Master the Art of Moody Wall Colors With These Pro Tips

Want to transform a room from white to WOW? Designer Kelly Sutton shows you how to introduce dark colors into your home.

White walls and ceilings are very popular, and it's easy to understand why. They're unassuming and go with any kind of accent. Still, there's something to be said for walls and ceilings that pack a little more punch. Rooms that feature darker, moodier colors — when done well — can make even the most color-averse person say, "Wow!"

Eclectic Combination Billiards and Dining Room

Eclectic Combination Billiards and Dining Room

This eclectic room works as a dining room or a game room with a multipurpose, black felt pool table as the centerpiece. Two large black velvet armchairs cap the ends of the table with smaller, green leather-upholstered chairs lining the sides. A neutral and black wallpaper pattern swirls throughout the room, creating a nice pattern contrast to the animal print rug.

Photo by: Amy Bartlam

Amy Bartlam

New Orleans designer Kelly Sutton loves to work with darker colors in the spaces she designs. "I think you can do it in almost any space," she says. "There's always a detail or some element that could be done more dramatically to take it to the next level."

Bringing dark colors into your home can be a little daunting. Here are Kelly's tips on how to do it like a pro and have your friends saying, "Wow!"

Bring in Balance

Contemporary Hunter-Green Bedroom

Contemporary Hunter-Green Bedroom

White furniture shines against the dark green wall coloring in this contemporary bedroom. A large white bed frame is upholstered with velvet at the head and foot of the bed for a softened feel. Nightstands with nail-head trim support matching table lamps to finish the room.

Photo by: Amy Bartlam

Amy Bartlam

If the walls, ceiling and furniture are all dark, the room is going to feel too heavy. Balance saturated shades with lightly colored furniture and accents, metallic finishes, mirrors and natural lighting. The walls will subtly fade into the background while the contrasting furnishings and accents will pop.

Pick the Powder Room

Contemporary Bathroom With Wood-Look Tile Wall

Contemporary Bathroom With Wood-Look Tile Wall

Sleek and sophisticated, this bathroom is the epitome of contemporary style. Neutral tones are soothing and timeless, as is the white marble used for the sink. Having a vanity without cabinets makes the space feel larger; the medicine cabinet mirror provides storage space. Thin-striped walls are a stylistic complement to the large-tiled wall behind the sink and commode.

Photo by: Kelly Sutton Design

Kelly Sutton Design

The powder room is a great place to take some risks. "It''s not something people can see all of the time," Kelly says. "It's like that little jewel box you can have fun with."

Look Up

Masculine Contemporary Bedroom

Masculine Contemporary Bedroom

A neutral wall covering and curtains balance out the dark furnishings in this masculine contemporary bedroom, which features a longhorn skull, four-poster bed and pair of black leather chairs.

Photo by: Amy Bartlam

Amy Bartlam

"The ceiling is like a whole other wall to work with," Kelly says. "I like doing something dramatic and bold on a ceiling because I think it gives it a whole other layer, and it's one that's unexpected." 

When mixed with other dark colors, a dark ceiling can make a space feel more intimate and cozy. When balanced with lighter colors, a dark ceiling will fade away and push your eye to focus on the contrasting walls or furniture.

Consider Wallpaper

Coastal Bathroom With Fish-Patterned Gray Wallpaper

Coastal Bathroom With Fish-Patterned Gray Wallpaper

Blue and green fish swim around this bathroom on the gray striped wallpaper. Empty gold and silver frames arranged on the wall add some metallic flair and decorate the space without disrupting the wallpaper pattern. A mirror on the wall above the toilet reflects the wall design making the room appear larger.

Photo by: Amy Bartlam

Amy Bartlam

Wallpaper is experiencing a comeback thanks to fresh patterns and playful prints. With wallcoverings, you can introduce textures that reflect light around a room and add visual depth that give a dark color extra life.

See 12 Bold Color Tricks to Try at Home

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Daring Design

A lifelong fan of gutsy color, Shelly Wilkinson wasn’t about to do play-it-safe hues in the Charlotte, NC, home she and her husband, Adam, purchased in 2012. Unafraid to wear turquoise corduroy pants with a neon yellow sweatshirt as a tween or to paint her living room purple when she was a newlywed, Shelly (pictured here with daughters Sydney, 14, and Fleming, 16) had zero anxiety about featuring high-octane colors in every room. To make sure the competing colors wouldn’t clash, she worked with interior designer Lance Jackson of Parker Kennedy Living to map out a harmonious palette. The result is part preppy, part Palm Beach, with plenty of bold patterns, including florals, geometrics and chinoiserie. Even though the home is cohesive instead of chaotic, the kaleidoscopic interiors can shock first-time visitors — “Their jaws hit the floor,” says Shelly — but she’s thrilled with the results. “Color makes it a fun, happy home. What could be better?” 

Photo By: David A. Land (styled by Elizabeth Demos)

Family Room

The room’s Asian influences began with the flower-and-dragon curtains and the vintage bamboo chair. The sofa and the wingback chairs from CR Laine have nailhead trim that complements the coffee table’s brass finish. Color Trick: Matching the sofa’s blue upholstery to the wall color (Palladian Blue by Benjamin Moore) created a quiet backdrop for all of the room’s bold prints.

Photo By: David A. Land (styled by Elizabeth Demos)

Get the Look: Sofa

Safavieh Marlowe 89"-wide linen-blend sofa in blue, $1,350, allmodern.com 

Photo By: Courtesy of the manufacturer

Get the Look: Coffee Table

Trumma 12"H x 45"-diameter wood and metal coffee table, $898, anthropologie.com

Photo By: Courtesy of the manufacturer

Get the Look: Tray

12" x 12" white rim lacquered wood tray in orange, $34, westelm.com

Photo By: Emily Kate Roemer/Studio D

Get the Look: Rug

Dash & Albert leopard print 5' x 8' wool rug, $589, furbishstudio.com

Photo By: Courtesy of the manufacturer

Get the Look: Chevron Pillow

Adras Ikat Chevron 18" x 18" cotton pillow cover, $85, popocolor.etsy.com; insert, from $10, pillowflex.com

Photo By: Emily Kate Roemer/Studio D

Get the Look: Dragon Pillow

Schumacher Chiang Mai Dragon 18" x 18" linen pillow cover, $100, stuckonhue.etsy.com; insert, from $10, pillowflex.com

Photo By: Emily Kate Roemer/Studio D

Get the Look: Paint Color

Palladian Blue by Benjamin Moore

Photo By: Courtesy of the manufacturer

Dining Room

The walls (painted Poolside Blue by Benjamin Moore) take their color cue from the oil painting above the buffet. The antique chairs were updated with wipe-clean Sunbrella fabric in a graphic print. Color Trick: A pair of vintage plaster pagoda lamps painted high-gloss fuchsia (Peony by Benjamin Moore) ties the pink in the leopard-print Stark rug to the rest of the room.

Photo By: David A. Land (styled by Elizabeth Demos)

Get the Look: Lamp

Anya 32 ¼"-tall metal and glass lamp in beetroot purple with double sheer silver shade, $180, lampsplus.com

Photo By: Courtesy of the manufacturer

Get the Look: Fabric

El Greco acrylic fabric by Sunbrella in avocado, $39 per yard, outdoorfabriccentral.com

Photo By: Courtesy of the manufacturer

Get the Look: Paint Color

Poolside Blue by Benjamin Moore

Photo By: Courtesy of the manufacturer

Foyer

Walking into the house is a wow moment, thanks to the bird-motif wallpaper by Nina Campbell and a velvet-upholstered antique chair with a peacock-feather print. Color Trick: Shades of chartreuse, aqua, lilac and raspberry — all pulled from the wallpaper — repeat from room to room and give the house continuity. “I needed a starting point, and the wallpaper kicked everything off,” says Shelly. 

Photo By: David A. Land (styled by Elizabeth Demos)

Get the Look: Wallpaper

Nina Campbell Paradiso wallpaper by Osborne & Little in 03, $210 for a single roll, decorativebuyingservice.com for buying info

Photo By: Courtesy of the manufacturer

Office

Pre-reno, dark walnut paneling on the walls made this space feel cave-like. Apple green paint (Huntington Green by Benjamin Moore), plus the lively pistachio-and-cream Quadrille wallpaper behind the shelves, brightened everything up. Color Trick: It might horrify some homeowners, but painting woodwork — including the trim, the bookcase and the door — can transform a gloomy room.

Photo By: David A. Land (styled by Elizabeth Demos)

Get the Look: Paint Color

Huntington Green by Benjamin Moore

Photo By: Courtesy of the manufacturer

Kitchen

The reno’ed kitchen includes a curved Carrara marble island top, matching counters and Crate & Barrel stools in oyster leather. Color Trick: An all-white palette offers a breather from the rest of the home. 

Photo By: David A. Land (styled by Elizabeth Demos)

Pantry

A nothing-special wet bar became a luxe cocktail station when Shelly added a Carrara marble countertop and painted the existing cabinets dazzling cobalt (Evening Blue by Benjamin Moore). Color Trick: Painting the inside of the top cabinets and replacing the solid door panels with intricate wire mesh ones show off the stemware. 

Photo By: David A. Land (styled by Elizabeth Demos)

Breakfast Room

White faux-bamboo chairs from CR Laine tone down the formality of the oval mahogany table. The curtains are made from Schumacher fabric, and the tomato red chandelier is by Worlds Away. Color Trick: The royal blue Lulu DK fabric on the chair cushions is a callout to the color on the nearby pantry cabinets. 

Photo By: David A. Land (styled by Elizabeth Demos)

Get the Look: Chair

Macau rattan, mahogany and cotton chair in white, $279, ballarddesigns.com

Photo By: Emily Kate Roemer/Studio D

Get the Look: Chandelier

Bamboo Tower 31"H x 24"-diameter metal and iron 6-light chandelier in red, $495, and 5"-diameter grass cloth chandelier shades, $29 each, both shadesoflight.com

Photo By: Courtesy of the manufacturer

Fleming's Bedroom

Fleming’s bed stretches 72 inches high and is upholstered and skirted in a dotty fabric from Lewis & Sheron Textiles. Translucent silver shades top the Barbara Cosgrove chandelier and bedside lamps. Color Trick: Solid Duralee cotton drapes and Euro shams pick up just one color (deep pink) from the headboard and the bed skirt.

Photo By: David A. Land (styled by Elizabeth Demos)

Sydney's Bedroom

In Sydney’s glam-girl bedroom, a traditional tufted headboard gets posh with amethyst linen. The Lucite-and-sheepskin stools are from Jonathan Adler. Color Trick: Even lighting can add color. The Stray Dog Designs chandelier introduces chartreuse into the room. The hue also appears in the bed skirt and the curtains. 

Photo By: David A. Land (styled by Elizabeth Demos)

Homework Station

This studying spot includes a vintage campaign desk, a chair redone in a sassy blue leopard print and a pinboard covered in chartreuse polyester. Color Trick: The desk and the small cabinet were bought separately, but painted ice blue (Tropicana Cabana by Benjamin Moore), they look like a set.

Photo By: David A. Land (styled by Elizabeth Demos)

Get the Look: Desk

Campaign 40 ¼"W x 22 ¼"D x 30 ¼"H wood desk in cobalt, $399, landofnod.com

Photo By: Courtesy of the manufacturer

Guest Bedroom

At the ready for sleepovers, the teen-friendly third floor has a Younger Furniture sectional that’s easy to reconfigure, plus tons of patterned pillows and throws. Color Trick: To balance the intense tangerine of the modular sofa, Shelly painted the twin beds an equally daring shade (Vine Green by Benjamin Moore).

Photo By: David A. Land (styled by Elizabeth Demos)

Bathroom

A white vanity topped with snowy Carrara marble lets the supersized poppies on the Osborne & Little wallpaper take center stage. Color Trick: A big pattern can be surprisingly easy to live with, especially when one of the colors in the design is a neutral, like slate gray.

Photo By: David A. Land (styled by Elizabeth Demos)

Exterior

Built in 1967, the three-story Georgian-style home is modeled after a historic Delaware residence that dates back to 1774. Shelly kept the brick and black-and-white facade as is, so there’s no tip-off to the vibrant color scheme inside. 

Photo By: David A. Land (styled by Elizabeth Demos)

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