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Dramatic. Dominant. Dark. The descriptors most commonly associated with black are scary, to say the least. It’s no wonder painting an accent wall (let alone an entire room!) in the color, can seem like a huge risk. It might bring us down or make an already-tiny space feel even smaller. Believe it or not, the hue actually has just the opposite effect.
As we’ve learned from some of our favorite moody kitchens, “light and bright” is still possible if you know your right swatches from wrong. When we asked nine interior designers to share the best black paint colors for kitchen cabinets, we were relieved to hear them describe their tried-and-true picks as “warm,” “rich,” and “pairing well with pure whites.” For cupboards and beyond, these are the shades they swear by:
All of Clare’s products are zero-VOC, meaning they’re formulated without the carbon-based solvents found in most other brands. “It’s a no-brainer,” says Natalie Myers of Veneer Designs. Myers describes this “intense black” as not too watery and not too thick, making it a great option for DIYers who want a stress-free application.
This non-traditional choice ticks “depth” off of ETC.etera designer Sally Breer’s checklist every time. “It’s not a black hole that feels hollow; there are some warm, brown-red undertones in it that make it really dynamic,” she says.
This chalky option was the clear winner of the group (multiple designers said it’s their go-to pick). “In certain lighting, it reads as dark gray,” Dee Murphy of Murphy Design points out. Because of that, she adds that it’s the perfect introduction to the “dark side.” The only point the pros vary on is what kind of finish to use. New York designer Cara Woodhouse prefers something on the shinier side. “I like to use this color on both the trim and the walls, but I’d use a full-gloss sheen on the millwork and the brand’s Estate Emulsion finish (it only has a two-percent sheen) for everything else,” she says.
Word to the wise: Matte finishes are best for low-traffic areas, as they’re more likely to show scuff marks and fingerprints. Allison Crawford, the founder of HOTELette, says a flat finish looks especially eye-catching against crisp white walls.
Designers tend to shy away from blacks that look too purple. This one strikes the right balance between a warm violet and rich charcoal. “We use the limewash in most of our projects,” says Tamara Kaye-Honey of House of Honey, noting that the old-world treatment “envelopes a room in the best way.”
Unlike its more beloved counterpart, Off-Black, this swatch from Farrow & Ball skews more blue. Although the color gets its name from ironwork, “it doesn’t feel sterile,” says designer Heidi Callier. To really bring out the navy undertones, the brand suggests using the full-gloss version.
WeWork’s creative director of design strategy, Rubén Hernández-Correa, thinks a lot about using paint to highlight the architectural character of a building. His go-to choice for doing so: This straightforward shade.
Woodwork, flat walls, siding—L.A. designer Jake Alexander Arnold loves this pure, velvety option so much he went so far as to paint the entire exterior of his house with it. “It’s the perfect classic because it goes with everything,” he says. There’s nothing to fear here.