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Should walls be darker than curtains?

Deciding on wall and curtain colors that work well together can be tricky. The general interior design guideline is that walls should be darker than curtains. There are some good reasons for following this advice, but there are also no hard rules in design. Ultimately the choice comes down to personal preference and what looks best to your eye.

Should walls be darker than curtains?

Why walls are often recommended to be darker

Having darker walls and lighter window treatments helps create a visually balanced and grounded room. Here are some of the benefits of making your walls a shade darker than the curtains:

  • Draws attention outward – Darker walls recede, which makes a room feel more spacious and open. Lighter curtains frame the windows, drawing attention to the outdoor views.
  • Provides contrast – A darker wall color contrasts nicely with pale curtains. This creates a layered, designer look.
  • Unifies the windows – Matching all your curtain panels to be the same color and a shade lighter than the walls makes the windows feel coordinated.

Reasons you may want to make the walls and curtains more similar instead

Even though darker walls with lighter curtains is the standard recommendation, you don’t have to follow it. Here are some reasons why making the walls and curtains more similar can also work well:

  • Small rooms – Using similar shades on the walls and window treatments can make a tiny room appear larger and less choppy.
  • Contemporary style – For a sleek, contemporary room, monochromatic walls and curtains in greige or neutral shades is on trend.
  • Eye-catching prints or patterns – If your heart is set on statement curtains with bold prints, go ahead and make them the star. Choose a wall color that fades into the background instead of competing.

Tips for successfully coordinating wall and curtain colors

If you decide to buck convention and make your curtain and wall colors more similar or put the darker shade on the curtains, keep these tips in mind:

Consider undertones – Choose a wall color that has similar undertones to the curtains. For example, pair a greenish-gray wall color with olive green curtains. When the undertones are the same family, shades can be closer together without clashing.

Use a 60-30-10 split – Break down your wall-to-curtain color ratio like this example. That means 60% of the space should be the dominant wall color, 30% the lighter curtains, 10% the accent tones.

Add other contrasting elements – Integrate contrast through secondary items like trim, decor, flooring or furnishings instead of relying solely on the wall-to-curtain color contrast.

Key Takeaways

  • Darker walls and lighter curtains is the standard interior design recommendation, but similar shades can also work well depending on personal preference and room size.
  • Going darker on walls makes rooms feel open and frames lighter window treatments nicely in contrast. Lighter curtains help draw attention outward.
  • Reasons to consider more similar wall and curtain shades include having a small space, wanting a contemporary vibe, or featuring eye-catching patterned curtains.
  • No matter what colors you choose, ensure wall and curtain shades share similar undertones so they don’t clash.


The decision about whether your walls or window treatments should be darker ultimately comes down to the visual harmony and proportions of the individual room. In many cases, following the traditional guideline of darker walls makes rooms feel grounded and spacious. But don’t be afraid to flip conventions, especially if doing so fits better with your personal style or small space! As long as shades share the same color family, you really can make curtains and walls work successfully at any ratio.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What wall color goes well with light blue curtains?
A: Some great wall colors to pair with light blue curtains are neutral tans and grays, warm white, light green, or coral. Pick an undertone that coordinates.

Q: Should living room walls be lighter or darker than the furniture?
A: Walls in living rooms are generally recommended to be darker than the main furniture. Think 60% dominant wall color, 30% large furniture items, 10% accents. This palette helps ground the seating.

Q: Is it OK to have dark curtains and dark walls?
A: Very dark curtains combined very dark walls can make a room feel closed in and like a cave. To keep things from getting too heavy, layer in plenty of light through lamps, mirrors and brighter accent decor if going for an overall moody vibe.

Q: Should curtain color match walls?
A: Curtain and wall color do not necessarily need to match exactly. In fact, varying shades usually looks more intentional. But make sure undertones complement each other instead of clashing if choosing similar but not identical hues.

Q: Should carpet or walls be darker?
A: As a general rule, walls should be darker than flooring. Maintaining darker walls and lighter floors helps ground a space and draw eyes upward instead of down, which gives rooms an airier feel.

Q: Do dark walls make a room look bigger?
A: Yes, contrary to belief, dark walls can actually make rooms feel larger and more spacious! Dark colors absorb light which makes perimeter walls visually recede, expanding the look of interior space. Openness is enhanced by lighter ceilings too. Just keep lower portions of rooms brighter through floors and furnishings so the room still feels balanced.

Q: Should ceiling light or wall light be brighter?
A: Ceiling lights are generally recommended to emit more overall illumination than wall sconces and accent lighting. Higher watt ceiling fixtures cast light downward throughout an entire room, keeping livable spaces brighter. More ambient lighting prevents rooms from feeling dark and cave-like.

Q: Do rooms look bigger with light or dark floors?
A: Light colored floors make rooms appear larger. Because dark colors absorb light, a dark floor can create visual weightiness that counters airy openness. For tighter spaces short on square footage, pale hardwood, concrete or tiles are great choices that don’t overwhelm.

Q: Should kitchen cabinets be darker or lighter than walls?
A: The standard design advice is to install kitchen cabinets in a darker shade than the walls. Usually wall cabinets go a tone darker than base cabinets too. Deeper cabinet colors anchor the weighty storage. Then upper walls and ceiling are lightest to keep things bright.

Q: Should bathroom walls be light or dark?
A: Bathroom walls are often recommended to be painted lighter, neutral colors. Softer whites, grays and beiges give the illusion of expanded space which keeps small bathrooms feeling more open, clean and bright. Dark accent walls can work too for contrast.

Q: Should front door be lighter or darker than siding?
A: Exterior design guidelines generally recommend a home’s front door be darker than the siding. Deeper door colors pop against neutral siding to increase curb appeal. Just take care not to go too dark or black which can look too harsh and extreme exterior-wise.

Q: What carpet goes with grey walls?
A: Good carpeting colors to pair with grey walls include light to medium grey shades that pick up subtle undertones on walls. Beige and taupe carpet also complement without overwhelming the grey. Or go for dramatic impact with dark charcoal flooring against the lighter walls.

Q: What color curtains go with teal walls?
A: Pretty curtain colors that coordinate beautifully with teal walls include solid whites, vibrant citrus yellows and limes, darker shades like navy and cherry, or patterns featuring shades already found on walls for cohesion.

Q: What color walls go with brown carpet?
A: Brown carpeting allows flexibility for you to get creative with paint colors! Try lighter walls in soft greens, warm taupes and tans, antique whites, or uplifting sky blues. Deeper accent walls in spice shades like terracotta or mustard work nicely too.

Q: Do darker or lighter colored bedrooms look bigger?
A. For bedrooms, lighter paint colors tend to make rooms look more expansive and feel less cave-like for sleeping. The most popular slumber-friendly shades are soft whites, airy blues and soothing grays. Reserve moody, darker hues for smaller feature accent walls instead of overwhelming the whole space.

Q: Should vanity lights be brighter than wall sconces?
A. Bathroom lighting often works best when the vanity area emits the brightest light, supplemented by dimmer wall sconces. Illuminating grooming tasks directly without shadows is crucial. Then wall fixtures provide secondary ambiance and highlight decorative elements once business at the sink concludes.

Q: Do darker or lighter kitchens look bigger?
A. When trying to visually expand smaller kitchens, lighter colors are best for cabinetry, countertops and backsplashes since they reflect more light. Have darker floors, island and open shelving anchor the lighter hues. Strategic bright and dark contrast keeps cramped kitchens feeling open.

Q: Should interior doors be lighter or darker than walls?
A. Interior doors traditionally harmonize better when slightly darker than surrounding wall color. Distinctive darker doors elegantly frame rooms, provide definition along corridors and make trim details really stand out. Bold pops of color on doors can look great too against lighter backdrops.

Q: What walls look good with dark wood trim?
A. Dark wood trim truly pops against lighter wall colors. Classic pairings include crisp white for traditional flair, warm antique ivory for cottage-chic, light to medium greys for urban modern edge, and sagey greens for transitional elegance.

Q: Should brick fireplace be darker or lighter than walls?
A. It’s common for natural brick fireplaces to establish themselves as a room’s focal point. If going for high contrast, choose a lighter surrounding wall color so the brickwork makes a dramatic statement. For more integration, select a brick-inspired reddish-brown wall hue that lets the fireplace blend in.


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