Taking the black
Winter is coming... so embrace the dark with moody hues
Winter is coming. And it's going to be a dark one indoors. We're talking black, navy and deep-purple walls, button-back furniture in leather or velvet, and bright metallic accents in brass or gold. It's a moody, nocturnal look with a fairly strong Gothic influence. Just imagine that you're decorating for a vampire with expensive tastes.
"Dark colours are a very distinct trend coming in for winter," says Helen Coughlan of Meadows & Byrne. "It's giving a kick to the clean Scandi look." The Scandinavian look, which has been around for years, is all about bringing in the light, using natural materials, and keeping it simple.
"It needed to be turned on its heels, to some extent," Coughlan says. In contrast, the new dark décor is sophisticated, decadent, and a little bit neurotic.
One thing's for certain. This is not a look for wimps. "If you're going to go for it, you have to commit and go the full hog," says Coughlan. "People worry about overdoing it. I think that overdone things can be fantastic, but you have to have that innate sense of discipline in your DNA." Unless you're a total design genius, keep the look relatively simple.
"Too many juxtapositions and everything starts looking argumentative."
In response to the trend, Meadows & Byrne is bringing in a mid-century style sofa in black leather (€898) and a button-back chair in midnight blue velvet (€198) with a companion pouf (€98) along with velvet cushions in deep jewel colours (€40).
"The chair is one of the most stunning pieces we've ever had," says Coughlan.
"It's the kind of thing that you'd buy even though you don't need it, just because it's gorgeous." Meadows & Byrne also has a wintery selection of tableware: black woven table mats (€4), plates in aubergine (€15); and brushed-brass napkin rings (€3 each) to be used with moiré aubergine napkins (€15 for a set).
There's more than a touch of Art Deco creeping into Marks and Spencer's autumn/winter collection. You can see it in the angular patterning on the Webster drinks cabinet (€683), the metallic legs of the Ava marble side table (€226) and the Hexagonal shelf mirror (€170). Overall, it's a very dark ensemble and interesting in that black furniture is photographed against black walls. No half measures here!
"Dark colours are the new neutrals," says Niamh Courtney, colour consultant with MRCB paints.
"They've been saying that for years but it takes a while for these things to come on board." She agrees that it's not a look that you can do by halves.
"You have to embrace the full room - walls and furniture. People tried using dark colours on feature walls but it creates too much of a contrast. It's not easy to live with." For those wanting to dip a cautious toe into the world of darkness, she suggests trying out the look in a den.
"It's lovely to come into a dark room in the evening," she says. "It never feels cold."
Black, she admits, can be tricky on the wall. "It's oppressive if it's not done right." The key is to invest in good quality paint. "People are always asking me if posh paints are better. They actually are. It's like cooking - the better quality paints have better ingredients. They have more pigments in them." While you might get away with a cheap white paint, a cheap black is definitely a false economy.
"Cheap black paint looks very flat. You don't get that rich experience that makes you want to touch it." If you're going for black, she recommends a colour called Onyx from Benjamin Moore.
"It's the undertones in the paint that create the warmth - it's like an aura - there's definitely a difference." As with clothing, navy is an easier colour to use than black and tends to work better with Irish skin tones. A dark room is no good if it makes the occupants look like the undead. For a slightly softer take on darkness, Courtney recommends a colour called Gentleman's Grey, also from Benjamin Moore.
"It's a blackened navy with undertones of grey and it's beautiful for furniture." She also likes Benjamin Moore's classic, Hayle Navy. "It's really popular and versatile. It can look preppy, you can use it with red and white for a nautical look, but it also combines with deeper colours."
Benjamin Moore paint is unashamedly expensive. An American gallon (just under four litres) from MRCB Paints will set you back €104. For furniture and smaller projects, a pint of eggshell costs €15. The devil, of course, is in the detail. A room in which the walls and the furniture are dark could be a gloomy place to be. Decadent can be a good look, but you need to stop short of depressing.
Metallic details, preferably gold or brass, are transformative in this regard. The design team at Arthouse, a company that specialises in trend-led interior design products, describes the style as Modern Luxe.
"Modern Luxe is peppered with foil metallics, glistening beaded surfaces and high shine lacquered finishes," writes the Arthouse crew. Wallpaper, which is one of their specialities, is another way of embracing the darkness.
Some of it is fairly extreme. The Glitterati Chevron wallpaper (€27 per roll) in black and gold offers up-scaled geometric patterns. The gold is textured glitter; the other two colours are matt. This is what the Arthouse team describes as the gold-to-bold effect. Other wallpapers that use contrasting textures include Palais Black Velvet wallpaper (€91 per roll). This is designed by Sophie Conran for Arthouse and shows the resurrection of what is probably the most reviled element of interior design - flock. This, in case you're too young to remember, is furry textured wallpaper created with small particles of fibre and formerly found in dubious hotels. Miraculously, Conran makes it look good by using large damask-style patterns in black against a background of grey.
So flock is back. Where will it all end?
See meadowsandbyrne.com, marksandspencer.ie, mrcb.ie and arthouse.com