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Can You Paint a Dark Room a Dark Color?

Yes! If it’s done right you can paint a dark room with darker shades of paint. Sometimes working with what you have in an already dark room is easier than fighting it.

Embrace the darker aspects of your space and complement its moodiness with rich, dramatic colors. This is a great way to inject personality into a darker room Low light rooms can always be made to feel brighter with other tricks such as good lighting (think lots of can lights, sconces and floor lamps) lighter drapes and mirrors that bounce light back into the room.

My Favorite Paint Colors and Brands For Dark Rooms

Hopefully all the aforementioned info makes sense. With that being said, there are some paint colors that I go to time and time again when I’m dealing with small, low-light or just downright dark rooms.

Just remember – no matter what paint color you choose, you need to first identify why your room is dark and amp up the amount of lighting accordingly.

Paint colors should ALWAYS be tested before committing. So many different elements play into whether a color will work in your room (the color’s undertones as well as colors reflecting from the furniture/fixings in your space). Learn more about this in my ebook.

I have written full paint reviews on many of the colors mentioned below. Where this applies, the paint color name is linked for you to click through to the full article.

Don’t Neglect The Ceiling

Don’t underestimate the power of a bright white ceiling to really brighten a room. The difference between a muted white paint color and a ceiling bright white can be a game changer.

While you can certainly use a tinted paint color on your ceiling, using the standard ceiling bright white paint from either Benjamin Moore or Sherwin Williams will give you a beautifully bright, crisp white that reflects light back into the room.

The Best White Paint Colors For Dark Rooms

When studying these photos, look to the darkest point of the photo (for example, the inner corner of a wall, or a portion in shadow) to see how the color looks at the darkest spot.

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This will give you the best idea of how it will look in a darker room.

I don’t suggest a TRUE white for a north-facing room, as it will continue to make that room feel unbalanced, flat and cold. Instead, you’re going to opt for warmer, creamier whites. Even if that room has a secondary exposure of eastern or western light, that gray northern light will always be dominant, meaning that any warm white will always be cooled down by the grayer, cooler light.

With that being said, here’s my picks for the best white paint colors for dark rooms:

1. Sherwin Williams Alabaster

Alabaster is a beautiful creamy white that doesn’t disappoint. It is a great option for north-facing rooms that need that touch of creaminess to add warmth to the walls.

light and bright foyer painted white with bleached wood handrails and floors
SW Alabaster via Addison’s Wonderland

2. Sherwin Williams Pure White

pure white trim with repose gray walls lightened by 50%
SW Pure White wainscoting with SW Repose Gray walls (lightened by 50%)

SW Pure White is a soft white that works in virtually any space. In warmer light, the warm tones are amplified and in cooler light, its slight gray base becomes more apparent. It’s a great choice for walls and trim, and works well with both warm and cool colors.

3. Benjamin Moore White Dove

BM White Dove is truly an almost perfect soft creamy white with a slightly gray base to stop that warmth becoming over powering, It’s an excellent choice for walls, trim and cabinets.

white dove kitchen cabinets
BM White Dove cabinets via Raykon Constructions

4. Benjamin Moore Simply White

Closer to a basic white, BM Simply White has just enough warmth to stop it feeling cold. This is also a great choice for white trim and kitchen cabinets. But be careful – unlike SW Alabaster, Simply White does not have a gray base to tone down the yellow, so it can quickly become too yellow if you have a lot of warm incandescent lights.

Bright white living room with white furniture
BM Simply White Living Room via Concept and Colorways. Photo by Joe Schemlzer.

5. Benjamin Moore Swiss Coffee

Another beautiful light but warm paint color. Artificial light will bring out more of the yellow tones but that may be a good thing in a particularly dark and dull room.

Bm Swiss Coffee Walls (lightened by 25%) via Studio McGee

Neutral Paint Colors

If white and off-white is not your cup of tea, a simple neutral paint color in a shade of gray or beige may just do the trick.

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6. Benjamin Moore Repose Gray, lightened by 50%

Incredibly popular for good reason, Classic Gray works in almost any space. It’s a beautiful warm gray that still reads like a neutral gray.

repose gray walls and pure white trim
SW Repose Gray walls, lightened by 50%. Wainscoting is SW Pure White.

7. Sherwin Williams Colonnade Gray

A wonderfully warm and versatile gray. I used Colonnade Gray this past summer and instantly fell in love.

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It’s a wonderful color for a dark room, too and really pops against white trim.

The very best grays and neutrals for a kitchen
SW Collonade Gray Kitchen via Maison de Pax

8. Benjamin Moore Paper White

I repainted several of the darker rooms in my home Paper White and absolutely adore how it looks in all of them.

It’s bright, modern and a very light gray. It has just enough warmth to stop it feeling cold but not so much that it takes it out of the light gray territory.

Light gray paint for a dark room with north facing light
BM Paper White Bedroom Walls via Jenna Kate at Home

9. Benjamin Moore Classic Gray

If you’re looking for a slightly more saturated gray, then Classic Gray is a great choice. I would keep the furniture and accessories a lighter color to further brighten up a dark space, otherwise it can appear a bit on the dark side (like below).

BM Classic Gray living room
BM Classic Gray Living Room via Kylie M. Interiors

10. Benjamin Moore Edgecomb Gray

Edgecomb Gray is much more a “greige” (a mixture of gray and beige) than a true gray.

In the picture below, you can barely see any of the gray tones at all. It is a beautifully warm color that works in dark and bright spaces alike.

BM Edgecomb Gray neutral paint in an entryway
BM Edgecomb Gray Entryway via Nina Hendrick

11. Benjamin Moore Pale Oak

Benjamin Moore Pale Oak is an incredibly popular creamy shade of greige. While it has the tendency to lean slightly pink in some lights, it’s a great neutral paint color to warm up darker spaces. It looks amazing paired with white trim, and makes other colors really pop (especially greens and blues).

bm pale oak dining room with tree in the corner and wood furniture
BM Pale Oak dining room via Havenly

Dramatic, Saturated Paint Colors

Sometimes all you need to bring life to a dark room is some personality via the right paint color. A good dose of contrast (and some good artificial lighting!) can totally transform a flat, dark room.

12. Benjamin Moore Chelsea Gray

Hands down winner, pair it with bright white trim for stunning effect

BM Chelsea Gray bedroom adds drama to a dark bedroom
BM Chelsea Gray Bedroom via Chris Loves Julia

13. Behr Hostaleaf

This paint color paired with a warm white (like BM White Dove) is a match made in heaven! Green is a warm color, so it adds moodiness and drama without making the room feel cold.

Behr Hostaleaf board and batten in bedroom
Behr Hostaleaf Board and Batten via I Spy DIY

14. Benjamin Moore Salamander

Another amazing moody green. It looks super elegant paired with rich mahogany and antique brass.

Benjamin Moore Salamander in a bedroom
BM Salamander in San Francisco Apartment via Hunker

15. Benjamin Moore Kendall Charcoal

I adore Kendall Charcoal for a dramatic accent wall. Just don’t be afraid to really amp up the artificial light!

BM Charcoal Gray accent wall in hallway
BM Kendall Charcoal shiplap accent wall via The Creativity Exchange

16. Benjamin Moore Newburyport Blue

Pair this navy blue paint with some crisp white trim to really make it pop and add serious wow factor.

Bedroom painted dark blue
BM Newburyport Blue via The Decorologist

17. Sherwin Williams Serious Gray

Small bathroom with blue walls and white wainscoting

Another one of my all-time favorite colors. It’s a bit of a chameleon – sometimes it looks like a really dark gray, other times a dark gray/blue and even sometimes just downright blue.

But this is the exact reason I love it! It never bores me!

Don’t Forget…

Don’t forget – no matter what you’ve read or photos you’ve seen online, it’s really important to sample paint colors in your home before committing!

Samplize provides real paint samples that are easy to move around your home, and cheaper than buying a gazillion paint pots! It’s the only way I buy paint samples.

Use code JENNAK10 at checkout and get 10% off your order

ORDER PAINT SAMPLES

Coupon entitles all customers to 10% off the entire order with no minimum purchase requirement. This is a one-time use coupon and it cannot be combined with other discounts.

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Final Thoughts

Selecting the perfect paint shade for a dark room is not just about picking a color from a swatch. It’s a nuanced process that requires a deep understanding of the unique characteristics and intricacies of the space in question. The natural and artificial light sources, the reason for the room’s darkness, and even the mood you wish to evoke – all play a pivotal role in your decision.

Understanding the “why” behind a room’s darkness can guide you towards a choice that both complements the room and achieves your desired atmosphere. Remember, the color on your wall is not a sole source of light; it’s a reflector. The light it throws back is influenced by its surroundings: the type of lighting, furnishings, and other room fixtures.

The mood you’re targeting – whether light and airy or dramatic and moody – will also sway your color decision. If a breezy, spacious aura is what you’re after, warmer undertones in neutrals can be your allies, while richer, more saturated colors can contribute to a moodier, more character-filled ambiance.

While many gravitate towards white to brighten spaces, it’s essential to realize that not all whites are created equal. The undertones in white can significantly impact the feel of a room, especially in spaces with northern light exposure. And while neutrals can be a safe bet, considering the warmth of those neutrals is crucial, especially for spaces that get less natural light.

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Lastly, it’s not just about the walls. The furniture, fixtures, and even paint sheen play considerable roles in determining how the final room feels. In spaces where you’re aiming to amplify brightness, your furniture should echo this sentiment. Paint sheen, too, can subtly enhance the room’s brightness.

Ultimately, the ideal paint color for any dark room is not a one-size-fits-all answer. It’s a mixture of understanding your space, discerning the mood you want to create, and considering all elements in the room. With these considerations at the forefront, you can transform any dark room into a space that speaks your language.

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