Everything You Need To Know About Decorating With Black Paint, Straight From The Pros

How to use the moody hue.

Originally Published: 
Courtesy of Folding Chair Design Co. / Photo by Jenn Verrier
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While black paint has been quietly trending for a few years, it’s finally starting to reach a fever pitch. Multiple celebrities — including Miley Cyrus and Ciara — have recently shown off black walls in their own homes, Havenly named it a top trend for 2022, and HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams just declared the purpleish black hue “Darkroom” its 2023 Color of the Year. Because of this, there’s now plenty of inspiration to choose from if you’re thinking of using a moody shade in your home. However, that doesn’t mean you couldn’t benefit from a few expert tips on how to decorate with black paint. After all, using the color on your walls is still a challenge, no matter how easy Instagram may make it seem.

And the first part of that challenge? Knowing whether or not black paint is right for you. Before you take any steps toward choosing a shade, Gianpiero Gaglione, owner and principal designer of Gianpiero Gaglione Interior Design, says to consider whether you’ll truly be at peace with the hue in your home. “Look inside your wardrobe and see the colors of your clothes,” he says. “This will tell you what colors you’re drawn to and are comfortable with and will give you a good base for suitable paint colors to use.” If there are no shades of black present? Chances are, you probably won’t want it on your walls, either.

But if you definitely do, you’re in luck: Using the color in your home has many benefits. Though Gaglione notes that black paint is definitely a statement, “if used correctly it can add a ton of drama and a luxurious edge to a space.” Plus, it can help achieve myriad looks. For example, the designer says black paired with white can create a “chic, contemporary, and sophisticated look,” while black and gold together add lots of glam. “In a material sense,” he continues, “black paired with exposed bricks and steel evokes a very masculine and industrial chic vibe, whereas black paired with rattan and Moroccan rugs evokes a bohemian and eclectic undertone.”

Convinced you’re ready to go over to the dark side? Ahead, pro tips on how to take the plunge and pull black paint off flawlessly.

Courtesy Of Folding Chair Design Co. / Photo By Jenn Verrier

Pick The Right Room

While the decision on where to use black paint is of course totally up to you, some designers do abide by certain rules when adding it to spaces. Jennifer Walter, owner and principal designer of Folding Chair Design Co., says she typically uses very dark or black paints in small to medium rooms. “Creating a box around that color can be so pervasive in a smaller space.” And yes, that does mean you may want to avoid using these hues in larger areas. “Dark paint tends to absorb light more, shrinking some rooms, so we opt for lighter colors in more expansive living rooms and breezeways,” she continues. Walter even gives some specific examples to illustrate this, naming powder and dining rooms as her favorites places for black paint. “These are two rooms clients are more apt to take risks and where the color has a major impact,” she shares.

Pay Attention To Lighting

It may seem obvious, but it needs to be reiterated: Black rooms need a light source. Walter says that she likes a room with black paint “to have natural light if possible, or overhead lighting that can be dimmed to avoid the black-hole, cave effect.” Yet while having windows are important, Gaglione says it’s possible to go too far with this. “Spaces where I think you can avoid black would be rooms with a ton of light, so rooms with large windows or very open spaces,” he explains.

Start Small

Maybe you’re not ready for an entire room painted black — and that’s OK. You still have plenty of options. Walter recommends trying a small ceiling: “In [one] bathroom we designed, we lacquered the ceiling in FPE black paint that created a mirrored finish that was so striking against the wallpaper.” And if you’re thinking of adding it to the walls, but you’re feeling scared? “Try one wall, or a small area to start with,” says Gaglione. “For example, if you’re thinking of black in the bedroom, just paint the headboard wall and see if you like it.”

Do The Prep

One crucial step in committing to black paint? “Get your walls in order,” says Walter. According to her, you should skim coat, sand, and just take a little extra care when prepping in general, as black paint is less forgiving with imperfections. “Bumps, chips, or dings will be seen much more easily.”

Courtesy Of Folding Chair Design Co. / Photo By Jenn Verrier

Choose The Right Sheen

PSA: All black paints are not the same. As with every color, there are different levels of sheen. But with black, says Gaglione, choosing the right one is especially important. “High-gloss black is super chic and adds so much glamour to a room,” he explains. “It bounces the light all over, especially if you have moldings or trims on any of the walls.”

On the other hand, he continues, flat matte black is “a far more casual look.” It also has the unexpected benefit of helping to camouflage some things. “For example, painting a ceiling that has exposed ducts or sprinklers is a common thing to do in restaurants or office spaces so that it all just disappears.”

Be Ready To Commit

Even if you do start small with black paint, let’s be real — it’s still a pretty dramatic move to add it to your home. Thus, Walter says that as with any bold or deep color, you need to be prepared to see it every day. “Just like some people can live with all-white walls, similarly, living with jet walls takes a level of commitment,” she explains.

That’s where the previous advice comes in. Review your lighting situation, ask yourself what mood you’re trying to achieve, and consider the room in which you want to use it. And finally, trust your instincts. “As an interior designer, I feel it’s important to listen to your gut and follow through with it,” says Gaglione. “Being brave and taking risks is something you have to do in the creative field, so take that leap of faith. If it doesn’t work out, at the end of the day, it’s just paint.”

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