Many people have got one - a dark room in the house that you're not sure how to decorate. But the best paint colors for a space without much natural light can help to lift the space, whether you're looking to add drama, coziness, or a lighter, airy feel.
One thing that is likely to affect how much natural light a room gets is the direction in which it faces. 'Before decorating any room, it’s important to take note of which direction it faces and therefore how much natural light will enter,' advises Helen Shaw, color expert at Benjamin Moore.
'As north-facing rooms can often feel colder [in the northern hemisphere], it’s important to really consider the purpose and size of the space before choosing a color. This can make a huge impact as to how you feel, such as whether you want to create drama with darker hues or an airy, relaxed atmosphere with lighter shades.'
But which paint color ideas work best in these rooms? We asked the experts for their recommendations.
6 paint colors that look great in light-starved rooms
When it comes to choosing a paint color for a space without much natural light, you can really play to its 'disadvantage' by creating a bold color scheme that will add intention to the room.
Top tip? Always get samples and see how color looks under artificial light. 'When decorating a space with little natural light, consider the effect of artificial light on your colour selection carefully, painting samples onto the walls to discover the effect of the light in situ,' advises Ruth Mottershead Creative Director, Little Greene.
'Artifical light can often bring out the warmer tones in color, making them appear richer and more intense.'
Discover some of the shades the color experts would choose for a space without much natural light below.
1. Rich plums
'Cozy snugs, intimate dining rooms and small sized rooms, like powder rooms, can lend themselves to a strong color palette, especially when they don’t benefit from a huge amount of natural light,' says Benjamin Moore's Helen Shaw.
'Painting the room in rich colors from floor to ceiling, such as Carter Plum CW-355, can look particularly striking.'
Lick's Purple 03 is also a great plum choice for low-light living rooms or kitchens. 'If you have a north-facing room that lacks a bit of natural light, the warm energy of this purple will really make those darker rooms come to life,' says Tash Bradley, Director of Interior Design and Color Psychologist, Lick.
2. Dark teal
'If you are lacking that natural sunlight, I always encourage clients to embrace it and go for darker colors that absorb shadow and give the room a bit of pizazz and character,' says Lick's Tash Bradley. 'Darker shades, like Lick’s Teal 03, really absorb the shadow.'
Tash adds that you can use decorative elements, like mirrors, to reflect light around the space. 'In a bathroom, for example, everything is very reflective. You may have a big mirror or a white bath and glass, which is all reflective and bounces light around the room.'
3. Warm white
"Brilliant" whites are a color to avoid in north-facing rooms. An inviting off-white is a lovely hue to add lightness yet warmth to a space without much natural light.
'In a small north-facing space avoid overly clean harsh whites, they will just feel too gloomy and grey, so look for whites with a little more weight of color through them,' advises Patrick O’Donnell, a color expert for Farrow & Ball 'Something like White Tie or Joa’s White will work a treat as the former has some yellow through and the latter a dose of red.'
'Rich mid to light neutrals, as with yellow, will create a warmth but the effect will be more subtle and so easy to layer with fabrics and art,' he adds.
4. Chocolate brown
Don’t be afraid to embrace a darker room by using deeper, warmer shades on all walls. 'Dark colors work really well in small rooms with limited natural light as they can create a cozy, inviting environment,' says Little Greene's Ruth Mottershead. 'Instead of trying to make the room feel bigger, select a deep shade to embrace the character of the space.
'Rich and indulgent, Little Greene's Chocolate Colour - one of the best paint colors for 2024 - is perfect for creating smart spaces that bring comfort and warmth to the home. When used across all elements it can really envelop a small dark room, adding impact and drama as well as partnering beautifully with neutral hues and natural finishes for a tonal contrast. 'Use in a color drenching scheme across walls, woodwork and the ceiling for a truly impactful, cozy finish.'
5. Sunshine yellow
An earthy, ochre yellow will bring much-needed warmth to a room without much natural light.
Farrow & Ball Babouche is a one joyous yellow has just the right amount of richness needed to add a subtle glow to light-starved spaces.
Farrow & Ball's Patrick O'Donnell says: 'Introduce a rich yellow (not ideal for bedrooms as too energizing), but it will add a punch of glowing warmth in other spaces, from living room walls to utility rooms, as well as being a beautiful option for kitchen cabinetry.'
6. Dusky pink
Dusky pinks are a beautiful, welcoming paint color that will make a dark room look brighter, which will create an airier feel with a warm edge. 'If you're looking to bring a light airy feeling to a dark space, white is not the only option,' says Little Greene's Ruth Mottershead. 'Very bright whites can make a space feel stark or harsh, and you will achieve the same light and airy feel with soft pastel tones. Paint walls and woodwork in the same color, or slight tonal variations of the same hue, such as delicate, powder-like hue, Masquerade, which adds warmth to a space, offering an uplifted and calm atmosphere.'
She adds: 'By using it alongside Masquerade Light on a ceiling and Masquerade Mid on skirting and woodwork, you can create a harmonious design scheme that brings a light, airy feel as well as plenty of design interest to a dark room.'
Farrow & Ball also offer some lovely soft pinks that work wonderfully in dark rooms. Patrick O'Donnell says: 'Try soft earthy pinks to bring a gentle calm but not overwhelm a dark room - Setting Plaster or Templeton Pink are good examples for this.'
What color will make a dark room feel brighter?
'For a brighter look in a dark room, avoid shades with grey undertones and opt for whites with a yellow or red undertone instead as this will warm up the space and help balance the natural light,' explains Benjamin Moore's Helen Shaw
'Warm whites like Simply White OC-117, Mountain Peak White OC-121 and Cotton Balls OC-122 are a surefire way to create this soft glow and welcoming mood. You can also add a mirror on the wall, which can help to bounce off the light in the room.'
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Ruth Doherty is a lifestyle journalist based in London. An experienced freelance digital writer and editor, she is known for covering everything from travel and interiors to fashion and beauty. She regularly contributes to Livingetc, Ideal Home and Homes & Gardens, as well as titles like Prima and Red. Outside of work, her biggest loves are endless cups of tea, almond croissants, shopping for clothes she doesn’t need, and booking holidays she does.
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