Reveal your dark side
Decorating walls in darker shades can give standard furniture a new lease of life
While painting your bedroom walls black has long been considered a symptom of teenage angst - right along with body piercings and clumpy boots - today, ultra dark walls are trending high in interiors.
But there is a caveat. Just like priests' socks in Father Ted, the trendiest tones aren't actually black. If you look closely, you'll see they're very, very, very, very, very, very, very dark blue. Or grey.
"You need a colour with a bit of depth to it," says the interior designer Lisa Marconi. "Pure black is too stark for a wall." Luckily there are as many shades of black as there are of white. When Marconi wanted to paint her two front rooms in a dark colour she ended up using Night Jewels 2 from Dulux.
"It's a step down from black on the colour card and there's a lot of charcoal in it, but you'd only notice if you saw the two colours together. It still gives the impression that I've painted my walls black."
In Dust, the shop that she runs with Sarah Drumm off Dublin's Camden Street, the walls are painted in a Farrow & Ball's Hague Blue, a deep sea blue that's nearly navy.
"Colours look different in different spaces so it's important to use sample pots and paint a biggish area of the wall in a choice of colours before you commit," she says.
For their stand at this weekend's Ideal Home Show, Marconi and Drumm are creating a dark and moody room set with one wall painted in Colortrend Historic Templar Grey and another in Colortrend Dressage. This is pretty much as dark as it gets.
When you've selected your shade of darkness, the next question is - how much of the room do you paint? Marconi chose to paint out the architraves, doors and skirting, but to leave the ceiling white. "Some people take the trend to an extreme and paint out the floor and ceiling. It looks amazing in photographs but it's a bit oppressive in real life." If you decide to go with white skirting boards, for example, she suggests that you select a white with plenty of grey in it. A yellowy white won't sit easy with the dark walls.
Once painted, she found the rooms were moodier, but she didn't have to change the lighting. "You need to have several sources of light - at least one on the ceiling, a floor lamp and a couple of table lamps so that you can vary it. But you should be doing that anyway - no matter what colour the walls are."
Dark walls will combine with most floors, including plain floorboards, but if the floor that you have happens to be dark too, a pale rug will look very dramatic against it.
"Painting your walls dark can be quite transformative," Drumm explains. "You don't have to buy new things. When the walls are dark, suddenly all the things that you already have look cool."
What makes dark walls work is having pops of colour that stand out against the backdrop. One way of achieving this is to go for dark wallpaper with a pattern in bright jewel or metallic colours.
One of my favourites is a wallpaper design called Empire from House of Hackney. It's informally known as the Drunken Animals wallpaper as it features various woodland creatures swigging from bottles. Since it costs €210 per roll, it might work best for a feature wall only and you can also buy the design as upholstery fabric. However, two rolls should do one average wall.
The lovely but expensive Lear wallpaper from Kristjana Williams shows tropical beasties against a deep dark background (€310 per roll) with slightly cheaper options including Pineapple from Barnaby Gates (€210) showing a rhythmic pattern of metallic pineapples against a charcoal base.
The trend for tropical designs combines well with dark walls, but you need more than your stereotypical palm tree cushion to bring a sense of the tropics to an Irish home. Combine natural green foliage from real plants with a few decorative gimmicks, such as the faux taxidermy lamps and mounted animal heads by Abigail Ahern for Debenhams, or a stuffed bird or two from the collection at Dust.
"We're all about faux," says Marconi, who has a room at the back of the shop devoted to realistic faux flowers. They also sell fake birds made with real feathers and approximately life size. They range in price from a budgie (€20) to a flamingo (€39).
If you're considering going over to the dark side and want to know how this might work at home, you could do worse than drop in to the Colour Trend Interior Design Forum at the Permanent tsb Ideal Home Show in the RDS this bank holiday weekend.
Marconi and Drumm will be there, along with a number of others. Any of them will be happy to advise you, but will be better able to do so if you bring some photos of the room that you want to change, along with some magazine cuttings that show the style of interior that you prefer.
The Permanent tsb Ideal Home Show runs today, Friday, October 23 (12pm-7pm), Saturday and Sunday (24-25) from 10am-6pm and Monday (26) from 11am-6pm.
For more info on the products featured here, see idealhome.ie, colortrend.ie, dust.ie, dulux.ie, eu.farrow-ball.com.