the room being occupied.

High hats or other overhead lighting should be avoided because these types of lights will also not only add unnecessary glare to the space, but also break up the ceiling plane with bulbs and cast an uninteresting effect on the overall interior. Instead, use up-lighting, table lamps and standing floor lamps to illuminate the area into a dramatic, cozy environment. The use of wall sconces and judicious use of spot lighting the walls will add wonderful effects to the room. And remember that all lighting must be on dimmer controls, and all fixtures must have the same color temperature bulbs.

Use a variety of finishes. Satin, glossy, textured. Fabrics of different sheen qualities (as I discussed last month) will all work well together. Do not bring any bright light colors into the space—you will not be able to appreciate it and it will conflict with the mood that is being created.

As for Accent Pieces: Just remember, depending on colors you choose to go with the interior color scheme, make sure the tonal value is not bright light, but the darker and richer tones of the rest of the materials in the space. And to really kick it off, bring in a coffee or side table out of rich, dark woods. Or if you can find it, a natural tree trunk or interesting grained stone slabs.

The two-story kitchen in the picture below shows that the only lighting is from sconces, hanging pendants and spot lights highlighting the stone walls. The light through the large expanse of windows are controlled with pleated shades.

Lee Najman Two Story Kitchen

Think about the restaurant you go to where you feel most comfortable and at  ease. And don’t worry—dark colors will not make the room look small.

Have your own questions about interior color, lighting or other design matters? You can contact Lee Najman of Lee Najman Designs at

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