Why You Need to Balance Light and Dark Pieces in Your Room

Balance light and dark pieces in your space to give your room movement and personality

Open any decorating book or magazine, and you’ll probably hear a lot about wanting the eye to move around your space. That movement makes a room interesting, makes you want to take in all the details, walk through the space, and oftentimes, the pieces that give a room movement are also the ones that give it personality. One great way to bring movement to your room is to balance the light and dark pieces. This decorating principal is a must-do which is why we’re discussing it today!

We talked about balance a lot in our styling guide, but it’s important to keep in mind when you’re decorating a space. If everything in your room is the same color, texture or style, it’ll feel flat and one note. The tension of two opposing things next to each other gives vibrancy, excitement, and movement to your home.

Balance lights and darks in your room to give the space personality and interest

Of course striking that right balance can feel tricky. We like to think of a scale when we’re choosing furniture pieces. Take the dining room above for example. We wanted a timeless dining room that was both elegant and casual at the same time. First, we chose our Andrews Dining Table for it’s shapely base and slightly rustic whitewash finish. This table brings in that relaxed vibe we wanted, which is why we chose more classically styled and elegant Louis chairs, upholstered in a fantastic velvet. Of course with all of those white pieces, the light arm of the scale was totally weighted down. To counter that, we added a dark charcoal wall color (Sherwin Williams Urbane Bronze) which makes the two arms of the scale equal. That dark wall also accentuates the shapes of the table, chairs, and chandelier.

Balance lights and darks in your room to give the space personality and interest

Here’s another gorgeous space that illustrates how dark pieces can really set off light pieces. When we look at this room, our eye jumps from the drapes to the velvet pillows to the dark brown spots on the rug. Those few dark accents draw your eye around the space in a way that light drapery wouldn’t.

Play with both light and dark pieces in your room

One great strategy for bringing in dark pieces is to add weight to the bottom of your room with dark colors, then let the top of your room be lighter. In this bedroom, we chose charcoal gray bedding and a dark gray nightstand. To even out the arms of our imaginary scale, we painted our walls white and choose light and airy artwork.

Lauren Liess' master suite in the 2016 Southern Living Idea House

Lauren Liess’ bedroom from the 2016 Southern Living Idea House incorporates touches of dark brown and a painted black canopy bed. If you look at this space closely, you can see how she uses some dark pieces, some light pieces, and some in the middle. You’re left with a room that feels harmonious but interesting. Easy enough, right?

Interior designer Ashley Gilbreath's entryway in the 2016 Southern Living Idea House

One easy way to give your room a little touch of darkness is to choose a dark stain for your floors or a dark carpet. It serves a functional purpose in that it’ll stand up to heavy traffic, but it’s also the anchor of Ashley Gilbreath’s foyer in the Idea House. Nearly everything else in this space is light — the console table, the lamps, the walls, the staircase, and even the art. But with just a dark floor, it balances the whole space out.

When you’re shopping for pieces for your room, it’s easy to want to choose the same finish or fabrics for every piece. That’s the safe option, and in many cases, that’s perfectly fine. But consider adding contrast to your room for balance with some dark pieces. By the same token, if you’re more drawn to dark wood stains, a few touches of white or light colors can really add dimension to your space.

For more design inspiration, visit our Pinterest Boards, or find more gorgeous rooms in our Photo Gallery

Did you like this post and find it helpful? Rate it below and share your thoughts in the comments.

Caroline McDonald

Caroline lives for pairing together patterns, mixing furniture styles, and oogling over our newest furniture pieces. As you can imagine, her little 1920's craftsman is in a constant state of flux. Here on How to Decorate, it's her goal to help you turn your home into your own little slice of paradise.


  1. Reply


    February 12, 2017

    I am decorating our new house, and really appreciate the helpful advice in your blogs! Sometimes I feel overwhelmed but then pick up a piece of information that breaks through the log jam. Thanks so much!

  2. Reply


    January 8, 2017

    Great post! I was having trouble with my room being too dark. I submitted a decorating dilemma request about a month ago and have not heard back. Can you check on the status?

  3. Reply


    January 7, 2017

    I’m trying to lighten and contrast my family room where I have a large dark leather L sectional couch, with dark wood floors (room gets lots of light) Any suggestion for complimentary chair colors to lighten the room and should i go with a patterened rug to lighten or neutral rug and fun with the chairs.

    • Reply

      Annika Dupree

      June 8, 2017

      We would love to help you with the contrast in your family room! We offer a free design service in which our interior designers pick out furniture, fabric, and accessories. Just send in your question along with a picture of the space here, and a designer will reach out to you with your design plan!

  4. Reply

    Shannon // Style Emulator

    January 6, 2017

    That was a really great article. Thank you for sharing! It was interesting what said about drapes in the third picture–white definitely wouldn’t make my shift around like the brown does.

    • Reply

      Caroline McDonald

      January 6, 2017

      Thank you for this comment. So great to hear you found it helpful!