I painted my living room black and it's the best design decision I've ever made

Would you paint your living room black? I did, and this bold colour choice had a surprising side-effect I never expected

Corner of a black living room with grey chaise sofa and arched window
(Image credit: Future PLC)

After a year of indecision trying to choose a living room colour scheme for my living home, I decided to be brave and paint my living room black. I was worried it would turn out to be my biggest decorating mistake, but it's actually the best design decision I ever made. 

In our first family home, I painted all our rooms using brilliant white. As my interest in colour grew, I graduated to experimenting with a feature wall. But I've never been brave enough to paint a whole room in a bold shade. After over two years in our new home, flip flopping between colours with a patchwork of around 20 paint swatches painted on the wall, I took the plunge and painted my whole living room black - using Farrow & Ball's Railings. I love it, and have discovered how the magic of colour can transform a room.

author heather young with striped top and glasses
Heather Young

Heather Young has loved interiors since asking for a bedroom makeover for her 11th birthday present! Heather's been working on interiors magazines for over 20 years - she's seen inside many of the UK's most gorgeous homes and has written endless features on style and colour. Heather's on her fifth home renovation - she started with a one-bed flat in Peckham and her current project is a four-bed Victorian porter's lodge which she moved into with her husband and tween twins in November 2020.

BEFORE: My beige living room lacked character and warmth

Before shot of a beige living room with grey sofa

(Image credit: Future PLC)

When we moved into our house – a converted Victorian porter's lodge – between lockdowns, we inherited a living room with beige walls and matching beige carpet. It's south-facing so gets plenty of natural light, but the room felt dull and dingy. I tried adding character with accessories and soft furnishings, but never felt at home surrounded by all that beige.

I began painting colour swatches on the wall at the start of this year, and slowly the collection of living room paint ideas grew, until I had a confusing (and clashing) patchwork of shades. I should have followed the experts' advice: paint swatches onto pieces of paper. Then I could have looked at each one in isolation, which would have made choosing the final colour a lot easier.

I did try the same colours in various places in the room, and it was amazing how different they each looked in different lights. A colour I thought I loved would often turn out to be one I couldn't stand when I saw it in another spot. 

AFTER: Painting my living room black made the space feel bigger

Corner of a black living room with grey chaise sofa and arched window

(Image credit: Future PLC)

With a kitchen extension about to kick off, I needed the living room to act as a sanctuary – somewhere to shut the door and escape from the plaster dust and building site chaos. So the pressure was on to pick a colour, and this looming deadline was just what I needed to finally make a decision.

At the paint shop, I had a wobble when the lady at the counter commended me for my 'brave choice', and another wobble when I started painting the room and realised how dark Railings is. But now the room's finished (or as close as it will be for now), the gamble has paid off, and I love every second I spend in it. 

If you're ready to be more colour confident, read on to find out why I'm singing the praises of black living rooms, and why I think you need to use this dramatic colour in your home... 

Three reasons to paint your living room black

1. It's got wow factor

Black living room with retro leather sofa, grey chaise sofa and pink painted cabinet

(Image credit: Future PLC)

I worried that black walls were going to make my room feel dark and small but in fact it's had the opposite effect. I've discovered that a small living room doesn't need to be painted white to it look bigger: dark colours like black or deep blue add a sense of depth and visually blur the edges of the room, creating the illusion of more space, not less. 

I've balanced the black walls with white above the picture rail and on the ceiling. But I'm ready to embrace more colour, and I plan to swap the white for a pale colour instead to soften the contrast.

2. Black feels cosy at night

Black living room with the fireplace painted black to match

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Colour drenching (painting multiple surfaces the same shade) is enjoying a moment as a popular paint trend, and has given my space a more pulled-together look. I've used the same paint colour on the dado and picture rails (the skirting boards will follow once new flooring has been laid). I also painted the white fire surround black, but used Farrow & Ball's estate eggshell (in Railings) rather than estate emulsion for a tougher finish.

The black walls create an intimate and immersive effect as night comes and the light outside falls. The whole room has a cosy mood that's perfect for winter nights in, and lighting the best scented candles adds to the romance (my current fave is Diptyque's Feu du Bois). 

3. It's a brilliant backdrop

Detail of a black fireplace on a wall painted in Farrow & Ball's Railings

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Lighter pieces such as wall art and accessories really pop against the black walls, and the black makes gives everything a contemporary edge. It's the perfect colour to bring together my eclectic collection of vintage and modern pieces. 

Of course, you don't have to go for black to enjoy a similar effect. Any dark shade will have tick the box, from grey living room ideas to blue (think midnight and navy), to the deepest green living rooms. My advice? Go for it! 

Heather Young

Heather Young has been Ideal Home’s Editor since late 2020, and Editor-In-Chief since 2023. She is an interiors journalist and editor who’s been working for some of the UK’s leading interiors magazines for over 20 years, both in-house and as a freelancer.