Design Dilemma: Lightening up the Feel of Dark Furniture
Dark furniture stains have become all the rage in the last few years. We’ve seen espresso, wenge, deep mahogany, and even black, everywhere. Especially among those furniture retailers touting urban sophistication and elegance. (Think West Elm and Bo Concept.) We think the trend toward dark furniture is already on its way out, leaving legions of us with nearly pitch-black kitchen cabinets, living room and bedroom sets. Now that the craze is nearly over, we can admit to ourselves that while dark wood can look elegant and “powerful”, it can also look somber and heavy. So how do you lighten things up if you’ve already filled your home with dark wooden things?
Brighten walls with color. Got dark wood? Try lightening up by bringing in color through walls and rugs. Rich dark hues will extend the sophisticated look of your dark wood and actually make your dark wood feel less dark, as there will be less of a contrast than with white, or light walls. Below, the living room which features mostly dark wood tones manages to avoid looking intimidatingly dark and stuffy simply through the use of deep bold color. The color extends to oriental carpets and throw pillows to add some extra punch.
Use artwork. In the bedroom below, framed photos on the wall help lighten up the feel ofÂ the dark wood bed. A bedside table of a lighter wood helps give the room a more eclectic feel than it would have with every wood matching. Bold and colorful artwork work especially well as a balance to dark wood.
Use light or white everywhere else. Create a chic and sophisticated backdrop by using all white walls and fabrics in your space. You might even consider painting the floor white, as in the photo below. Be aware that if you paint the room white, the contrast will be greater between your dark furniture and the walls. This could work well if you’re looking for a high-impact modern look that emphasizes the dark wood but NOT if you’re hoping to make the darkness of the wood less striking. (Stick to deep color for this effect.) You might also consider painting some of your dark pieces white, as the built-in sideboard is painted white in the room below.
Bring in other finishes. Consider using chrome, metals and other finishes to contrast with the wood. In the photo above, metal chairs help bring a balance to the dark wooden bench and dark wood table.
Use mirrors liberally. A large mirror or a collection of mirrors will bounce light around the room, making your room feel a little lighter, brighter, less somber.
Make use of vibrant, punchy fabrics. Colorful pillows, drapes, rugs and upholstery coverings can help soften dark wood and make it feel far less serious. So use vibrant color to your advantage where possible. Neutral rugs, drapes and pillows will emphasize the darkness of the wood.
Images: Lea Cohen, Hammond Realty;, via Apartment Therapy.com