Monday 18 November 2019

Kirstie McDermott: 'Don't listen to Dermot Bannon - the dark side is unbeatable'

TV architect Dermot Bannon may not like dark shades, but in the right space, they're unbeatable, says Kirstie McDermott

Dermot Bannon of ‘Room to Improve’. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Dermot Bannon of ‘Room to Improve’. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Successful interiors are an essay in balance. Beautifully proportioned Charlie sofa, from €2,320 sits happily with Carter oak table, from €850;
Lamp, €89. Tom Dixon's Large Bell Table Lamp, at, is a design classic in the making
Stool, €57. Ticking two trend boxes, the Austen Low Stool, at, is an affordable buy
Vase, €99. Simple of form and super-elegant, this Georgie Scully cylindrical vase,, will accessorise any interior
Cushion, €49. Why so serious? Take it down a notch with this fun Peking Handicraft Haute Mess Cushion,
Chandelier, €160. This'll add drama - the Thalia chandelier, at

With an average of 513,500 viewers across each episode of the recent series of Room to Improve, it's fair to say we're a nation obsessed not only with house renovations, but also with starchitect Dermot Bannon.

And why not? He has the ability to re-work the most uninspiring of bungalows into a glass box-entensioned, open-plan dream home, with a necessary sprinkling of domestic drama, and that's why we love him.

In a recent episode, we met Drumcondra dwellers Glenn Keating and Gustav van der Westhuizen, who, like so many before them, went wildly over-budget. But that was pretty much the only thing these guys had in common with the rest of the RTI coterie. Because these guys already had a serious and specific decor taste, with a container-load of art and design classics to showcase in their new home.

They also wanted to paint their sitting room walls a dark shade. Dermot wasn't keen, taking them to see a minimal home in south Dublin to get a feel for what he felt would work in their three-storey house. "Slightly gallery-like, retreat-like," he implored. Gustav and Glen had other ideas though, despite Dermot confessing: "I'm really worried about those dark walls sucking every bit of light."

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As it turned out, his fears were in vain, because the south-facing living room, with its big picture window, could take the dark shade the couple chose. And it looked fantastic, a point Dermot was happy to concede during the all-important reveal.

The truth is that dark colours can be intimidating, but they are also cosy, cocooning and, in the right space, won't make you feel like the walls are closing in. Plus, with Halloween fast approaching, we're moving on from summer's bleached hues and bright shades.

There are a few key things to keep in mind if you do want to go to the dark side - which doesn't, by the way, have to mean black; end-of. Jet-shot jewel tones of plum and aubergine, navy and dark slate blues and forest greens are all colours to look at if you want to add some pitchy impact.

Orientation matters, especially for spaces you intend to spend a lot of time in. Dark hues tend to work best in rooms that have a decent proportion of natural light: dark walls in a north-facing room with small windows have the potential to feel oppressive, whereas a high-ceilinged south-facing room where the wall colour is relieved by bright furniture and accessories and trim will deliver a happier result. Just ask Gustav and Glen.

For hallways and cloakrooms, throw that advice out - we don't spend much time in these transition-type areas so you can go OTT. And if you love the notion of dark colours but baulk at the idea of paint, there are plenty more options to explore. Soft furnishings, smaller furniture pieces, re-framing pictures with darker mounts and using dark-toned lampshades can all be called into play to deliver a take on the trend.

Good interior design is about layering up elements to create a cohesive whole.

In Gustav and Glen's case, their paint choice was strategically chosen to allow their furniture, pictures and objects to "shine a bit because of the colour we're putting on the walls". To recreate a similar aesthetic impact in your own home, why not go back to black?

Kirstie McDermott is editorial director of House and Home magazine

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