They make rooms feel small....
The lighter the better....
These are but a few responses I receive from clients when I first meet with them or on any given project where part of my design presentation consists of less than traditional color schemes or suggestions. But I love to work with dark color palettes and surprisingly for many clients they feel the same way after I pull an entire design together.
Using dark tones can add drama or a sense of envelopment or even comfort to any room. It all depends on the colors you choose, how you use them and on what surfaces they are used. For example, I chose hi-gloss black walls for a living room with two walls of windows, one of which is floor to ceiling, in a high rise overlooking San Francisco's Financial District. We left the ceiling and trim an off-white/beige and the floors a honey toned bamboo. Because the windows face South and East, the black walls during the day tone down the constant stream of light. The most dramatic affect is at night when the walls blend in with the night sky and one actually forgets the walls are even there.
The reason the black works is that there is a balance struck with light. So if you want to use dark colors without the fear of making a room feel small, the more light there is, the more opportunity you have to use dark colors. Another way to balance out dark walls is to use light or lighter tones on the furnishings.
But if an entire room with dark walls is still abit much to handle, the next best thing are accent walls. Choosing one wall to paint or cover in a dark color can still add drama to any room.
However, if painting or covering your walls in dark blues, reds, greys or black aren't your cup of tea, you can still bring in dark tones through flooring or by built-in furniture and cabinetry. Espresso and ebony stain floors are a good alternative to dark vertical surfaces because you can cover them with rugs, again creating balancing.
So don't be afraid to use dark colors in your home, whether it's a downtown high rise apartment or a restored Victorian. Just keep in mind how much light, be it natural or artificial, you have.