‘I’ve been 40 years discovering that the queen of all colors was black.’ — Pierre-Auguste Renoir
In this case what’s true in the world of fashion is also true in the world of interior design. Black is the universal color — or noncolor, as some would argue. In concert with other hues, it can provide weight, crispness, definition, relief, great style and sophistication. In fact, for years one of my design mantras has been, “Every room needs a little touch of black.” It’s like a touch of horseradish in a bland sauce — it adds just the right amount of life, without anyone’s really noticing.
Black is not a color that needs to be repeated in a room. Just one bold accent, like this ceiling, brings the élan that only black can provide.
Ditto for this black accent wall, although here the color is expertly repeated (with a very easy hand) in the fabrics and the lamp. Use your thumb to cover the black in this room. Verve and style: going, going, gone.
You may use either a touch of black or a ton. Either way, your design will show the impact. Look how the black molding and cabinetry allow the gilt-framed pictures to glow, and the stylin’ tub to scintillate, in this bathroom.
The black accent trim on this home is so restrained as to be almost unnoticeable. But it brings great crispness to the palette and makes you see details that would otherwise have melted away.
Here black is used just for the window trim (and OK, maybe the outlets) in this otherwise all-white bathroom. But it keeps the white from being stark or boring. Without the black, there wouldbe no design.
This designer also opted for black trim on the windows. See how it gives the room a refreshing crispness and definition, making the windows pop and giving cohesiveness to the room.
Tracy and Hepburn, bread and wine, Baskin and Robbins (can you tell it’s dinnertime and I’m hungry?) are classic duos indeed. But black and white simply outclasses them all.
Black and white floors, whether marble, tile or painted wood, have set the standard for haute design for centuries. But notice here how the lime-green wall makes for an entirely modern interpretation.
I am currently on the bandwagon for lime green and black (and not just because they’re the colors for Houzz). This rich combo has profuse possibilities, from spare and modern to country (think black and white checks against a lime-green floral) to Hollywood glam.
The truth is, black not only contains all colors; it goes with all colors. There is simply not a color scheme that doesn’t benefit from its presence.
As in this red dining room …
… or this Dijon-hued bathroom (where black is used only as an accessory — a great approach for people who might be shy about making the color a permanent fixture).
Black shines when paired with a magenta wall …
… or mated with royal-blue upholstery.
Even purple — as illustrated so magnificently by the lowly pansy — is complemented and enhanced by black.
I must not neglect black and brown. While you would never pair brown shoes with a classic tuxedo, in this case the fashion rule does not extend to interior design. Think how nature has dressed the Doberman pinscher, the decidedly upper-crust King Charles Spaniel and the diminutive quail. The masterful way black and brown are mixed in this cabinetry brings both warmth and depth to this kitchen, while giving it an aura of permanence.
Certain shades of off-black are luscious. This yummy grayish chocolatey black is Benjamin Moore’s Black Bean Soup.
Black is really unexpected in this bedroom, with its baby blue boiserie. But it brings subtle warmth and a masculine touch to what would otherwise have been a decidedly feminine environment.
Every once in a while, a design magazine heralds the advent of “the new black.” It’s a term used to describe or give merit to a color trend, as in, “Orange is the new black.” My response to such pronouncements is always to turn a chilly shoulder and harrumph. I love color, but only black accomplishes so much, with so little, so well.
Special thanks to Becky Dietrich, Houzz Contributor for this amazing article!