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How to add light with colour

Do you Dare to go Darker?

By 10/01/2010January 26th, 201718 Comments

When I help clients with colour who have had white walls for 20-40 years (okay a long time), it’s generally very hard for me to get them past a ‘barely there’ shade. This was what happened when I arrived at John & Rita’s home here in North Vancouver this summer. I had chosen their exterior colours a few years ago and as a past client, they received my (fabulous and free) newsletter.

Photos by Maria Killam

One day, Rita called me to choose new colours for the house and new fabric for their sofa. Now I really wish I had a before picture (just imagine the walls in white). We went through a bunch of very pale shades because every time I pulled out a darker one, both Rita & John insisted it was too dark. But I kept holding up Delaware Putty (BM CC-230) in between the light ones because I knew it was going to be fabulous with the new fabric we had chosen for their sofa. Plus it really set off all their artwork.

Rita went to Dublin for a month to visit her sisters and John arranged for all the painting as well as surprised his wife by installing the TV above the mantle and behind their existing artwork – so amazing! I should have taken a picture of the huge rocks he had to pull out of the wall before he could even build the niche.

When I arrived with toss cushions I had made for their sofa and chairs (we re-covered the sofa as well), Rita said “Maria I so wish I had trusted you with this colour and did the whole house in it, I love it so much!!” They were so happy it totally made my day! And she’s going to have the painter back so she can have it in the master bedroom too!

She brought me a Christmas ornament from Dublin (love it!) and a little bookmark calendar with the colourful Doors of Dublin. She says in Dublin all the houses are the same, but they paint the doors fabulous colours!

Had the colour in their living room remained very pale, it would not have felt as rich and warm as it now does because it works so perfectly with the undertones in their furniture and artwork (a yellow beige on the slightly green side). I had never seen John smile as much as he did on this visit, I’m convinced he knows the secret; A happy wife is a happy life!

Do you dare to go darker?

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk in, contact me for on-line or in-person decorating and colour.

Related posts:
A Light Colour will Never come to Life in a Dark Room
Interior Design may look easy, it’s Not!
What’s your Colour Personality?
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  • Anonymous says:

    Good point. I am attracted by pale colours for walls – but this color does not feel dark (probably dark-er – but not dark).
    On a completely different topic, any (Canadian) Thanksgiving post? 🙂


  • Elements says:

    Great colour choice, subtle but just a little depth for the sofa. A perfect way of adding a little colour for those who are not colour confident. What a clever little TV hideaway.

  • marty (A Stroll Thru Life) says:

    Beautiful room and I love the color. Very soft, but really shows off the woodwork. Hugs, Marty

  • Linda in AZ * says:

    * Terriffic post today… fun, interesting and helpful!!! (And I've been looking for a "new yellowy beige" for a certain space… THANKS, Maria!!!!)…

    Linda in AZ *
    [email protected]

  • Momlady says:

    Love the look. Not what I'd call a great leap in the 'darker color' direction, though. That's what, about mid-range 70's LRV? Love to see you do a post on something a bit more challenging..maybe in the 30-40 range or even darker.

  • Karena says:

    I have gone with some deep hues, periwinkle in my master bath, indigo in stairway entry and den/offie, a buttery yellow in the guest bath…..

    I am posting pink today!

    Art by Karena

  • Maya @ Completely Coastal says:

    I definitely dare to go darker, especially in the bedroom. Come to think of it, I've always had a dark rich color there.

  • Donna says:

    Oh Maria…how I wish I could start painting the colors you picked out for my home. I've spent most of my free time helping my best friend, Laurie, get her house cleaned, packed, moved, and unpacked.

    23 years to be exact. That's how long I've gone with white walls–and I've had enough! But I was way too scared to pick something else.

    Tomorrow morning I've scheduled a post of Laurie's gorgeous home. I know–lots of wood!! But her colors are just perfect. The one room they were most worried about was their teenage son's room. It is a deep periwinkle blue. He's got all his electric guitars arranged in a semi-circle and the whole room is very modern. However it's also a gable room and very dark. But with his lights on-it looks fabulous! The deep color turned out to be stunning..and the Dad was very impressed. He thought they had made a big mistake. I could have told them what you said about darker shades for a room with poor natural light.

    And Oh my gosh! What a fantabulous idea! I would love to hide our TV that way. I never would have thought of it. He's a pretty clever guy!

    BTW, I'm getting closer to painting. We have been rearranging, decluttering, and getting the house in order. I've got a beautiful new IKEA desk (very large actually) going into the sewingroom/office.

    I'm starting to feel like we have time to work on something besides estate work. Have an offer on Dad's house Yippee! I'll keep you posted when I get the first room done.

    Donna @ Comin' Home

  • Maria Killam says:

    Hi Momlady,
    Thanks for your comment, I can appreciate that you might have been expecting something really dark based on the headline but in this couples case (as it is for many people) this was a much richer and darker colour than they would have ever gone for on their own.

    Personally, I don't do dark and dramatic design work in my business so I don't gravitate to choosing those colours either. I usually leave the drama to the dining room and powder rooms in general unless someone specifically requests darker.

    A designer who only does dark and dramatic is this one below:

    Her blog is black so that's the first clue 🙂


  • Hi Maria, love the colour choice. What would it have been if you had no restrictions?

  • Ruthie's Renewed Treasures says:

    I love to go bold in the right room!! I'm crazy about painted front doors. Love how they do that in Europe. The doors with a bold color that has faded over time is even more beautiful. Of course it works in Europe, here in the US they would say "that door needs a paint job."


  • Dovecote Decor says:

    Hi Maria: I'm still absorbing your coherent explanations of why things work or not. The walls were a big improvement. I went on to read the article about fabrics in dark rooms, and I think I need to read more of those. I need to take a day and read from top to bottom, then I think I'd have my MFA!

  • Anonymous says:

    Your paint choice for them was a good one. But I was blown away by the fact that the painting choice and execution happened while the wife was traveling! Did I get that right?? YIKES! Talk about risky! I have never done that with clients (husbands or wives) and I think you are terribly brave!

    One quibble…changing out their lampshade would vastly update that room. Will they consider it?

  • Nancy says:

    I'm here via Veranda Interiors, love her work!, and am now your newest follower! Your style appears to be in line with what makes me comfortable and your style of writing is easy to read and interesting. I'll be giving you a shout out in the very near future and until then, have a great weekend from central Alabama!

  • Pinky says:

    HI Maria, do I dare to go darker???? YOU BET I DO!!!!!!!!!! I adore color and every wall in my home is a rich color. It makes me smile every time I walk in a room! My living room is my favorite. It is a rich terra cotta with black accents in the room. LOVE IT!!!!! Happy Sunday! XO, Pinky

  • Maria Killam says:

    Hi Anonymous,
    Yes they have 2 lampshades that were similar. I have definitely sent her off to a local shop in town to get new lampshades!
    Thanks for your comment!

  • Karen@StrictlySimpleStyle says:

    I tend to use neutrals on my walls, but wish I'd gone with a slightly darker shade in my home. I chose the color that is used throughout most of my home because it looked so good in the master bedroom of my last home that didn't get much natural light. I wish I'd known how much sunlight changes the color of walls.

  • Cindy says:

    I have Delaware Putty trim. Repainting living, dining and kitchen. Very large opens spaces. The current wall colors are HC 21 in living and dining and HCand HC 89 in kitchen.
    I wanted to go more white but didn’t want expense of reprinting trim. I tried cutting Delaware Putty in Hal and also to 1/4. Not sure if tht will work.
    Will Delaware Putty walls look yellow.
    My painter is coming in 2 days.
    Ays! Yikes.

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