Black used to be considered purely an accent color and mostly for sophisticated males living on their own. They might paint a man’s cave black or add in a black sofa or some black pillows or an area rug. It also became the go-to color choice of teens who favored dark colors for their dress and their own room decors as a way to exert their independence, at least visually.
But in recent months, it’s become a favorite of a much larger cohort, promoted first by the most progressive-thinking designers, architects, builders and manufacturers who realized that many homeowners were tired of avoiding deep saturated hues after living amid so much pale gray, beige and white. Not that they advocate abandoning the lighter shades completely, but many now are saying: Bring on the black and bold in a few—or even—many rooms.
And besides setting a different mood, these avant-garde thinkers have realized that black can be as much of a neutral or foil as the use of almost any single color can. For those wondering how best to incorporate it, interior designer Barbara Musial, with Robb & Stucky’s showroom in Boca Raton, Fla., says it can be a universal mixer and accent or the predominant color. “Black can be truly stunning in a room as it is elegant, classic, sexy and dramatic,” she says.
Angela Lavista, senior interior designer with the Chicago-based firm of Sweet Peas Design, believes another reason for its currently being a scene-stealer is “that so much of the Millennial culture is about simple sophistication. Using the color black is the easiest way to bring something to a new level. In fact, it’s not dissimilar from the way those who know how to dress smartly think immediately of a little black dress as a starting point. Decorating with black in our homes can deliver drama, mystery and depth at the same time since it’s a familiar classic that makes us feel we are at home with an old friend,” she says. And while it can be used on its own, it can also be paired with white for great contrast and to yield a look “that is comforting and striking all at the same time,” Lavista says.
After seeing the color work in so many different variations, we are even betting that black will meet the most important acid test in real estate: Home owners who are selling will be able to leave their black choices intact when they go to sell rather than switch them out with something tamer and might we even dare to say a tad bit boring?
Here are a handful of our favorite ways to introduce the newly hot color black in a home:
1. Paint walls black. A high gloss finish will help brighten things up, allowing light to reflect, says Musial. Black walls were in vogue recently in a room at this year’s first-ever satellite show house in Palm Beach, Fla., of the tiny New York City Kips Bay Show House. Designers from Boston’s Bierly Drake Associates firm dressed up a bathroom they nicknamed “Andrea’s Retreat,” to follow Coco Chanel’s words of wisdom—that every chic room should contain some black elements. The room reflects the knowledge of what black walls require—something lighter, perhaps, in the scheme of mirrors, crystal lighting, acrylic and mirrored furnishings, and luxurious fabrics.
2. Go with black on flooring or wall tiles. This approach can also add some classic drama but in a less overwhelming way, Musial suggests. San Francisco-based designer Claudia Juestel of Adeeni Design Group concurs. “I love working with color, but when I designed our gallery I wanted the art and the objects to be most of the color. We have soaring ceilings and a lot of light, and I aimed for drama and wanted to emphasize the ceiling height. So I had the floor painted a shiny black and designed a couple of 10’ tall black cabinets to bring up your eye to emphasize the height. The island has a black leather top and crocodile-textured base and the black jewelry case is stained in the same ebony finish as the cabinets. All of our merchandise looks amazing against the black! They say, ‘always bet on black,’” she says.
3. Dip your toes in with a painted black door. Architectural choices can glam up and insert drama as much as decor can, which builder Ken Fixler, head of Barnett Homes in Chicago, has done through his use of doors and windows. And Marvin Windows and Doors even has matte black hardware. “The clean lines of this understated accessory add a beautiful, dark contrast to light and bright spaces to make a bold statement with a color trend we bet is here to stay,” says Christine Marvin, director of corporate strategy and design for the company.
4. Think beyond white plumbing and fixtures in bathrooms and kitchens. Black was once a staple in bathroom design but it’s now made its way back in kitchens with the recent debut of black stainless steel appliances and black toilets in bathrooms, according to the pros at Kohler who offer a myriad of products.
5. Black cabinets aren’t for sissies. The pros at MasterBrand Cabinets are seeing true matte black finishes take over kitchen cabinets in everything from stains to opaques, says Stephanie Pierce, director of design and trends for the company. The look is definitely contemporary, though it can work well in any style house and be paired as an accent with white or a bright hue.