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Dark colours for interior shop designs

10 June 2018

The world of interior design is seeing a shift from light, bright colours and Scandinavian influences to a rather more luxurious, dark interior. Pastel colours, shades of white and white woods are making way for luxury materials such as gold and darker colours. How can you respond to this trend and how could you incorporate it into your shop design concept? Malaika Brengman, professor at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, explains how you might use dark colours, and specifically black, for a retail interior.

Malaika Brengman, professor of marketing and consumer behavior at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, has conducted research into the influence of colours within retail concepts. She has also examined the impact of dark colours: “Dark colours are often perceived as being less pleasant, and it’s true this can lead some people to avoid it. Nevertheless, dark colours can also make an interior feel nice and cosy, especially when it’s combined with sufficient and above all warm lighting.”

‘Black Barrett store’ in Hong Kong (source:


Dark colours, for example, and specifically black, work well for products and concepts that we associate with ‘premium’, ‘luxury’ and ‘class’, and when combined with gold, deliver an effect that is ‘masculine’ and ‘tough’. “Just think about Philips who launched an iron onto the market for men, and made it black, obviously! Danone also uses the colour black in its advertising for Danio, a yogurt that is also mainly aimed at the male half of the population”, says Malaika. Design and fashion brands in particular can make a difference with dark colours.

'‘UM men's underwear store' in Shenzhen (China): black emphasises the masculinity of the product. The contrasting yellow colour makes the clothing store feel bigger. (source:

Left: “Black was originally a colour that was reserved for mourning and for widows, but became very popular because of the ‘little black dress’. Not only was it easy to combine with other clothes, it also enjoyed the marketing power of Coco Chanel who, in 1926, put the dress in the spotlight as a symbol of democratic and modern fashion,” says Malaika. (bron:

Right: The Citterio E faucet in Black Brushed Chrome from Axor/Hansgrohe Group brings luxury to the bathroom. (bron:

Black inside retail

If black potentially fits within your retail concept, then you have to take certain aspects into account if you want a successful interior design: “Moderate your design as the use of dark colours will make a store feel smaller – this is something you have to be careful about. A combination with bright or light colours is therefore recommended. Black can also be a beautiful contrast colour that emphasises the colours of the products for sale, especially if they are bright or light in colour, and particularly so when they receive additional lighting. Black is generally a colour that aesthetically combines well with many other colours.”

Fashion brand Abercrombie & Fitch chooses dark colours with light accents. “At Hollister, a sister company of Abercrombie & Fitch, it is so dark that parents, apparently, can often no longer find their children”, says Malaika. (source:

Creative with black

Looking for creative contrasts with black? UNILIN panels division presents the melamine Umidax Noir: it’s a black coloured MDF board with a melamine faced top-layer. The combination of melamine and black coloured MDF offers numerous possibilities in terms of finish, both in terms of colour and structure:

  • Create contrasts between the black coloured MDF base panel and the top layer by combining colours, patterns and / or textures
  • The panels are particularly suitable for perforation, milling or grooving. This lets you create fun, playful effects in a simple way
  • The panels are also available in a water-resistant and fire-retardant version

The black coloured MDF panels used here contrast nicely with the white melamine faced finish.

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MF Umidax Noir