How to decorate with Farrow & Ball Railings, the best-selling soft black paint

Railings is as liveable as a black paint comes, it's soft, relaxed with just a hint of blue

How to decorate with Farrow & Ball Railings
(Image credit: Nicola Harding/Farrow & Ball)

When it comes to black paints it doesn't get more usable than Farrow & Ball's Railings. It's an iconic shade and one of the brand's best sellers, described as 'a softer alternative to black', it's a very liveable dark paint, not harsh or overly dramatic and gothic. It also leans into a lot of interior design trends that are looking to be huge in 2024 as we move away from playing it safe with just neutrals. 

However, there's no denying it's still a brave paint to bring into your home. So how can you make Railings work in a way that doesn't overwhelm a room? What colors can you pair it with? What light does it work best in? What rooms? We asked all these questions and more to interior designers who love, and have used the shade, to get their tips on decorating with Farrow & Ball's Railings. 

What color is Railings?

Railings is a blue black. In some lights it's slightly more blue, in some lights it's slightly more black. But that heavy dose of blue makes it a much softer dark paint than a straight-up black or a deep charcoal - it has depth and a richness to it. 

Farrow & Ball describe it as so, 'Railings, with its generous dose of blue pigment, is versatile enough to be used anywhere you’d consider a pure black paint, but with an added underlying complexity that creates the most dramatic and enveloping spaces. It looks especially smart used across walls and woodwork, as this modern pantry attests; in a family kitchen, it pairs beautifully with grey-blue De Nimes walls, a white marble worktop, and sleek gold fittings.' 

How to decorate with Farrow & Ball Railings

So how do you bring this ever-popular Farrow & Ball shade into your home? We spoke with designers and paint experts on the best ways to do so. 

1. Create contrasts with lighter brighter colors

White kitchen with dark blue woodwork

(Image credit: Farrow & Ball)

Railings is a wonderful paint to use in large quantities. Color drenching with the shade is surprisingly popular as despite how dramatic it sounds, in the right space, the result is cozy and enveloping (more on this later). However, it needn't always be reserved for those who are bold in color choices, Railings makes for a lovely accent color to ground brighter and lighter hues. And if you are looking for the easiest, most low-commitment way to work with the shade, this is it. 

In this cream kitchen, Railings gives the otherwise all-neutral scheme depth, it gives the room a clear focal point and grounds the light hues of the walls and cabinetry. It's a nice way to experiment with darker shades in your more lived-in rooms.

2. Lift the dark backdrop with artwork

dark grey hallway by Farrow & Ball

(Image credit: Farrow & Ball)

Bolder colors look amazing against the backdrop of Railings - it really makes colors pop. Hanging large colorful pieces is a good way to give this dark paint a lift and ensure it doesn't become too dominant and dramatic. A few large-scale prints breaks up all the black too and prevents the space from becoming too cave-like. 

'Our perennial favorite Railings has a beautiful underlying blue running through it, which surprisingly gives some ‘warmth’ and creates a great backdrop to many a living space. Your artwork will register with renewed clarity, you will feel cocooned when bathed in ambient lighting at night and colors will pop against it,' explains Patrick O'Donnell, color consultant at Farrow & Ball. 'For woodwork, either play with the crispness of our purest white All White in estate eggshell or pull out the nuanced blue in Railings by teaming it with Borrowed Light.'

Image of Patrick O’Donnell
Patrick O’Donnell

Patrick O’Donnell is Farrow & Ball's color consultant & brand ambassador and has been with the brand since 2012. Patrick works with designers in the UK and North America, helping to bring their projects alive with the iconic, F&B color palette.

3. Try out Railings in smaller spaces

Small bathroom painted in Farrow & Ball Railings

(Image credit: Nicola Harding)

It's interior design 101 that you use lighter colors to make small rooms look bigger, however, there's also a very strong case for using darker shades in small spaces too. In the right room, a dark paint can blur the dimensions on the room, tricking the eye. Railings, being not quite a true black, is ideal for taking over all the walls (and ceiling if you are feeling brave) to make a smaller room feel not only larger but far more interesting. 

This small bathroom designed by Nicola Harding was transformed using Railings, as she explains, 'A dark, cold space off a half landing became a sumptuous family bathroom with rich tones of Farrow & Ball's Railings providing clever contrast with artworks, plants and the aquamarine underside of a reclaimed bathtub.'

To add, Railings does make for a great bathroom color as we always say, bathrooms are the perfect spaces to be a bit bolder with your choices. They aren't rooms you spend a substantial amount of time in like a bedroom or a living room, so you can afford to try out braver shades that risk being too overwhelming in other spaces of your home. 

Nicola Harding
Nicola Harding

British designer Nicola Harding founded her firm Nicola Harding & Co. in 2007. The studio's ethos is 'creating places, not spaces' and that can be seen across Nicola's work, her projects are filled with character and personality in a chic and effortless way.

4. Soften the darker shade with layers of warm neutrals

kitchen painted in Farrow & Ball Railings

(Image credit: Farrow & Ball)

If you want to soften the look of Railings and bring out its warmth, pair it with soft warm neutrals like creams, beiges, and muted pinks. Bring in layers of texture too to add depth and tone down the drama of that darker paint. 

As designer Kathy Kuo suggests ' Farrow & Ball Railings is a softer and less intense take on a dark gray paint; it's darker than charcoal, but not a true jet black. I love this color for an office or study, or even den or TV room.'

'It's easy to pair with the Dark Academia interior design motif and it's also a time backdrop for a space that you want to feel cozy, yet distinguished. Bring in plenty of accessories in cream and warm neutral hues and add lots of rich texture like velvet, chunky knits, and hair-on-hide.'

kathy kuo home
Kathy Kuo

Kathy Kuo is a celebrated interior designer and international guru within the home and lifestyle space. She has 20+ years of experience in the design industry. 

5. Use Railings on doors and trims

Entryway with landscape wallpaper painted in Farrow & Ball Railings

(Image credit: Bethany Adams Interiors)

'Railings is one of my go-to blacks for use on doors and trim.  It has a depth that keeps it from skewing too "witchy" - instead it's deeply sophisticated and unexpected in an entryway or hallway.' suggests designer Bethany Adams.

Again, like a bathroom and entryway is a transitional space where you can be more experimental. Railings, paired with a neutral wallpaper, in this entryway feels bold but sophisticated and it's the perfect example of how you can adapt the color based on the lighting and the colors you pair it with. The brown tones of the entryway wallpaper bring out the warmth in the paint, and the low lighting in certain spots makes it appear far more black than blue.

Bethany Adams
Bethany Adams

Bethany Adams is an interior designer, a member of ASID (American society of Interior Designers), AIA (American Institute of Architects), and a certified interior designer with the Kentucky Board of Architecture. Bethany holds a B.F.A.. in interior design from Harrington College of Design in addition to a B.A. she earned from Georgetown University.

6. Create a cocooning bedroom

Bedroom painted in Farrow & Ball Railings

(Image credit: Farrow & Ball)

You want a bedroom to feel cozy and cocooning and nothing does that like a darker color scheme. Bedroom colors are some of the most important in the home and so often we play it safe with light neutrals but going for deeper shades can have the same calming effect. Railings is such a soft black it's ideal for bedrooms, and you can bring in plenty of textures and warm shades to make the space feel even more inviting. 

Designer Jennifer Davis explains 'We gravitate towards a selection of dark paint colors for their ability to infuse spaces with depth, sophistication, and a touch of drama. Farrow & Ball's "Railings" (No. 31) stands out for its deep, almost-black-blue hue, adding both elegance and a cozy allure, making it an ideal bedroom color.'

Jennifer Davis
Jennifer Davis

Jennifer fell in love with design at a young age and has been working in the industry for over 25 years. She has developed an eye for detail and a talent for creating timeless designs. Jennifer offers a balance of creativity and forward-thinking with a structured, organized, and detailed mentality. Jennifer is driven by her deep passion for design while curating an exceptional client journey, ensuring pure delight from the very beginning to the end.

While using a black paint may sound dramatic, Railings is such a soft shade and doesn't have that gothic intensity of a true black. There are plenty of ways to bring it into any room and make it work with any style, from a relaxed boho look to a modern rustic space. It works in large quantities across all walls and ceilings, but it's also a strong accent color that you can use to ground lighter schemes. 

Head of Interiors

I am the Head of Interiors at Homes & Gardens. I started off in the world of journalism in fashion and luxury travel and then landed my first interiors role at Real Homes and have been in the world of interior design ever since. Prior to my role at H&G I was the digital editor at Livingetc, from which I took a sabbatical to travel in my self-converted van (not as glamorous as decorating a home, but very satisfying). A year later, and with lots of technical DIY lessons learned I am back to writing and editing, sometimes even from the comfort of my home on wheels.