Embracing the Dark Side

This post is my story about how I am finally and fully embracing the dark side no holds barred, and the journey of how I got here. If you remember in my last post, I expressed my deep felt fear of the color beige, and shared my strong opinions about why beige is so pervasive. Now I get to express my strong opinion again, only this time it is about my deep love of color and not my fear of the evil that is beige.


[Image: Absolutely stunning! This shot of Abigail Ahern’s living room has been on my Pinterest for at least the past three years. [Source: Abigail Ahern]

I have always had a love affair with bold color but there has been a side to that affair which I was always too timid to express. That would be my deep-felt love of the dark side of color. Long forbidden by societal norms, it is these very colors that make me feel alive and have always felt comforting to me. I know, I’m weird… It’s OK to judge me.


[Image: Bauhaus Books and Coffee, corner of Melrose and Pine in Seattle was my place to hang out at night in the 90s.]

My journey into the dark side has a lot of influences, but there is one very big influence which took place in the 1990s when I lived in Seattle. Being an only child and a true introvert, I have always spent huge amounts of time alone (I have never personally known boredom). During my last five or so years in Seattle (’94-’99), I spent a lot of time alone drinking coffee at (the now legendary) Bauhaus Coffee and Books on Pine and Melrose which sadly closed after 20 years in 2013 (to be torn down and replaced with glassy condos).


[Image: The interior of Bauhaus Books and Coffee during the daytime. At night it was deliciously dark and cozy.]

I loved Bauhaus for so many reasons. They stayed open really late (I think it was until 1:00am). I would go there at nine or ten in the evening, buy a nonfat latte, go upstairs and sip my delicious latte while writing in my journal with my fountain pen, smoking half a pack of Player Menthol 100s (yes, I was a smoker). Being short on funds during those years, I sipped that latte long and slow to give myself a couple of hours there. I was nearly always alone, it was my time to be with myself and my thoughts (did I mention the introvert thing?).


[Image: The interior of Bauhaus Books and Coffee featured this wonderful two story tall bookcase.]

The atmosphere of the space was what kept me coming back. The people were very Seattle in the typically quirky Seattle way. But it is the space itself, dark and moody, which is flooding my memories as I write this. The style was at once a library, a bookstore, a motorcycle repair shop, with a dash of beatnik attitude, and a few Art Deco details. One wall of the double height space was top to bottom books and random objects. The upstairs was dark and brooding. Floating like a platform above the ground floor, it offered this amazing view of the street below, day and night. I was in love… with the space. With the exception of my BFF who has since passed, I have never really told anybody about the influence of this space on my life.


[Image: This gallery space in Gallerie d’Italia, Piazza Scala is a great example of how dark bold color works as an almost neutral background for showcasing art. Source: Erco]

I am also reminded of various museum exhibits I have been to over the years, set in dark but deeply colored environments. It is in these dark spaces where lighting becomes a tool to highlight the most important objects in the room whether it is art, or a mineral collection, or a science exhibit. Dark spaces draw me in, envelop me like a warm woolen coat, encouraging me to explore and experience my surroundings. Dark spaces can also be very forgiving, minimizing and hiding imperfections. But they can also be very intimidating, at least the idea of having such a dark space in your home. And I was intimidated.


[Image: This is a slightly embarrassing photo of me in 1994. I am sitting in my very boldly painted apartment in Seattle. Did I mention that I am not afraid of color?]

Looking back, I have painted the painted the majority of my apartments, often without the landlords permission and usually in bold colors. I have had cherry red dining rooms, chartreuse living rooms, and basketball orange hallways. I even painted harlequin diamonds on my walls in two shades of yellow and stenciled roman numerals around the top of the walls. But it wasn’t until my first condo in Chicago, back in 2000, that I painted my first dark walls. I painted large horizontal stripes in a dark taupe-gray and metallic Ralph Lauren paint. It was the closest I came to ever painting a neutral on my walls, and even then I painted the ceiling bold yellow to bring color into the space.


[Image: A slightly less embarrassing photo of me in my Chicago apartment in 2001. This was the first time I went “dark” on wall color (you can see a tiny peep of the bold yellow on the ceiling upper left) in my home.]

A few years later when it was time to sell the apartment, I painted the yellow ceiling white, but I left the dark walls thinking that others could see my vision and it would help sell the apartment. That turned out to be a costly mistake because it took nearly seven months to sell the apartment for less than it should have, all because I didn’t paint the walls off-white to dumb it down. After that experience, I said no dark walls ever again.

It wasn’t until 12 years later in 2015 that I took the plunge and embraced darkness again. After moving into our last apartment, I wrote “Embracing Black… And the End of Mediocrity” where I expressed my proclivity of dark colors, my love of the color black, and  and declared my freedom from societal expectations:

“I hereby declare that I will no longer appease the utter blandness of the majority of the world when it comes to my home, and I vow that I will make my home how I want it* regardless of what others think. There will be no mediocrity allowed in my home. (*With the support and approval of my husband.)”

Following my declaration, we decided to paint our low light level living room bright white with a solid black ceiling. It turned out deliciously fabulous.


[Image: The living room in our New York Apartment and its glorious black ceiling.

But it wasn’t until it came time to paint our 22′ long entry gallery that I finally did a full on dark space, top to bottom. I had initially wanted to go with a charcoal gray, but I then had an epiphany when I realized that I could go dark, AND have bold color. After obtaining several color samples, we settled on Raspberry Truffle, a Lucious full-on deep raspberry, and it turned out amazing. We also had plans to paint the bedroom a delicious dark blue, but we never got that far when the decision was made to sell our apartment and resettle in Philadelphia at the end of 2016. We had thought we would be in that apartment at least until retirement, but we were wrong.


[Image: This was the first time I truly went all out and embraced dark color in its entirety. Our 22′ long entry hall/gallery in NYC from 2015.]

So, three years later, the manifesto remains essentially unchanged. And for Our Philly Row, I am finally going to completely cross that line of social acceptability and fully embrace not just black, but dark boldly colored rooms (I already have the stamp of approval from Y on this). And not just on the walls, but on the ceilings too. I want to be surrounded by lush deep and dark color.

So while this isn’t entirely new for me, I have decided to completely let go of my timidity and go for it. I am no longer going to let my own fears of “What will the neighbors think?” (we don’t care really.), “What about resale?” (we will cross that bridge when we get there), or the even bigger fear of “What if either of us hates it?” (it’s just paint, paint is cheap) get in the way of filling our home with dark, bold, and moody colors which bring joy to our hearts.


[Image: This incredibly luscious photo by Kari Herer Photography via Etsy is the color inspiration for one of our spaces (to be revealed in a future post).]

This brings us to where we are now, planning the next steps for how we are going to decorate our house. In doing research by spending endless hours pouring over websites, pinning photos, and scouring blogs I made a discovery. I realized that several of the rooms I had been pinning as far back as 2014 were all designed by various British interior designers. Primarily by Abigail Ahern. Then I (very recently) discovered her website and found out that she is kinda big in the UK world of interiors. I cannot explain my attraction to contemporary British design aesthetics other than that the majority of American design aesthetics bores the shit out of me. Remember my huge love affair with British kitchens back in 2015?


[Image: Abigail Ahern’s living room is dark, but so inviting. [Source: Abigail Ahern]

Anyway… Reading her blog, I discovered posts such as “FAQs about Dark Hues“, “Reasons to Paint your Ceiling“, and “5 Reasons to go Dark in the Hallway” just to name a few. Then I found a used copy of her book Decorating with Style on Amazon, and also picked up another of her books, Colour: Banish Beige. Boost Colour. Transform Your Home. The books are filled with the same images I have been pinning! Who knew!? Sometimes I can be quite the dutz.


[Image: This hallway in Abigail Ahern’s home is exquisitely delicious. It just calls you in to look further. [Source: Abigail Ahern]

So with that, I am declaring that virtually every room in our home will be some form of deep, dark, lush, and moody color. This will be a very big change for both of us, but I am super excited to get the ball rolling. We are even going to paint the vestibule, entry hall, staircase and all upstairs halls the same color adding lighting to focus on the art (and not the imperfections). Lighting will play a key role throughout the house. Thanks to the technology of LED lighting, we will be able to add a lot of lighting while keeping our power bill reasonable and not adding unwanted heat from incandescent lighting to the house. Y and I have a habit of collecting art and one of the primary things we love about our house is the vast amount of wall space in which to hang our collection.


[Image: While our home will never be this, it is nonetheless a stunning room with a full on richness of color. [Source: Found on Pinterest, unable to determine source.]

With all of these dark rooms in our house, there will be one are which I plan to not go dark. That would be the guest room and ensuite bath. I realize that not all of my overnight guests will want to delve into such saturated color in the guest suite, I will acquiesce to that need. I don’t yet know what palette we are going with, but it will be light and airy.

As for the colors we plan to use throughout the house? I will reveal my color choices as we move forward. Trust me they will be absolutely delicious. Here is a small sampling of rooms which I find to be inspiring, some of which are in colors we plan to incorporate into the house.


[Image: I love how the mustard chair and the artwork stand out with the dark walls receding behind. Source: Abigail Ahern]

[Image: I absolutely love this living room featured on Dwell.com for the bookcase, velvet sofa, and lush walls.]

[Image: Another angle of the hallway in Abigail Ahern’s home shows how the art becomes the feature. [Source: Abigail Ahern]

[Image: While fuchsia isn’t one of my favorite colors, it looks really beautiful with off black walls and aubergine chair. Source: Heather Nette King via We-Are-Scout]

[Image: Farrow and Ball’s Pitch Blue (No. 220) is wonderful in that it is dark, but not overwhelming (to me at least).]

So there you have it dear readers. The seed has not only been planted, but we are about to grow a garden of ideas. As for the folks who come into my home and don’t like my color palette, then they can just leave… But those that do, are welcome to stay and relax with a cocktail in the coziness of our deliciously dark and moody spaces.

Please tell me your thoughts and opinions (I am not afraid) in the comments section below.









Till next time. . .

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  • I look forward to those upcoming posts! Interesting how the artwork pops off those walls – much more so than on lighter colored walls. Things to think about. . .

    • Devyn says:

      Glad to have you along. 😊

      I have always found myself more focused when looking at art and photography on a dark background. Hence my history of dark background on my personal websites over the years.

      One of the key reasons we fell in love with our house is because it retains all of the original walls whereas the vast majority of our neighboring rowhouses have been gut-rehabbed into ‘open concept’. We both share a love of art, and between acquiring a few moderate pieces, my finds on eBay (and Etsy), as well as other finds, we are already beginning to wonder how many years before we run out of wall space.

      • Your blog has made me check out a lot of listings in Philly. I also like walls! I know open concept is supposed to make a place seem bigger, but somehow the space doesn’t feel as large as it really is. The feeling of a 2000 square foot loft is not necessarily of largeness, and conversely, a 1700 sq foot 3 bedroom with walls can feel luxuriously spacious. You guys really scored with the high amount of original detail in your place!

  • Very exciting! I also look forward to upcoming posts revealing your color choices. I appreciate the time and effort you put into this post; the photos give a nice hint as to what we can expect. I’m glad you point out the importance of good lighting when going dark. A dark background provides the richness and the drama; good lighting brings it to life and makes it memorable. Fear not, and plunge into the darkness!

    • Devyn says:

      Looking forward to your feedback! There is always a fear that darker colors make a room feel smaller, when my experience is quite the opposite, darker colors make the walls recede and put the focus on the contents of the space. That said, lighting is everything, and because I refuse to punch holes in our ceiling for can-lights, I am considering embracing the practicality of track lighting. I should also note that although I am planning to paint the (already painted) woodwork the same as the walls and ceiling, I will use a satin paint finish to allow a bit of shine to come through so that the details are not lost. But thats for a future post. 😉

  • Helen says:

    WOW……Go For It!! I’m a fool for blue, so I had an accent wall in dining room, foyer and upper walls above kitchen cabinets painted a dark navy/royal blue……..NO regrets……we love it, so that’s all that counts! At 75 & 78, I personally don’t give a s*** what anyone else thinks! Life is TOO SHORT to fret over small stuff!! 😉😘

    • Devyn says:

      No Regrets! Perfect! Isn’t it freeing to not give a s*** about what others will think?
      I’m a total fool for blue as well, only I didn’t know it until this past few years. 😊😊
      There will be blue!

  • Elaine says:

    I’m very excited to see rooms done in color with more color on top. Sooooo sick of the all white / not white white everything with “wood for warmth” to “embrace the farmhouse” (you live in the suburbs of X city; what farm? Also, do you seriously think farmers would have painted everything white if the pigment hadn’t been an upcharge?). I digress. Yay saturated, rich colors!

    • Devyn says:

      Thanks Elaine, I believe the current Farmhouse Chic look is truly a characterization of what people think of when they think of farms and not really based in reality. Farmhouse living was not easy nor very pretty.

  • Sara Kalashian says:

    Hey Devon: my hubby’s firm designed the apartment in the Dwell.com feature. LMK if you need any info on that room. There are more images at kalashian.com. Best!

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