I have a confession. I am a lighting designer, and I love black. When it comes to interiors – WOW – spaces that incorporate layers upon layers of black finishes are dynamite yet sometimes tricky to light. No matter how much light you add, black will always be black. There are a few ways to brighten up the space while keeping a dark palette and when you do, the result is oh-so-dramatic! Let’s take a look at a few spaces:
I love the large windows in this loft! The natural light pours in to accentuate the colorful book bindings, plants, and throw pillows. But do you see any light fixtures to use after the sun sets? Uh oh...I don’t! So what would you do? Since it appears to be in the city, a soft amber glow will naturally wash the bookshelves through both windows but that doesn't give us much usable light in the space. The sofa and carpeted steps look like a cozy place to curl up with a good book so I would add a petite sconce to the side of the brick wall in the nook and a few antique brass pharmacy lamps for additional reading light and sparkle. Keep that unique ceiling clean – it would be a tragedy to add any sort of surface or recessed lights to a space like this!
The use of black in a bedroom can be so dramatic and seductive. I think these unornamented black walls paired with the neutral headboard, linens, and drapes make this bedroom dramatic, yet comfortable and quiet. Look how crisp these white sheets look when they are washed with daylight! Adding two recessed accents over the bed to light the pillows will enhance the contrast of the linens against the wall after sunset. If you like to read in bed, make sure you either have an ambient bedside lamp, a swing-arm reading light, or individually switched recessed lights over the bed.
I am gushing over this space – the French gilded mirror and metallic ceiling dazzle with the wash of natural light. Adding a recessed accent in front of the mirror would give you a similar effect after sunset and would make the marble counter below it pop. The harlequin floor, marble counter, frosted globe pendant, and even the labels on the bottles in the upper right corner give the space a nice mix of brighter finishes to offset the dark walls.
Here we have another space with layers upon layers of dark finishes. It may seem obvious but black walls absorb the light. By adding just a little bit of light in the right places, you can bring out the details of a mantle, the texture of a velvet chair, and the bright colors in a painting. (Think about how different this painting would look against a white wall...) If you want to use this many dark finishes, be sure to add something light, colorful, or metallic to the space and highlight it otherwise you might feel like you've been sucked into a black hole. Yikes!
The natural light pours into this space during the day, reflecting light off of the floor and ceiling to accentuate the contrast of the black walls and mantle. At night, the crystal chandelier and sconces will sparkle like fine jewelry with the all-black backdrop and provide a soft glow on the ceiling. In a space like this, consider adding recessed accents to illuminate the textures of the architectural details, furnishings, and accessories. And if this is a place you like to curl up with book, a pharmacy lamp would be an excellent addition.
If you want to embrace a dark color palette in your space, remember to add a few special pieces that are colorful, metallic, or a lighter hue for contrast. The combination of a decorative fixture's ambient glow, recessed downlights accenting the textures and colors of your special pieces, and a few lamps sprinkled throughout will make the space feel even more dramatic, moody, and seductive.