The praise of darkness


Japan, despite the neon jitteriness of the big cities, is inextricably associated with darkness for me. The darkness of the tea pavilion, the wildness of nature and seeking refuge from the sun in a heat I have not even experienced in Africa. It's hard to admit that you prefer the darkness when everyone around you opts for so-called Scandinavian style and south-western windows in their homes, while you, a fan of the darkness, are suspected of having depression or, at the very least, being a member of a cult. I do not want to persuade anyone to live in the dark, but it is certainly worth looking into the theme of light in interiors, because it may turn out that we do not know everything about ourselves.

Japan vs japandi

You don't have to be an interior enthusiast to come across the phrase 'japandi'. It jumps out of every possible interior design magazine and blog, selling accessories made of jute, bamboo, rattan and light wood. Such spaces certainly have a lot in common with Scandinavia, which seeks light in interiors due to climatic conditions. They also certainly draw a little on the Japanese, but also Scandinavian, love of nature, craftsmanship, simplicity and ground-floor living adopted from the Japanese in the 1950s. In the overall perception, however, they have, in my opinion, little in common with the traditional (traditional!) Japanese interiors, which are dark as a rule. This is primarily due to the climate and relief, which forced the Japanese to use expansive roofs and verandas. The Japanese interior has absolute power over the daylight, letting it in point-blank or diffusing it with rice paper. In doing so, it brings out the beauty of objects through the play of light and shadow. This is where the Japanese austerity in decoration comes from. It is the reflections of light on the walls and the nature surrounding the house that they integrate into the interiors that plays the role of home decor. In contrast, japandi is definitely closer to the bright interiors of Mediterranean - or more broadly, houses located by the sea or the ocean - than to Japanese houses.


Ever since I can remember I have always had thoughts about light. I realised quite early on that I felt worse with one type of lighting and better with another. On top of that, I loved to sit in the bathroom with the lights off every now and then and snuggle up in my parents' dressing gowns. To think, to imagine. Just to be, here and now. Nowadays, I consciously choose the northeast exposure of the flat, because the sunniest ones irritate me with their obviousness and variability during the day. In north or north-east facing interiors, the sun either doesn't shine at all, or only early in the morning, optimistically signalling a new start, and for the rest of the day providing constant moderate illumination and allowing me to control its intensity. Believe me, for people sensitive to light, it's gold. Why am I writing about this? Because if we are starting to consciously design lighting we should think first and foremost precisely about the exposure of our home or flat. If, deep down, we prefer twilight and are looking for a moody interior, let's not condemn ourselves to the sun.

Shadow in light interiors

What if you're afraid that dark walls will prove too overwhelming for you? First of all, no one is saying that you have to paint your entire flat black straight away. You can choose one room or wall, which you can cover with, for example, shelves, paint, wood or wallpaper, not necessarily in a dark colour. Another solution is to paint the ceiling itself a dark colour (but be careful, it visually lowers the room), or to choose dark curtains or dark furniture. Secondly, achieving a dark effect is possible even if you are not ready for dark colours or wallpaper on the walls. The right lighting is key. Always, regardless of the chosen colour scheme. The whiteness of the walls (preferably slightly broken), combined with a spot light of the right colour, will also give us the perfect mood and effect of moderate darkness without the need to paint the walls in dark colours. You can see this perfectly in the collages of the Prague flat in the gallery.

For lighting, I recommend light bulbs with a colour temperature between 1800K and 3000K, which resemble halogen or candlelight. So-called central lighting in a form of a chandelier should be switched on in exceptional situations, e.g. for cleaning after dark. Trunking is an exception, as it combines the function of central lighting and spotlighting. However, a lot depends on the choice of the light source, which can have a different angle of light distribution - from 4 to 360 degrees. Bulbs with a maximum angle of 30 degrees should be used for spotlighting. Museums use them in a perfect way. I feel particularly at home in the Manggha Museum of Japanese Art and Technology in Cracow, which - as you can see in the gallery - uses light in a very thoughtful manner.

Shadow in dark interiors

Creating truly dark interiors is not as hard as one might think it is. The basis for this, as for any other interior, is the skillful choice of lighting, but also an uncompromising quality, both when it comes to cladding in the form of wood or wallpaper, but also when it comes to painting. While light-coloured walls allow for a certain degree of inaccuracy, with dark interiors there is no space for deficiencies or wood- or stone-like substitutes. I love the English term 'honest design', which works perfectly here. And here's an important point - it doesn't mean that, while caring about the highest quality, we have to aim for an absolute smoothness at the same time. On the contrary, an interesting texture of stone, a natural warping of wood or roughness of concrete provide an ideal stage for spotlighting. In dark rooms, the principles regarding lighting are similar to those in light rooms, the only difference being that with dark walls, where the light is to be functional and not just decorative, a slightly higher wattage bulb or the use of mirrors or glossy surfaces will be needed.

I hope that with this article I have tamed the darkness a little and encouraged you to experiment with light.

The depth of blackness brought out by faint light. Via The Local Project.