What to know before painting your walls black

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Would you paint the walls of your home black? A bedroom? Living room? Powder room? We’re not talking blackish brown, as in bistre or chocolate. Or dark gray, a la charcoal or arsenic. Or deep red — rosewood or wine. We mean pure black: achromatic color of prehistoric cave paintings, ancient Greek pottery and fictional 1980s album art. (Remember the all-black LP cover from "This Is Spinal Tap"? To quote lead guitarist Nigel Tufnel, "It’s like, how much more black could this be? And the answer is none. None more black.")

It’s a bold move in interiors but one that, if executed with care, sets an unexpected tone of moody elegance. Here, interior designers share some tips to know before going noir:

—Take extra care figuring out how you’ll light the space. "Black literally absorbs light, so you won’t get reflections from the walls bouncing the light around," says interior designer Summer Thornton of Chicago’s Summer Thornton Design. "It can be a beautiful look, but you want to be able to see too!" To ensure proper illumination, she suggests adding some lamps and a decorative overhead light or sconces with plenty of wattage. "By putting everything on dimmers, you can create a really amazing mood — either dark and sultry for evenings or bright and light for daytime."

—Darken all the details. A black room can feel super-sophisticated, but the polished effect is lost if the hue (or lack thereof) isn’t carried through completely. To avoid this, the pros behind Chicago-based interior design firm Studio Gild recommend replacing all visible light switches and outlets, including cover plates, with a dark-finish switch and plate. "Otherwise they can become an eyesore and distract from the overall design intent," says co-founder/principal Kristen Ekeland.

—Finish matters. A matte finish is not always the best choice for dark paint. "Fingerprints and scuff marks can end up leaving a chalky residue," Ekeland says. Instead, go for a paint finish that is eggshell (halfway between satin or semi-gloss) or a higher sheen. "It’s more durable and successful at retaining the rich, deep paint color over time."

———