Black and White Rooms That WOW
I was writing the next instalment for the kitchen design articles when I came across the above image (Source: Pinterest). I have a schedule for my blog articles but this time I am not following it. This image of a black and white nursery is so gorgeous, timeless and classic, that it would be a great conversation topic. After all, not too many people would dress their infant’s room in black and white. Yet, there is something so beautiful and grounding about the colours in this baby room. Not to mention that babies respond well to strong visual contrasts and graphics.
White and black have always been important colours in the design world, be it in interior design, architecture, graphic design or industrial design. I remember my mother’s special dishes in black and white. She was so far ahead in choosing a simple set of dishes which were white inside and black on the outside. Most people in those days were using porcelain with delicate flowers and subtle colours. Not my mother! She choose a bold statement in black and white. The accompanying silver cutlery was different as well. Most families had those old-fashioned looking silver spoons and forks with a design on the end of the handle, mostly oval and long pronged forks. Not my mother…. She choose a very simple, unadorned set with a distinct round design set of silver ware. She was so far ahead in her choices. I don’t think the black and white dishes survived, but the silver ware is still in the family and used every day.
Black and white are classic elements of design. Think of the black and white checkered tiled floors we find in older houses and buildings dating back centuries or white, flowing sheers which have long been in favour. Combining the two colours has always produced great results. The colour black absorbs all light rays, whereas white reflects all light! There is great contrast between the two colours (although the biggest contrast is actually found between the colours purple and yellow - interestingly enough).
The colour black is considered to be sophisticated and elegant, adding drama and energy to a space. It is considered powerful. It is the colour of authority. At the same time the colour can give a sense of comfort, of cocooning. White, in contrast, is sleek and ‘clean’. It is considered to be a more modern colour these days.
People often ask me whether they can paint out any room in a dark colour. My answer is always: YES. Dark colours, including black are perceived as receding thereby making the walls look further away than they really are. Remember how black clothes makes any person look slimmer! At the same token, bright colours (and white in particular) make a person look heavier. People perceive white objects as taller and closer than black ones.
Plenty of architects favour white in their personal spaces and offices and black in their attire (remember black is considered a colour of authority!). Many interior designers feel the same way. White is the one colour which does not interfere with any aspect of design when selecting paint colours or fabrics and furniture. When I select paint colours, I always use a crisp white background to compare colours. I highly recommend you do the same! And, my office also has white furniture. I find it the least distracting. Since white reflects all light, it is always a bright colour to work in and with. And as a source of light white draws in the eye and creates a flow. As such white is a very versatile colour since it works with every other colour. It is a truly helpful colour!
Considering all these aspects of the colours black and white it is easy to understand that both colours are timeless and classic. And, while they may be more popular at certain times I would never call them trendy.
Where and How
So, where and how to apply this combination of colours to create just the space you like? Most designers will agree to the saying that each space needs a touch of black. Black is considered to ground a space. It provides an anchor for the lighter colours. If you are not ready to go all “in” with a full black and white space, consider certain black and/or white elements such as a black or white chandelier; a black kitchen faucet on a white quartz countertop; a black chair frame. There are plenty of ‘small options’ to introduce a black and white colour palette.
~ A black marble slab or tile with black grout. Team it up with high, crispy white baseboards for a sophisticated contrast. A great look for an entry or foyer, powder room or ensuite. This type of floor would easily transition into a hardwood floor of any colour, even a very light one.
~ Black and white tile installed in a checker or chevron pattern with black grout. Suitable in entries, kitchens and bathrooms.
~ White floor tile with black grout for some graphic interest.
~ A truly white-washed wood floor with a stencilled pattern. More of a country style look.
Introduce black in your staircase. Black treads with white risers, a black handrail and white spindles and newel posts, will make a great combination. Alternatively, go for an all black staircase with white spindles, handrail and newel posts.
And failing all else, throw in a black and white runner or area rug.
Most rooms will look great with crisp white walls while others can handle black ones. I am convinced that there are not many people who would choose black walls though! Take a look at the dining room below with its black walls. It immediately creates an intimate setting with a lot of drama. Would you be this daring…? I bet not.
Create a gallery of black and white family photos, framed in black, white or light coloured wood. Display your black and white art on a shallow shelf to create an art wall. Not afraid to write on your white walls? Write your favourite quotes and encouragements near your desk with a big, black marker!
I have always liked the look of long, billowing white sheers installed close to the ceiling and gracefully touching the floor. Black and white drapes with a geometric pattern will also add visual interest. Or, a full white drape with a tall black band at the bottom to make a statement. Black drapery hardware completes the look.
Black and white kitchens are popular at the moment. Particularly matt black cabinetry teamed up with glossy white countertops. General Electric’s Cafe Line of appliances shows fridges and dishwashers in a gorgeous matt black finish. Any of these finishes look great with gold accents such as door and drawer pulls and faucets. Black also combines beautifully with light coloured wood as can be seen throughout the images in this article.
In the living room it is easy to play with black and white elements. A black textured upholstered sofa with gold legs will look great on a cream coloured rug. Add a couple of chairs upholstered in a black and white print to complete the look. I love the black and white fabric options available at Maxwell Fabrics (see the images below). My friend Leslie runs the Maxwell showroom in Vancouver and she is super knowledgeable about their fabrics. Go and have a look if you are near her showroom!
The great thing about a basic black and white colour scheme is that you can add any colour to give it a pop. Pastels, jewel tones, earth tones, they will all work. And the effect of adding colour can give a complete different feel to a place. The colour blush will feel more feminine, whereas a colour such as emerald green or sunflower yellow will project a more artistic feeling. Scatter black lampshades throughout your space. Use black wall sconces. Be daring and choose a funky white or gold chandelier. Light wood tones and the natural colour of walnut are terrific in this type of colour scheme. They also add warmth in what could potentially become a stark space.
Dining rooms too can be used to add a black and white colour scheme. How about a black table with white chairs. Or black chairs with a medium colour wood table. Introduce a funky white chandelier for further visual interest. None of these elements need to break the bank! When you look at the light coloured wood floors in the images below, you can see how good they look with black and white!
Powder rooms in particular lend themselves to a daring mix of black and white. Black walls with a black marble floor and the crispy white of the fixtures will look amazing. Instead of a painted black wall, there are some interesting black and white wall papers that would work equally well or black and white tile in an interesting pattern. I always tell my clients that even if their house is ‘safe’ in terms of design and colour schemes, the powder room can be that one small space where you can show more creativity. It is so small that if you don’t like the results, it is easy and not expensive to change it.
Another great space for black and white applications is the bathroom, be it the family bathroom or the ensuite. In the ensuite more expensive gold finishes will make such a room look fabulous. But even in a simple family bathroom, mixing the right amount of black with white and a touch of gold with some wood finishes thrown in, will make a statement.
Bedrooms lend themselves equally well to adding touches of black in the form of, for instance, wallpaper as a backdrop for the headboard. Such wallpaper could be as striking as a black and white stripe or a more subtle Toile du Jour pastoral pattern. Large black and white graphic florals will make a great wallpaper pattern as do polka dots, although this one is more suitable for kids rooms.
Black wrought iron bed frames make a real statement in the image above . The room is even more inviting with the emerald green bedspreads. Love crisp white bedlinen? Add some black patterned pillows or place a chair upholstered in a black and white tweed in the bedroom. Here too, artwork can be displayed in black or white frames.
Kids rooms can be so much fun if you choose a black and white colour scheme. Take a look at the examples below. On the walls a graphic pattern can be painted to give the illusion of a headboard. Even nurseries can look stunning. And remember, babies are drawn to big contrasts in colours.
Laundry and mud rooms. Last, and definitely least, two areas which are typically smaller with a very distinct purpose. White appliances and cabinetry (or black ones for that matter) will look great against a black and/or white background. Take a look at the two examples below. The image on the left has a wallpaper design of the Eiffel Tower which teams really well with the black cabinets. One thing that would make this room look even better is by replacing the golden toned countertop with a soft white one.
It is funny how every time I write about certain colours in interiors I start to look for ways how I can change my own spaces with the colour(s) I am reviewing! There are so many possibilities, options and opportunities these days that nailing it down can be a challenge! Do you ever feel this way? Give me your thoughts in the comment section (scroll down). As always many thanks for the visit and…