Traditional decorating advice says that you should use lighter colors in a small bedroom to reflect light and make the room feel bigger.
And whilst this is the safest route for most folks, you might be wondering if you can use a dark color scheme in a small bedroom without making it feel too small.
You can use darker colors like gray, purple, blue, brown, and green in a small bedroom without making it feel too small when you balance your palette using the rules of the color wheel, use a matte finish to diffuse light, observe the 60:30:10 rule, use selective contrast, and reflect light correctly.
The rest of this article shows you how to paint your small bedroom a dark color properly in 5 steps by following the above points – whilst also providing you with 7 of the best dark paint colors to use, plus 5 of the best small bedroom dark color scheme decor ideas for some visual inspiration.
Related: discover the 7 best bedding colors that go with gray walls and check out the 6 best decor colors that go with cherry wood bedroom furniture here.
Should You Paint a Small Bedroom a Dark Color?
Deciding on whether you should paint your small bedroom a darker color is a bold move and not without its risks.
Here are the potential risks and benefits that you should consider before taking action.
The Benefit: More Depth and a Calming Feel
When done correctly, painting your small bedroom a dark color can make it appear bigger because rather than reflecting light back at you and creating glare, the darker hues absorb light and blur the edges of the room to create the illusion of greater depth and space.
The darker decor can also help to promote feelings of relaxation and create a cozy, calming ambiance that can help you to wind down and drift off to sleep more easily.
The Risk: Your Bedroom Feels Like a Cave
The biggest risk of painting your small bedroom a dark color is that when done incorrectly, it makes the room feel like a dark and dingy cave.
You should also be aware that darker tones can accentuate imperfections, can be difficult to paint over, and may be more likely to fade when exposed to direct sunlight.
However, by choosing the right base color and following the steps in the upcoming ‘how-to’ section, you can minimize these risks and increase the chance of you creating the ideal dark decor for your small bedroom.
7 Best Dark Paint Colors for Small Bedrooms
Below are 7 of the best dark paint colors that you can use in your small bedroom:
Abbey is a dark gray with a blue undertone that can give your small bedroom a calming and neutral feel that can work well as the dominant color for your walls, ceiling, and floor – use shades and tints to break up the monotony and avoid creating a gloomy feel.
Affair is a purple that can promote feelings of spirituality when used in lighter pastel tones whilst commanding power and elegance at higher saturations.
Powdered purple can work well as the dominant color in your small bedroom to create a lighter feel, combining with deeper purple accents to create depth.
Allports is a type of blue that can create an oceanic feeling of calmness, balance, and serenity that you can use as the dominant color in your small bedroom but also as a supporting or accent color too.
Consider using various tints and shades to break up blocks of color on your walls and use white accents to add contrast – such as using white patterns or geometric prints on your pillows and bedding.
Americano is a light brown with warm orange undertones that can infuse your small bedroom with a smoldering, campfire glow to create a cozy feel that goes perfectly with nighttime reading.
You can use americano as the dominant color on the walls and ceiling for a lighter feel, or use it on an accent wall around your window juxtaposed against two longer, darker brown walls to make the room feel more lengthly.
5: Aqua Deep
Aqua deep is a rich turquoise that can bring balance and harmony to your small bedroom.
Consider using it as a dominant color if you’re going for an environmental, healing feel – where earthy neutrals can work well as secondary and accent colors.
Whilst bamboo, wicker, and other natural fibers can be used in your headboard, blinds, and furniture to create a rustic feel.
Aubergine is a deep brown with fiery red undertones that can heat up your small bedroom and create a strong, secure feeling.
Aubergine can work well as an accent or supporting color in a brown palette – such as using it to emphasize the lighter americano brown listed above.
7: Blue Charcoal
Blue charcoal is a dark, rich blue that commands authority and elegance that could be ideal for a men’s small bedroom.
At such a dark shade, you may prefer to use blue charcoal as an accent color to offset lighter blues and greens so that your small bedroom doesn’t feel too overbearing.
How to Paint a Small Bedroom a Dark Color
When painting your small bedroom a dark color, you should first pick your base palette, select the paint finish, decide which areas of your room are going to be painted which colors, and then blend and contrast certain areas to make the room appear larger.
Here’s how you can do that in 5 steps:
1: Choose Your Base Palette
Before painting your small bedroom with a dark color, it’s a good idea to pick an aesthetically pleasing color scheme based on the rules of the color wheel (as described below) from which you can then decide on the exact colors that you’re going to use (the color palette).
To do this, take the hex value of your chosen ‘base color’, paste it into the space under the middle tile in this free color wheel tool from Adobe, and then select the type of color harmony rule that you’d like to apply to generate your color palette.
For example, by pasting the hex value (#87756E) for the Americano color from the list above into the Adobe color wheel as the base color and selecting the ‘monochromatic’ color harmony rule, I’m given the following palette:
From which I can then select the dominant, secondary, and accent colors that I think will work best in my small bedroom.
Here’s an overview of the best color harmony rules that work well with darker base colors to create a final palette for your small bedroom.
Complementary colors sit opposite each other on the color wheel and typically create contrast.
Therefore, when starting with a darker base color, it’s best to let one color take the dominant role in your bedroom and use the other colors selectively as secondary and accent colors to create emphasis as required.
Split Complementary Colors
On the color wheel, a split complementary color scheme takes one color form either side of the color that complements the base color – giving you three colors in total (with further tints and shades being possible for greater variation).
A split complementary color scheme can work well as the basis for your color palette to decorate your small bedroom because the split colors can provide selective contrast without being too overpowering when used as accent colors against the dominant base color.
A monochromatic color palette consists of several tints and shades of the same color.
A monochromatic color scheme can work really well in a small bedroom with darker dominant and secondary colors on the walls juxtaposed against lighter accent colors to bring furniture, bedding, and accessories to the foreground to create depth and the illusion of a larger room.
You can also decrease the saturation of the palette or specific colors to create a lighter feel if you’re worried about the room becoming too overbearing.
2: Consider a Dominant Matte Finish
Once you’ve selected the base color and your palette, the next step is to choose the finish that you’d like the paint to have.
A matte finish tends to be the best when painting the walls and ceiling of your small bedroom a dark base color because the lower level of luster minimizes glare and allows the edges of the room to fade away to create depth and the illusion of the room being larger than it actually is.
A matte finish for the more dominant colors in your bedroom can also help to create a soft and calming feel that can help you to relax and get ready for sleep.
However, if you’d like a touch more shine then you could go for an eggshell finish – or even a satin finish for more active bedrooms that need more protection from abrasions and friction (such as in a child’s bedroom).
3: Apply the 60:30:10 Rule
With your color scheme and paint finish decided, the next step is to decide which areas of your bedroom are going to be painted which colors.
As a starting guide, you should consider the 60:30:10 decorating rule.
Where 60% of the room takes on the dominant color (typically the walls and ceiling), 30% takes on the supporting color (upholstery, curtains, furniture, etc) and the remaining 10% is reserved for the accent color (accent furniture, accent pillows, etc).
However, you can also break up the dominant, supporting, and accent colors with sub-shades, tints, and hues to avoid monotony.
Below are some decor tips that are specific to painting your small bedroom with a darker palette.
When painting your small bedroom with a darker palette, the darker base colors should be used on the longer walls (if you have them) and use lighter secondary and accent colors around the window to emphasize the light.
This color arrangement helps to make the longer walls more expansive and recede away to create depth, whilst the lighter accent wall works with the natural light to create a pleasing contrast that collectively helps to make your small bedroom appear larger.
If your walls are dark then you should either paint the ceiling the same color or touch lighter because a white or very light ceiling sitting above dark walls can make the room seem shorter and less spacious.
Rather than going for a heavily contrasting secondary or accent color, you should paint the trim one tint lighter than the dominant room color to break up the monotony whilst still allowing the walls to diffuse into the background to create a more spacious feel.
However, avoid making the trim darker than the dominant color of the walls because this may make the room feel smaller.
4: Blend and Contrast
In order to make your smaller bedroom feel larger, the general rule is to allow furniture and woodwork near the edge of the room to blend in, whilst accentuating furniture, bedding, and accessories closer to the center of the room to create focus.
Blend Peripheral Furniture
Consider having the furniture that sits close to the edge of the dark walls to be a similar color and shade (or a touch lighter) to further accentuate the depth of the walls to create space.
Similarly, if you went for a lighter accent wall near the window to create contrast, then you might like to have lighter colored furniture against that wall to continue the theme.
Contrast With Lighter Central Furnishings and Bedding
Having lighter colored furniture and bedding closer to the center of the room can bring them into the foreground to contrast with your darker walls and peripheral furniture to pull the eye away from the edges of the room to accentuate depth and make your small bedroom feel bigger.
Add Accents For Emphasis
You can create an even deeper contrast and direct the emphasis to certain areas of the room by using lighter accent colors to offset the darker backdrop – such as throw pillows, throw blankets, and accent furniture.
You can also use gloss finishes to add shine and contrast too.
5: Play With Light
If you don’t have much natural light in your bedroom then you can place a full-length mirror opposite your window to reflect the light back to create depth.
This works very well if you went for a lighter accent wall where the window is and painted the two longer, adjacent walls a darker color because it brightens the room in the right places to accentuate depth and make the room feel more spacious and lively.
You could also try hanging smaller wall mirrors and using glossy accessories to reflect light more subtly too.
5 Small Bedroom Dark Color Scheme Ideas
Below are 5 inspirational dark color schemes to give you an idea of what can work in your small bedroom.
1: Lifted Purple
Here, the white accent of the headboard, pillows, and lamps helps to lift them away from the textured matte finish of the darker purple walls to add depth to this smaller bedroom.
This effect is enhanced by the gloss of the lamps and the shadows they cast whilst subtly contrasting with the more diffused finishes of the white picture frames and the trim of the headboard.
2: Warm and Textured Accents
This smaller bedroom benefits from a sizeable window that allows for the use of darker purple drapes and gray bedding.
However, even in a smaller room without as much natural light, this darker color scheme would still work with the warmer accents provided by the spot lamp and the textured orange piece above the bed because it provides a smoldering glow that creates the ideal ambiance for bedtime reading and relaxing.
3: Diffused Red
The diffused red allows the darker peripheral furniture the opportunity to blend into the walls under the shadow created by the natural light coming through from the adjacent window to create depth – whilst the golden gloss of the picture frame, plant pot, and clock lift the eye away from the walls.
Notice how the natural green of the plants, the blues of the bedding, and the brown of the furniture follow the triadic color harmony rule on the color wheel:
4: Monochromatic Gray
This small bedroom pushes the limits of using a dark color scheme by using a monochromatic gray for the walls, bedding, and accessories.
Accents are defined by subtly contrasting the sheen of the vase and the lamp with the matte finish of the walls – whilst the picture is all but swallowed up by the darkness save for the thin slivers of textured details.
If this decor is too overpowering for you then you could add in colored pillows for selective pop – muted pastels or a rich red could work well for emphasis.
5: Enchanting Orange
Depth is added to this small mid-tone orange bedroom by scrunching up the drapes above the bed and accentuating the shadows by angling small lamps diagonally below.
Taking #D25211 as the base color and applying the monochromatic color harmony rule, we can see how lighter cream tints are used for emphasis in the side cabinets and headboard to create an added pop that’s anchored by the neutral fawn bolster pillows.
This is a warm yet subtly vibrant small bedroom that’s both relaxing and inviting – perfect for studying as well as sleeping.
Below are the concise answers to some of the questions related to painting your small bedroom.
What Colors Make a Small Room Look Bigger?
Light colors like off-white, light taupe, ivory, and powdered blue, green, and pink can make a small room look bigger – as can darker colors like purple and brown when applied in a matte finish and juxtaposed with selective diffusion and contrasting accents throughout the rest of the room.
How Do You Paint a Small Room Dark?
To paint a small room dark, use a color palette based on the harmony rules of the color wheel, use a dominant matte finish to diffuse light, balance the color distribution using the 60:30:10 rule, and blend peripheral furniture whilst contrasting central furnishings to create depth.
What Color Paint is Best For a Small Bedroom?
Dark-colored paints are best for a small bedroom when applied correctly, whilst lighter colors tend to be a ‘safer’ alternative because they tend to reflect light and mitigate the risk of your bedroom feeling too dingy.
Conclusion: Dark Colors Can Work in a Small Room
Whilst going for lighter colors is generally the safer bet to avoid making your room feel like a cave, you can most certainly get away with painting your small bedroom a darker color if you follow the steps below:
- Choose your dominant base color.
- Paste the hex value of your base color into a color wheel tool.
- Select a complimentary, split complementary, triadic, or monochromatic color harmony rule.
- Decide on the color ratio distribution using the 60:30:10 decorating rule.
- Use a matte finish for the walls and ceiling to minimize glare and diffuse light.
- Match the ceiling color with the walls (or one shade lighter) to add height.
- Paint the ceiling trim one shade lighter to break up the monotony without making the room feel shorter (a risk when using a light ceiling in a small room with dark walls).
- Paint the wall around your window a lighter accent color and the two longer adjacent walls a darker color to make the walls more expansive and make the room feel longer.
- Match the color and shade of your peripheral furniture with the walls to accentuate depth.
- Use lighter colored furniture, bedding, and accessories in the center of the room to draw the eye away from the walls.
- Place a full-length mirror opposite the wall with your window to reflect light and increase feelings of spaciousness.
Image Credits and Licencing
Main image: Baloncici (Getty Images).
All other images: referenced individually in the above text.
All images are licenced under Canva’s One Design Use License Agreement (details).
Dan is the founder and head content creator at Bedroom Style Reviews.
He has been working as a professional online product reviewer since 2015 and was inspired to start this website when he ended up sleeping on a memory foam mattress that was too soft and gave him backache.
Through in-depth research and analysis, Dan’s goal with this website is to help others avoid such pitfalls by creating the best online resource for helping you find your ideal mattress, bedding, and bedroom furniture.
Dan is a qualified NVQ Level 2 Fitness Instructor with 6 years’ experience helping clients improve their health through diet, exercise, and proper sleep hygiene.
He also holds several college and university-level qualifications in health sciences, psychology, mathematics, art, and digital media creation – which helps him to publish well researched and informative product reviews as well as articles on sleep, health, wellbeing, and home decor.
Dan also has direct personal experience with insomnia, anxiety, misophonia (hypersensitivity to sounds), and pain from both acute and long-standing sporting injuries – he enjoys writing insightful articles around these subjects to help fellow sufferers of such conditions.
Learn more about Dan here.