Forget 50 shades of gray—sometimes, things really are better in black and white. From the keys on a piano to the stripes on a zebra to the crinkle of newsprint, the combination of black and white is pure classic. While black and white will never have the oomph of a racy red or a regal purple, paring down the color scheme in your home can provide dramatic results. And if your house is already awash in color, you don’t have to surrender to a wholesale black and white scheme, as you can create a black and white effect with some minor changes. You could also make a black and white statement in a designated room or area, like the entryway or a powder room. And you can split black and white, using either to create the look you crave. Read on for ways to integrate these restrained colors in your decor.
The Dark Drama of Black
Black is glamorous and versatile, and is grounding in a space. It also is excellent for defining architectural elements, like thick moldings and trim. Try painting trim in a historic home a slick black; practically speaking, it hides dirt and can provide a real wow factor. If the idea of committing to black trim in your entire home makes you shudder (it’s best with neutral walls), try it on for size in one room, or commit to a small project. Your stairway bannister or the back of your front door are great places to try on black for size. Other ways include adding a black framed mirror, black chairs around a dining table, or a collection of black frames—even if the art or photos vary in tone, the black of the frames will unify the collection. Do you have beautiful old windows? Instead of committing to all-black trim in the room, paint just the interior window sash and muntin (also known as the window grille, or the trim that intersects the panes) a deep black.
In addition to defining beautiful architectural elements, black can also give some weight to ho-hum trims and molding, giving them much needed gravitas in a builder-basic home. And a true deep black isn’t your only option—you can get the black effect with moodier colors like Benjamin Moore’s Soot, which has a hint of blue, or Sherwin-Williams’ Black Fox, which is an interesting brown-black.
Looking for a five-minute makeover? Pop a black shade on an existing lamp, or swap out your tired ivory chandelier shades for black ones.
Light and Bright with Shades of White
White walls and trim can be anything but boring, if you layer shades and textures. Think of painted wainscoting, or white grasscloth wallpaper, and complementary shades of white paired together on the walls and trim. While it may seem easier to coat a ceiling, walls and trim in the same color, varying textures and depth provides visual rest for the eyes yet interesting places for your gaze to land. The major benefit of a white-walled backdrop is that eclectic furnishings and interesting artwork become the stars of the room—the vanilla backdrop allows the lines of art and furnishings to stand out, and eliminates a busy background that can create a look that is cluttered instead of cool. If your house is a color explosion, try white in the bedroom, where visual rest and calm will be appreciated most.
Some interesting ways to bring white into your decor? A collection of thrift store or antique plates hung on the wall, or a grouping of milk-glass vases (making sure, again, that tones vary for interest). Have a wood floor that needs to be refinished? Give it an inexpensive makeover and new life with a can of white paint (consult a paint store for the correct preparation steps for a clean and durable finish). Covering dark, outdated kitchen or bath cabinets in white paint is also a less expensive option than replacement, and along with new hardware, can update the look dramatically. Mismatched furniture can also be unified with white—clean, contemporary and unfussy.
Black and White Make a Classic Statement
Black and white together, though stark, can be forgiving. If you are going black and white in a room, you can more easily mix scales and themes without looking like an accidental mess. The black and white home decor trend first emerged in the 1920s, and is still going strong today. If you want to bring a bit of classic style to your home, try a checkerboard floor in an entryway or kitchen, subway tile with dark grout as a backsplash or bathroom wall tile, toile wallpaper, or a houndstooth or buffalo-check fabric for windows or a chair (oversized patterns look particularly fresh).
If you have a coffee table or side table that needs updating, try replacing the top with marble—this also works well on a mantel or windowsill, and brings a bit of grandeur to a room. If remodeling a kitchen, black and white is a classic choice. Whether you go with the clean look of white cabinets or the drama of black ones, marble, soapstone, black and white granites (honed and leathered are more current finish options for granite) or black and white quartz are great options to finish the black and white look.
And, of course, you can soften the look of black and white by layering in shades of gray, while still getting that black and white effect. Create your black and white room or area of your home by starting with one pattern or object that you love, and build around it.
Black and White Paint Colors to Inspire Your Next Project
Davis Paint Sugar Dust
White with warm and creamy undertone.
Benjamin Moore White Dove
A hint of cream for some warmth.
Farrow & Ball All White
Stays consistent in any light.
A soft white, a tried-and-true color, and favorite of decorators.
White with a crisp and cool tone.
Ralph Lauren Bone Black
The blackest black you can find.
Benjamin Moore Soot
A moodier black, with a hint
Davis Paint Subway
Black with a slate chalkboard hue.
Sherwin-Williams Black Fox
Lush black with chocolate undertones that give it a nice warmth.
Pittsburg Paints Onyx
Classic black with muted undertone.