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Black gold: You'll gush at the results

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QUESTION: I want to paint our small den black. My Pinterest page is filled with images of black rooms, but our space is currently beige. My partner and I will use the den as an office-cum-library. We have piles of books and already have a grey feature wall in our living room to highlight our fireplace, but painting a whole room is a big step. Should we leave it white or start with grey and go darker later?

ANSWER: Forget grey. Paint your office black. It seems that everywhere I turn, dark green, navy and black rooms are popping up.

I was walking through the Lee Jofa showroom (leejofa.com) and happened upon this photo of a room by Robert Brown for Macrae. The walls are a high-gloss black. I know you are scared to commit, but take inspiration from this photo.

There are a few tricks at play that make this black room work. First, the glossy paint reflects light. But really, it's the wood Griffin writing table that warms the space. The large white painting with touches of amber and blue breaks up the dark panelling and keeps the nook from looking like a cave. Large photography will also keep the room from looking like a dark hole. The sand-toned rug does the same thing.

What I'm getting at is you don't want to add dark pieces to a dark room unless you're into feeling like you're blindfolded. I had this issue with my parents as a kid with the dark-panelled walls, wall-to-wall brown carpet and brown velvet sofas in our basement. The brown ceramic lamps barely lit the room on family game night and when we ordered pizza, there was never enough light to pick the anchovies off my slice.

I mention this little personal anecdote not only because I need more therapy, but also because I was recently in an all-black kitchen. The homeowner had been inspired by the same type of dark and moody photos you love. From the floor to the ceiling everything was black: cabinets, granite countertop, appliances and backsplash tile -- there was not a single visual reprieve.

The people I was with (mostly men) thought it was dramatic; I thought it made for a very dark and unsanitary kitchen where people would definitely not have enough light to cook or spot anchovies. A little marble, stainless steel or a butcher block would have gone a long way.

When decorating your office, keep in mind that you can get reprieve with a colourful collection of books or an upholstered armchair. If you want a high contrast office, add a modern white desk and chair. If your home has a recurring colour like lavender or green, then repeat it in your office.

Last, don't forget to repeat black in the room as Mr. Brown does with the black-framed desk chair and dark side table. A dark room is a commitment. But you can paint with confidence, knowing that you will never be satisfied in the grey area.

-- Postmedia News

Send your small-space question to asksampynn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 2, 2013 F17

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