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Lights make everything magical (Photo by Maria Killam)

Today is my 13th year of writing this blog. I had no idea where my little blog with this header would take me 13 years ago. I always forget until the day is upon us, that not only is it Halloween, my LEAST favourite holiday, it’s also the day I started writing my blog. Makes sense that I started a blog because I wasn’t out celebrating the scariest day of the year.

This weekend, I received this comment on the blog:

Curious if you’d be willing to share your advice/opinion on whether you think it would be too much to do an all black office (think moody) with a white office across the hallway with only a black ceiling to sort of tie in with the black in the office across the way? I am trying not to make every design choice be black, but I love black and white and so I’m finding myself gravitating towards it knowing that I may be inching towards too much!

And the answer is:

YES. And you’re not only ‘inching’ towards an all black room, you’re ‘skyrocketing towards it’ 🙂  If the room is all black, it’s not too much anymore, it’s at the very end of much.

I’m fascinated that during the brown or grey trend from the last 20 years, this statement:

“Maria, is it too much to do an ALL BROWN, or ALL GREY room?”


I’m still percolating on why this obsession with all white or all black rooms is even a thing. But in the meantime, instead of warning you against the perils of an all black room, been there, done that here, here and here, I’m just going to show you how to do it so that you still love it when it’s done.

The designer who has never stopped pitching dark, dramatic black and moody rooms is Abigail Ahern, 

“Paint is the cheapest and most transformative change you can make to any room,” the designer points out. “It’s a game-changer. When you go dark, you suddenly create this vibe that almost exaggerates coziness; you just want to hunker down and never want to leave. I am obsessed with inky hues. Why? Because anything you put against these bottom-of-the-lake greens, browns, grays, blacks, and blues actually looks and feels grander than it really is,” she says

An all black room needs texture 

And it works for Abigail because she adds loads of texture. It’s a moody look, and you want to create some softness and mystery. If you don’t make use of the shadows, the look will be flat or too graphic. 

Abigail Ahern


Ken Faulk via Elle Decor


Add colour to your room with all black walls

Colour brings all neutral rooms to life, but if you’re going to introduce it in a mostly black room, make sure to add plenty of white. Remember black and orange is halloween and black and yellow creates a bumblebee effect. Same goes for outfits.

Jamie Drake & Caleb Anderson


Don’t forget to add leopard, it picks up the black and it looks amazing against jewel tones like fuschia:

Scarani & Creel Interior 


Add white and gold to your all black room

Another reason why gold hardware, accents, frames, furniture, is here to stay is because it’s required to warm up black.

I recently painted my kitchen island forest green (aka hunter green from the 80s) and when the painter installed my chrome hardware back onto the drawers, I immediately wished they were gold. And of course that’s how I was used to seeing that shade of green in the 80s.

Rande Hackman Architects

Paint your already dark room a dramatic colour (black, if you must) 

Sirotov Architects



Paint your dark, north facing room black. 

It makes no sense to paint a light filled room black. Ever sat facing a window in a super dark restaurant during the day? The light from the windows streaming in creates glare. I don’t know about you, but it hurts my eyes.

A light filled room needs pale colours so they can come out and play during the day.

If you like STUFF, a dark, moody, possibly black room is for you

Abigail Ahern’s home is filled with urns and faux flowers and fabulous accessories. But imagine the vignette on this mantel surrounded by stark white walls. 

It would start to look super cluttered.

If you have a home or a room filled with fabulous collectables, black walls with small lights inserted behind all your accessories is a fabulous idea.

Abigail Ahern

Add lamps and twinkle lights to your dark and moody room


Perfect example that proves this statement is true. Don’t ever go to your favourite dark night club during the day when the janitor’s there and all the lights are on.




At night, when all the mood lighting is glowing? Magical. You won’t see any cheese lights at a night club until it’s time to go home, OR the cleaning crew arrives.


Twinkle lights

If you don’t follow the above advice, your all black room will just be black. Dark. And Sad. (below).


Over to you my lovelies, any ideas why all black rooms are trending but no one was this excited about all grey or all brown rooms back when those colours were trending? I’m trying to understand the psychology of it all. 

We just finished our 6th virtual Specify Colour with Confidence workshop last week! We will announce Spring dates shortly!

Ashley Bullard, Belton Texas


Related posts:

First post I wrote October 31, 2008

If You’re Still Not Learning, You’re Dead

My 6th Blogoversary is Here + my Best Blogging Tip

1719 pins


  • Fiona Copley says:

    I love Abigail Ahern. I love dark dramatic clubs with extravagant glittering chandeliers, gilt mirrors and cosy chairs for sipping my cocktail. But I wouldn’t want to be in a room like that in the morning – then I want to be in the sun with bright walls and flowers and my coffee. Such a pity we can’t change decor hourly. However, I don’t think even Abigail does all black rooms, or rarely. She does inky colours rather than black, just as you advocate for complex creams rather than stark white. I think straight black would always look flat and yuck, while a dark colour can look moody and intense.

    • DeniseGK says:

      Sigh. Agree. I just need technology to advance more and then I can have a room that changes itself throughout the day but is perfectly designed and styled in every “look” it has.

  • Kathleen says:

    My son chose the color scheme for his bedroom, a small-ish northwest corner with a window to the west and opposing door into hallway with indirect light. He wanted dark blue walls on two facing sides, and white on the other walls and ceiling. Warm dark wooden floors, trim, door, accents, furniture. I thought he was depressed, or just wrong, and thought that the two dark walls would squeeze the room like an accordion, but hey, his room, and I wanted him to be happy. Or sad, or whatever he would be in that room. I choose a dark greyed-out almost-navy, and painted the walls and the inside of his closet, from which he had removed the doors, so it was a dresser/tv nook.
    I was so, so wrong. It still looks fabulous years later. Cozy, welcoming, mysterious, calming, warm, and changeable with the changing lights and seasons. Smart kid. It’s not black, but illustrates the paint-the-north-room-dark point.

    • Nicole says:

      I would love to see this! I’m brainstorming for ideas for my 13 year old son’s “play” room – which was a Lego room for years but now has to become a music centered den (he has four guitars) with option to build Lego.

      • Kathi Steele says:

        I think you would want a light colored room so he can see what he is doing. Dark rooms are dramatic for effect, IMHO, not for tasking. Look on Google Images for guitar rooms!!!

    • Kathi Steele says:

      Yes, but, you don’t spend a lot of waking hours in a bedroom. So, to do a dark bedroom would be awesome. Same with a half bath. You don’t spend a lot of time there.
      But, in rooms that you spend a lot of time, IMHO, a lighter layered room is much more appropriate.

  • Holly says:

    I think we’re all so obsessed with black because it screams power, sophistication and can be oddly comfortable. In this uncertain time we all need to feel safe and I think deep, grounding colors can do that.

    Also, as a trained personal color analyst, in my humble opinion, unless you have dark brown to black hair, you’re not going to look good wearing black next to your face because the color doesn’t relate anywhere in your personal coloring. It will suck the life out of your complexion if and because black is so enticing the only thing some people can do is decorate with it.

  • Sherri says:

    I have a lot of white walls and black walls in my older ranch house (on a farm), mixed in with some charcoal gray. I have a long hallway painted white with a black ceiling. My kitchen walls are black and my cabinets are dark cherry. For me, the key to making these spaces work is by adding wood elements, like my modern walnut tv stand from Room and Board and a wood dining room table (with black leather chairs). Also, wooden bowls or beads or frames on the wall work in different doses. I have a few gold accessories but not many. My favorite color right now to go with all of this is rust. I think black and white works because it is black and white. Getting the right shade of gray or brown seems to be more difficult to get right.

    • Sue says:

      Sherry, this sounds very interesting. Would you be able to post several pics, or point to a page with similar scheme?

  • Lorri says:

    The only dark colors I like are jewel tones. Black is overwhelming to me.

    I’ve only seen one room painted in charcoal that was inviting, but they had lots of shades of pink to offset it and it was a cozy bedroom.

    I don’t know if we can ever figure out why some people gravitate to certain colors. I’ve been watching a famous British designer (name withheld out of respect) who only decorates in neutrals or neutralized colors. She is undoubtedly talented, but I could not live in her rooms. I need color.

    Another respected figure in the design world recently said that certain colors are just bright enough to be “childish”. The colors shown were not screaming colors at all. They were just happy colors. I couldn’t disagree more.

    If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you have to be true to yours own aesthetic, or you will never feel happy in your space.

  • Loryn says:

    My bedroom has black walls, and I like it, but I mainly chose it to solve a problem. The walls never got the last coat of plaster when the house was remodeled in 1918, so you can see the wavy texture of the lath underneath. It drives me crazy, so I painted the walls a flat black. So little light reflects that it obscures the mess.

    It works, mostly because there is a lot of white (really, pale grey) trim and doors. And the furniture is light, and there are lots of paintings. The black sort of fades away and makes a frame.

    I’d prefer it to be a lighter color, but not until I get around to skim coating.

  • Linda Gail Trammel says:

    First of all I am so happy to find someone else who does not like Halloween! It is my least favorite as well. Anyway I am not a fan of all black rooms even with the other elements thrown in there. To each their own. I am just the opposite. Give me White and I am happy. I do like the black and white couple but very little black. I will always love white walls with color thrown in to make it lively. For a black office to produce any kind of work load I am confused. It would make me want to curl up and sleep or something. Dark bedrooms are okay but never all dark. I do not like black appliances or black hardware. In my opinion white is timeless but black is not. Depressing is my go to word. Hope I have not offended anyone here but it is really up to each person how they want to live in their home. Thank you for all the photos and advice.

    • Kay says:

      I concur completely! I really wonder whether anyone but a very talented designer could make a black room look inviting. Some of the rooms Maria shows have strong shots of white or light colors; to me those are the most appealing ones. The rooms by that one designer I do not like at all. Yes, everyone should make their home how they want to live, but I have a feeling that these very dark rooms will have a short shelf life.

    • Becky says:

      Me too! Other people who hate halloween… and don’t need black rooms… My kind of crowd!

  • Christian says:

    You recommended I look at Abigail Ahern years ago when I said I liked moody rooms. I’m so glad you’re still following her work, as I have!
    Great post on how to make the dark rooms “work”.

  • Flying Carrot Designs says:

    My current theory to explain the Black/White ubiquitous trend is that it’s “easier” for novice decorators and homeowners. It’s common for homeowners (especially younger ones) to charge ahead with white and black everything, add some plants, and assume it will feel inviting. Nope. The curated rooms of catalogs and Pinterest do make it look simple with very limited palettes. I get it, and sometimes I admire it. But it’s NOT easy to build a welcoming room (or an outfit!)

    Keep preaching Maria!!!

  • Nancy says:

    Thanks for your blogs and the time you give to us explaining design .

    It started with black window frames then exploded.

    Black every place .
    Billings Where I live is exploding in growth .
    New homes going up every place .
    Dark colored homes every place .
    Some look gothic .

    I have seen some look good when surrounded by big green trees .

    Neighborhoods are defiantly looking different .

    If a house is painted gray it’s a dark gray .

    The black will have a shelf life as every other color has .
    If it’s only done in paint and some black accents easy fix .
    But for those who have chosen black everything not so easy to fix .
    I agree with you Maria don’t do
    All your hard finishes in black …

  • Shelley says:

    If you have cataracts in your eyes, dark rooms are a nightmare, even light rooms are hard to see in. Not recommended for the oldies.

  • Nope,just can’t do it. We are just finishing up a new build. Per the black/white/farmhouse craze, and because I love the simplicity of it, we did white siding & windows, black roof & doors on the exterior. Love it. The inside is matte white walls, white windows & all trim, white cabs & tile, wood look floors with black doors & SOME hardware, like knobs & hinges. Accented with chrome on faucets, brass on cab hardware. Some lighting fixtures are brass, some are black, depending on the room they’re in. I like the punctuation of the the black, & it is easily changeable in the future. I follow Maria & have embraced the classic look. All black? NO WAY for me!

  • Téa says:

    Maria – what is the building in the first image? I can’t figure out this architectural gem – are you in Chicago? An all black room seems bleak to me. I need some color an mood lighting. Thanks!

    • DeniseGK says:

      The filename for the photo is hotel-vancouver.jpg, you should be able to find it through a websearch with that info. Cheers!

  • Patti Hodgson says:

    Hi Maria,
    The timing of this post is perfect! I have just came back from a trip to Quebec City. We took an off- the-beaten-path trip through the glorious colours of the Quebec countryside to see the fall spectacular. In our road trip, I found the one and only amazing all black house. For the 30 days of late September/ early October it is surrounded by the most amazing colour palette possible. It really did sing in that very short season of the year. I thought of you, (as I now see your very wise guidance EVERYWHERE) and could only shake my head at how very sad it must be the remaining 10 months of the year ( perhaps snowy ground cover helps??). Your advice did make me wonder just what the interior would look like.
    Thanks for the great advice and I have learned a great deal. A measure of your success can be that you have taught me so much that I hear you words in my head and see your examples ( good and bad) everywhere ever I go.

  • Priscilla Valdes says:

    Happy Blogiversary!
    “Don’t ever go to your favourite dark night club during the day when the janitor’s there and all the lights are on.” Hahahahahaha, SO true!
    Love you Maria, love to look at all black rooms done well. Love to look at all white rooms done well. Love to look at rooms done well. I have a ham-handed husband and dogs, and that pretty much puts paid to my decorating.

  • Ronnie says:

    Thank you Maria for your wonderful blog. “Happy Anniversary ”. I follow your advice and I have embraced your philosophy of “boring is Classic”. What a lifesaver. You are the best.

  • Julie S says:

    I love that you took the trouble to show and tell how to do a dark/black room RIGHT since it sounds like the reader is not to be persuaded away from her dark office. Never heard of Abigail Ahern before but I love her work – to visit only, not IRL for my home. I notice she doesn’t actually use true black almost ever- more of these murky, dim bottom of the lake colors as she puts it. Readers take note. Sometimes I do wish I had a dark library room or basement to decorate moody and cozy, but it’s not what I want to surround myself with every day. Light and sunny and airy is really what brings me to life!

  • Katherine Burnett says:

    I have the book “Black and White (and a little bit in between)” by brilliant designer Valerie
    Kimble. Lots of great photos and suggestions.

    In my previous 80s house I had a small dining room with white trim around south and north facing windows. The room was wrapped in white wainscot. I painted the walls a very deep Sherwin Williams color Well Bred Brown and placed a huge mirror on the wall to bounce the abundant natural light in the room. It became a gorgeous, sophisticated jewel box. Still miss that room.

    My current house has a tiny guest bath with very light greige walls, an almost black vanity and moody art. I plan to paint the ceiling a similar almost black to finish the look. Can’t wait to see how it looks! Great post Maria!

  • Christine A. says:

    I’d been planning on having navy on 3 of my 4 walls in my northfacing family room, where I currently have a newer navy velvet sofa, afterwards adding a primary green and blue Moroccan style rug with a pair of dark green leather recliners. I can’t wait to pull it all together….

    BUT part of me worries it may be out of place with the rest of my split level home or possibly be too dramatic for buyers when I eventually have to downsize and move out of my home, in this small Midwest college town.

    Sigh. I don’t feel confident enough to do it.

    Regardless, I love reading your posts, Maria!

    • Elle says:

      Please yourself instead of a theoretical future buyer. If you “can’t wait to pull it all together”, don’t wait. It’s your home!

    • Sheree L says:

      Christine A., that sounds beautiful. I say, “Go for it!” You will get to enjoy it, and if you ever move, it’s just paint. You can paint over it before trying to sell your home, or maybe you can keep the navy blue, and it will be a selling point! 🙂

    • Marla says:

      I just painted my north facing bedroom with BM ‘Agean Sea’ which is a wonderful, complex dark blue. The furniture is tiger eye oak, and the room is now truly a gem! Cozy, elegant, each wall slightly different as the light changes through the window. I only wish I had done it sooner.

  • Alex says:

    I say “no” to all black walls unless it’s a chalkboard wall. In nature, black is an accent and nothing is “pure” black. I love dark charcoal however. Softer and warmer. I recently saw some fabulous “rooms” decorated with this paint color as a back-drop at IKEA recently.

  • Fra Na says:

    I can’t do black but I did paint our powder room, walls and ceiling very dark blue. The cove moulding, trim and door are white. Pedestal sink and toilet also white. There is a large copy of Klimt’s” The Woman in Gold”. The painting and mirror are gold framed and I have a small antique Spanish gold chandelier. I think a powder room or bedroom is a perfect place for something dramatic. It would be too much for me in a room like my living room where I spend long periods of time.

  • Laura Schmid says:

    I’m not a fan of all black rooms, but years ago my brother painted the walls of his master bedroom chocolate brown and chose draperies with a green vine pattern on a chocolate brown background. When I walked into that room for the first time, I felt as though I had been transported back into the womb! It was incredibly inviting and so soothing.

  • Sharie says:

    I love moody, dark-colored rooms – maybe because I live in a tiny apartment with only one set of windows, facing north-northwest with thick foliage for my view. The original white walls were dismal. Only when I painted the walls deep mossy olive did the place come to life. The moss color is so pleasing it’s hard to imagine anything else; otherwise, I’d be the one to consider all-brown or possibly black walls. But never all-grey.

    I will say the dark is a little odd-looking and stark early in the day. The trick, one of Maria’s tricks, is to keep little lamps around and keep them on all the time. So that’s what I do first thing in the morning: turn on the little lights.

    I have all of Maria’s other suggestions here, as well, for a very cozy, comforting vibe. Don’t get me wrong; other people’s white rooms are nice. It’s just that my room needs something else.

  • Sandy says:

    Beware black if you live in the city, or in the country on a gravel road. You’ll see every speck of dust, so be ready to dust a LOT (hourly maybe) or hire a maid — from a condo with black granite countertops and tile, dark wood floors and, sadly, no maid.

  • Kathi Steele says:

    There is a lounge in Las Vegas in Delano/Mandalay Bay called Skyfall Lounge. It is on the 64th floor. It is very dark, but the bathrooms are black with gold accents. Black floors, black walls, black toilet, black sink. But, it has a spotlight over the toilet and a spotlight over the sink AND it has floor to ceiling windows.
    So, that when you are pottying you can look out over all the beautiful lights on the strip.
    It is magical !!!!! And beautiful !!!!! And, you are 64 stories up so no one can see you. But that bathroom is amazing!!
    Like I said before, rooms that you do not spend a lot of time in are beautiful done in dark colors. But everyday rooms need lighting so you can do “tasks”.

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