Small Spaces: How to Go Dark + Bright and Airy Done Right

Who knew it’d be so hard to find inspiration images of moody, dark, coastal spaces. Why is this not a thing? Let’s make it a thing! Of course white, airy, beach house spaces have a place in my heart too, but let’s also explore how using rich hues can be just as welcoming as bright whites — even if you live in Hawai’i.

Here’s two ah-mazing (small) spaces that explode with character — one using a rich, deep pigment on the walls and the other using a fresh white — and how you can incorporate either look in your tropi-cool space.

Dark Walls with Light Accessories

Imagine if this fun, cozy, corner was instead filled with a dark wood table, dark dining chairs, dark wood window treatments and no art. I can guarantee One Kings Lane wouldn’t have featured this gorgeous capture by Leslee Mitchell (even with the millwork being that fabulous). Why? It’d be lacking contrast, character and balance.

Image: One Kings Lane | Photography: Leslee Mitchell

Image: One Kings Lane | Photography: Leslee Mitchell

By using the light woven wood roman shades, the moody walls and window trim pops. Each texture and hue has its moment in the spotlight. The table’s honey tones keep it warm but also add contrast against the rich paint. The perfectly calculated design choice of framing the art in bright white and adding some character with the varying white chairs (and single honey wood chair with fun patterned seat) highlights the moody walls and accessories equally.

Light Walls with Layered Textures

This 480 sqft bright, airy bungalow renovation designed by John Wooden Interiors featured in House Beautiful is packed with layered, textural elements of visual interest. By painting the original dark woodwork a bright white, the new midcentury-inspired palette of muted charcoal, rust, coral and sky blue create a calming environment that is continuous throughout the design.

Design: John Wooden Interiors | Photography: Karyn Millet

Design: John Wooden Interiors | Photography: Karyn Millet

Another design element to take note of here is scale. The furniture selections are not tiny, and for good reason. When you pack a small space with a bunch of small-scale pieces, it will inevitably feel congested. Design Tip! Fill your space with furniture pieces that truly fit the area and go vertical with accessories to draw the eye up (like adding floating shelves, artwork or wall decor).

Now, who’s thinking of taking a trip to the dark side with me?