True Blue, 9/18/2020

A Bachelor Pad Dressed in Blue and Brass

Tufting of the sofa arms and headboard add depth and interest to the monochromatic palette. Flooring changes help delineate the bedroom from the dressing area.

Black Flame. That’s the name of the paint color used on the walls of this space. It is black with a heavy indigo undertone. The name itself sounds mysterious and romantic and that’s exactly the mood it evokes. “Growing up as teenagers, we were always mesmerized by dark hallways and spaces,” says Arun Shekar, cofounder of Humming Tree Architecture Studio, based in Calicut, Kerala in India. That fascination with the dark helped inspire the design of this bachelor pad.

The studio team was thrilled when they were approached by the homeowner to provide a design update. “It was everything we could have wanted in a bedroom—double-height ceilings, voluminous, spacious,” says Arun.

“Bedrooms are personal spaces that are usually relaxing and serene environments that use pastel, neutral, and softly shaded colors. We wanted to create a striking space with dark-toned colors. We broke barriers with this design,” says Mohammed Afnan, the studio’s other founding architect. “Dark colors are viewed as moody by many, but we wanted to challenge that notion. We think they should be seen as romantic instead,” he continues.

Mahogany floors add another dark touch to the room. The rich brown complements and contrasts the cooler tone on the walls. The diagonal flooring adds movement to the space, giving visual relief to the hard angles found elsewhere. Classic black-and-white tiles dance across the floor in the dressing area. Mirrored doors disguise the closet and multiply the light in the narrow area.

Velvet fabrics, cozy throws, and faux fur in shades of blue and gray soften the room and make it seem luxuriously indulgent. An oversize chandelier made of Swarovski crystals takes advantage of the thirteen-foot-tall ceiling and provides a sparkling centerpiece.

Attention to detail is played up at every opportunity. A raised geometric pattern over an arched entrance is highlighted with metallic-blue paint. A mantel tops a false fireplace that hides electronics cords.

Kerala, a state on the southwestern coast of India, is known for its sultry beaches and backwater canals. Inside this darkly shaded room, you could be forgiven for forgetting the sunny outside world. Yet the design duo included many touches that hint at the locale and history of the place. First, the greenery—monstera and snake plants—serve as a reminder of the tropical location. “Plants add character to a home,” says Arun. “They bring the home alive and make it more charming. Adding in the monstera plants changed the whole aesthetic of the room.” The bright pop of green complements the Black Flame walls and the organic shapes invite closer study.

Brass introduces a welcome, warm finish. Apart from its aesthetic function, brass provides a historical reference. “Brass is a widely used metal in Kerala,” explains Afnan. “It’s a significant part of our history—from cooking in traditional brass vessels (urli), to making Ayurvedic medicines in them, and lighting brass oil lamps in the evening to welcome positive energy into the house.” In this design, the metal is a consistent accent with furniture, finishes, and accessories, and as a decorative addition to the mirror-fronted closet doors.

Although brass is traditional, the overall design is anything but. “Here we celebrate Holi, the festival of colors. We believe bright colors add positivity. It was hard for us to fathom using darker colors in a bedroom. But we convinced our client to try it because we wanted to break norms and show the possibilities that were there,” says Afnan. “To date, the success of this room is our proudest moment as designers.”

A dramatic arched doorway, framed with a Greek key pattern, serves as the transition from the bedroom to the dressing area.
Tropical plants, bold brass, and diagonal flooring add liveliness to an otherwise serene retreat.













Dark Shadows

Do you love the look of saturated colors but find the application intimidating? Heed these design secrets from Arun Shekar and Mohammed Afnan, cofounders of Humming Tree Architecture Studio.

It’s just color. “Dark colors are often romanticized as mysterious and moody, when in fact they are just bold colors with added depth,” says Afnan. A darker color shouldn’t be any more intimidating than a lighter one. Despite the depth of the tone, dark colors work well with complementary shades and hues from the same color family.

Good lighting is key. Saturated colors absorb more light, so in a darker space, good lighting design is critical. In addition to fixtures, add mirrors or metals to reflect available light. Using a glossier paint sheen can help trim stand out and add texture.

Design principles still apply. Color choice doesn’t change design standards. In this space, the designers still paid attention to balance, texture, rhythm, and shape. Even with dark colors, you should focus on the fundamentals to center your design choices.