Styles come and go, as do colour schemes, but simple and elegant black endures. Chanel’s little black dress is the epitome of elegance and style, a look that has survived the years, most famously worn by Audrey Hepburn and emulated by women for decades. This classic neutral is also a great colour for interiors as it adds strong tonal contrast to a scheme. Let me show you how to choose the right black.
A touch of black for example in lamp shades or picture frames can be enough to make an elegant statement or you could take this further with some black painted furniture. Built in bookcases look particularly striking painted in black as the background recedes making the books stand out. This will work with any neutral from a warm taupe through to a green based ecru.
Tips on how to choose the right black
I am sure I don't need to continue with the benefits of using this great sophisticated neutral in your interior schemes, but as with most neutrals, selecting the right one is not always straight forward.
As with whites, beiges and greys, which are the staples of interior design, the colour black also comes in many guises and most paint companies offer a range that will have a slight underlying colour.
Of course, you can just opt for the paint manufacturers plain black, but often this is a little harsh and one that is slightly knocked back, can be more effective. I find that in interiors it is often preferable to use a slightly off-black as these are a touch softer. You still get the dramatic effect but they are slightly more understated and easier to live with, particularly if you are painting a full wall. My favourite paint options to help you choose the right black to use are:
ALWAYS view the sample on a large piece of card against the other samples of paints, fabrics, flooring etc. that you are going to use in your scheme to ensure that any underlying colour that is present works with your other choices. One of my favourite blacks to use at the moment is Colorbond Monument and you can ask any paint company to mix this for you. It is a truly great neutral as it is not as heavy and dark as a true black but also doesn't have any obvious underlying colour and is a great choice for interior and exterior schemes. It is one of my favourite front door colours which works for both sides of the door.
Also consider whether you are using a striking contemporary palette with crisp whites and cool blues in which case your chosen black may have a blue base, like Dulux Domino or Resene Double Foundry. If however your scheme is a warmer softer classic one then Haymes Enigma, a beautiful soft black, may suit the look.
Remember that all of the options will have an undertone – as you have with white so you need to think very carefully about what you are partnering it with and ensure that the undertone is correct.
Wallpaper designs in varying tones of black and grey look very elegant as do soft furnishings in black linen or velvet. This is particularly effective as the darkness of the black is broken up and still gives you the wow factor and the dramatic mood for your room without the heaviness that a block colour will introduce. Soft furnishings as accents in this colour are very effective and classic pieces.
Using black to offer a strong tonal contrast
Use this strong dark neutral with pure white and you create very strong tonal contrast from the lightest on the scale to the darkest. This is a classic combination, used below in this hallway it creates a striking effect and the crisp white ceiling prevents the darkness of the walls from becoming oppressive.
These walls are painted in Benjamin Moore's Black Onyx and I think look stunning but the space doesn't feel closed in as there is a large degree of white in the trim and interior doors.
Monochromatic colour schemes are a beautiful and simple look and a great starting point for those commencing on a colour theory journey – an all time favourite of course is the classic partnership of black and white – you can see lots of inspiration and read more here:
How to make a wall recede with black
Black is very effective to use on walls that you want to recede. By using any dark colour on a wall, you focus attention away from this area and this is a particularly useful tool to use if you have a great view as your eye is naturally directed outside. Furniture placed against a simple dark wall also stands out and again, this is a very handy trick if you want to draw attention to a favourite upholstered chair or sofa.
Introduce any of the metallics for a stunning scheme. A touch of gold here is very effective.
Consider the mood of a room when choosing black
The mood of the space will change dramatically with the introduction of a large amount of black into the scheme. Black can also be used very successfully with colour. A fashion statement this year is chartreuse, a lime green that is almost yellow. This colour is still popular for summer fashions and looks very fresh with pure white. It does however also look stunning when used in an interior with black and creates a very modern statement. You can simply introduce this with a modern touch of greenery.
White marble looks great with dark cabinetry and creates a completely different look and feel to that which is achieved with white. As dark backgrounds recede they let other elements stand out and the gorgeous timber presentation boards in the image above really are the star here. Therefore if you like to style you will see the benefits of using this great colour as a strong background neutral.
The room below is from The Little Greene Paint Company in the UK. I love the way the black background here makes the pretty bed the star of the scheme.
I hope that this has helped you to choose the right black for your next project. I have a Pinterest board dedicated to this colour where you can find heaps of inspiration and I would love to hear from you if you have any difficulty or questions related to using the colour black – just drop me a line in the comments section below.
If you want to read more you may also like these articles:
Do you love the colour pink but feel it can be a bit sickly sweet? The answer is to partner it with a strong dark neutral: