Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Holy Bat Cave!

"Holy Mother of God! 
You're painting the walls that dark! 
It will look like the Bat Cave in here!"

N.B. dark is personal; for some, if it's not white then it's dark.

Jeffrey Bilhuber Design, William Waldron photography

Anyone else besides me on the receiving end of this reaction? Paint Myth Number Two in action.

Reality: Assuming we have plenty of light, painting a saturated color makes the room look bigger, not small and dark.

Regardless of size, the only thing that will make a dark room lighter is more light, layers of light. As many layers as you can manage. Keep in mind that every room is dark once the sun goes down. 

Recessed light and light hanging from or close to the ceiling.

Wall sconces.
 Windsor Smith
Beautiful tailoring and detail on this corner sofa. The glass table reflects light.
Normally I avoid furnishings that look like they could inflict bodily harm,
but I like this sconce, a lot, which totally surprises me.
  Miguel Double Sconce from Circa Lighting
This post was not sponsored by Circa Lighting.

Floor lamps.
Peter Frank

Table lamps, mirrors, reflective objects, candles.
I "shopped" the client's home and rounded up these items.
The old mint condition Red Sox convertible is from the client's childhood, a game at Fenway.

Charlotte Moss' living room is a great example of layered light. Ms. Moss' room is steeped in tradition but these lighting concepts should be applied to any style.

Charlotte Moss' living room via New York Social Diary
1. ceiling spot lights highlight the art on either side of the fireplace
2. a picture light for the piece above the fireplace
3. mid-height sconces flank the fireplace and they're not just for looks
4. adjustable height floor lamps with swing arms make reading a pleasure
5. a table lamp on the console
And that's just one end of the room.

With the light review out of the way, the real question is how can a dark or saturated color make a room feel bigger? Some examples.

Garrow Kedigian
Great mix of classic, traditional and tasteful modern.
Painting the bookcase, crown and ceiling beams the same color does two thing: 
it unifies the room, and draws the eye up to the painted ceiling. 
Once the eye is up at ceiling height, the contrast between the yellow and blue makes us appreciate the height which gives the impression or illusion of larger space.

Lindsey Coral Harper
Here the trim paint contrasts with the wall color defining the space, 
and the pass through draws the eye up giving the illusion of more height. 
Using the same color for the trim and cabinets creates unification. 
Looks like this end of the kitchen might not be much wider than 10'. 
Does it look tiny to you? Not to me.

A high ceiling is a huge factor in the spacious feel of a room. What if we have regular height ceilings?

Warm and comfortable, not bat cave-ish at all.
This room might feel claustrophobic were it not for the contrasting white full-length curtains and white arm chairs.
A Northern clime can handle a big dose of hot color.

Lauren Liess
This is a small dining room.
Everything works towards taking the eye up and creating contrast. The full length curtains, the contrasting stem on the light fixture, and the artwork frames contrast with the wall and take the brown of the table and console up higher.

You probably already picked up on an underlying principle, contrast. Contrast gives the eye an anchor, or starting point if you will, to figure out the size of something. And it works both ways, whether your walls are white or the bat cave variety.

I'm not advocating that you paint your walls white or dark. We should paint with the colors that speak to us. And get some more lamps...

Thanks for reading,
Linda Pakravan

Here's the link to Myth Number One.


  1. Nice collection of photos. The library and dining room are not dark though - quite light and lovely blues!!!

    1. Thanks for stopping by! Dark, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder....

  2. A good friend receives my posts by email and "comments" by email as well. I thought I would share her comment on this post:

    Love it. I am a white person. However-
    Many years ago, in my youth, my mother chose to have our dining room painted a very deep dark lush green.
    It took her a while to convince the painters that she did not have to be institutionalized. During the winter we
    had heavy rose drapes (for their insulation value) and switched to light floral drapes during the summer months.
    It was awesome. Once done, no one complained.


  3. I live to embrace the dark! Something so sexy about black walls and high-contrast white trim that simply makes a space sing! Those black lacquered walls have me jonesing for the automotive variety already! So luxurious!

    If you have a moment, would love to get your thoughts on my latest design!

    Peace. Love. LOL!

    Haute Khuuture Blog

  4. Anonymous25.9.14

    Aaaaah, Linda, that first photograph takes my breath away, not just for the wall color but the chair, too. Just gorgeous. I need to take your advice and work on adding layers of lighting to my old barn, it would help enormously, I'm sure. Beautiful post!!

  5. It's clear I have been living myth number 2 far too long! I do need more lamps....a very enlightening post! Thank you!


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