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The Secret of Creating Beautiful Dark Walls

The great decorators of the past knew how to combine drama with comfort. And one thing all the greats did really well, was the dark wall. From the 1920s rooms of Dorothy Draper, to the 1980s of Mark Hampton, the greatest designers of the past knew how to create dramatic rooms without sacrificing comfort and livability.
Isn't the Mark Hampton room above stunning? Don't you want to curl up on the cushy Chesterfield and sink into those overfilled pillows? This room is dark and dramatic...yet it is also warm and inviting. To break down this room, the sofa is a comfort classic and the room is dotted with antiques which always warm up a space. The natural colors add easy elegance and contrast beautifully with the dark walls without harshness. And here is the secret...the walls are not black. They look black, but they are a very dark espresso brown with blue/green added. That is one reason the painting and the Asian screens look so amazing on that wall, because the colors are also in the wall paint color. You can't consciously see it, but subliminally it is there. The other secret is a reflective quality, either the wall itself or something next to it. Mark Hampton used lacquered screens for shine. Others used mirrors and some actually lacquered the walls. But shine of some sort is a must for dark walls. Without it, the look falls flat and closes in on you.
 Here are a few more pics of dark walls done by the great decorators-

Albert Hadley

A huge mirror here adds the sheen, as does the brilliant parquet floor..this room is a random mix of colors and fabrics but the dark wall and the floor pulls it all together.

Dorothy Draper
A room in the Greenbriar Spa she was commissioned to decorate. Dorothy Draper opened her decorating firm in the 1920s when women rarely worked and interior design was a new concept. Again a huge mirror adds the reflective quality and walls are not black but a blackish dark teal.

Sister Parish

This room, in Sister Parish's own apartment is super busy, but you can see her furniture placement is a 20th century approach to 18th century salons.These walls are heavily lacquered and she also added multiple mirrors. The color is black mixed with aubergine.

Billy Baldwin

And last but not least, my favorite decorator of the past, Billy Baldwin. A favorite in the 1960s, with devotees that included the icon of good taste, Jackie Kennedy, these two photos are of his own tiny apartment.

Despite the world being in the grip of Mid Century modernism, Billy Baldwin always included a bit of Rococo in his rooms. Here he added a Louis XV fauteuil upholstered in shiny leather, lacquered screens AND lacquered the walls. He was known for adding blues or greens to very dark chocolate wall color.

This room is as current today as it was decades ago. In fact very dark walls always look up to date and never tired. So if you have always dreamed of dark dramatic walls, you now know the key, you don't just buy a gallon of black paint and go at consider, the room, it's contents, the light in room
....and mix accordingly.

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