An edited version of this article was published in the Deccan Herald on March 05, 2022. You can read it here
Henry Ford once said you can choose any colour as long as it is Black – while that philosophy worked well for Ford’s cars, the same when applied to the field of design has not found much favour, at least in the past. Designers as well as clients have kept away from dark themes. To some, black signifies un-auspicious while others find it too difficult to bring a sense of positivity and freshness to spaces around a dark theme. Even on cell-phones and computers the dark theme is relatively new, it has however caught users’ fancy making it a rave and one of the most popular themes for devices today.
The recent fetish for Dark as well as the younger generation’s desire to try out new and different concepts for their spaces – both homes and offices, is now driving the demand for Dark Themes in Interior Design. While there is demand, the supply for dark themed interiors is constrained by the designers’ or the home maker’s skill to bring it to life. Dark themes can give an extremely classy and contemporary feel to spaces and how to get it right is what we will discuss in this article today
1. Dark Does not mean everything Black – Use a “Show Stopper”
This is a common myth – home makers tend to associate a Dark theme with Black coloured walls and ceilings. Remember you are not designing a cave 😊. Like how in Fashion Design ONE Show Stopper represents the entire theme of the apparel being launched, for Dark themed interiors you need to start with ONE central object that is black or dark and build the whole concept around it. The central object could be a wall, a large Mural or piece of furniture / decor. Make sure that the central object is large enough and is highlighted in a way that it attracts attention when anyone enters the space. Don’t overdo the black in the rest of the place, just a small dark highlight here or there would do. Here’s a sample of what a Dark theme could look like – Highlight Wall in Black Texture, Accent Lighting on the dark wall, Study Table with Black restricted only to the table top, A Black themed art-piece on an adjoining wall, A rug with some element of Black in it. The rest of everything in a contrast or complimentary colour.
2. The importance of Lighting:
Lighting is a key ingredient but often overlooked element of Interior Design. It plays an even vital role when it comes to dark themes. Dark themes being – “Dark” (for want of a better word) they demand appropriate to bring about general brightness and positivity. The rule is to use warm white or pale-yellow lighting in dark themed interiors and avoid white lighting. Also ensure that the central object is well highlighted with both task and accent lighting. Do ensure to brush up these lighting techniques before embarking on your “dark” journey
3. Finishing Matters.
Good finish is another key requirement when one is playing with Dark colours. Darks tend to enhance any scratches, creases or a slight of hand during installation, and more so on dark glossy finishes than on dark matte ones. Add to that the lights shining bright on that black texture (remember we said Lighting was essential to bring a Dark theme to life). Hence if you are using a Dark Wallpaper or a Texture paint then ensure that the installer has a good hand and the finish, preferably in matte, is up to the mark. Even Dark curtains will prominently show creases or dust accumulation. Hence good overall maintenance is a key requirement for a Dark theme to come alive and sustain over a period of time.
4. Life Stage:
A common question of home makers is whether a Dark theme is suitable only for the young and young at heart. The answer to that is a definite NO. When done well, a Dark theme comes across as classy and would well suit a senior family as it will suit a young one. Both will however need high maintenance standards as demanded by any dark theme to keep the space looking chique.
5. One Space or the Whole Place:
Should the Dark theme run across the entire place or can one limit it only to one or two spaces? – Another common question, especially from Home Makers. For homes the answer is simple – each room can have a different theme with the dark theme limited to the Living Space or a Bedroom. Doing up different themes for different rooms of a home is in fact is a trend nowadays. For Commercial Interiors on the other hand, the theme has to run across the whole space. This is essential since the Interiors of a Commercial Space are aligned to the presentation of the Brand itself and its communication runs not just through the interiors but also the artifacts, stationery, logo and everything through which the brand presents itself.
Lastly, remember that every trend comes with its own shelf life. While today Black has found favour, maybe 3-4 years down the line, it may not, and you find people taking it down. It may also become an evergreen style with more and more homes & office adopting it. While change will forever be the constant, there is every reason to cherish the trend give flight to your “dark ambitions”. As they say in the sci-fi world – May the Force be With You.
Nandita Manwani is a practicing Interior Designer in Bangalore and is the founder of The Studio by Nandita Manwani