How Designers Would Use the Blackest Black Ever Created

Vantablack is the darkest man-made substance ever created, and top designers can't wait to get their hands on it.

By: Ryan Reed
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Imagine a color — or the absence of color, in this case — that's so dark that when applied, it appears to flatten 3-D objects and turn them into miniature black holes. Such a visually stunning hue would open a world of possibilities for designers who currently only have various finishes of black to choose from if they want to add the timeless color to a space. Thanks to a recent discovery, though, a new kind of black may find its way into designer's hands one day soon.

Vantablack

Vantablack

Vantablack is the world's darkest man-made substance.

Photo by: Surrey NanoSystems

Surrey NanoSystems

Created by Surrey NanoSystems in 2014, Vantablack, which is not a color but a collection of millions of carbon nanotubes, is recognized by Guinness World Records as the world's darkest man-made substance, reflecting only .036 percent of the light that strikes it. It's a remarkable scientific accomplishment that researchers have continued to develop and make even darker (if you can believe that). There's an updated version of the original Vantablack that's so black that light seems to disappear when it hits the surface.

Scientists have also developed a version of Vantablack called S-VIS that can be applied via spray, leading some to call it the world's blackest paint. It's not as dark as the original, but it's still manufactured from carbon nanotubes and achieves the unique 3-D flattening effect. Despite the spray application, S-VIS is not available to the public, as it requires a complex post-process to achieve the finished look. There's a non-nanotube version called VBx1 (shown below), and it's more tolerant than other versions but as of now, it's unreleased.

Vantablack

Vantablack

A scientist holding a 3D object coated in Vantablack paint.

Photo by: Surrey NanoSystems

Surrey NanoSystems

Vantablack

Vantablack

Vantablack is so dark that when applied, it appears to flatten a 3D object.

Photo by: Surrey NanoSystems

Surrey NanoSystems

While Vantablack may be better suited for outer space than your living room right now, it's clear this material has broad appeal and could reach multiple industries in our lifetime. With that in mind, I reached out to several designers known for their modern aesthetic and use of the color black to see how they would use Vantablack. Like contestants on Food Network's Chopped, these designers had to think fast and come up with their best and most innovative use of Vantablack. Here's what they had to say:

Phara Queen / Phara Queen Design

"This product would be fun to use on the floor in a game room, playroom or even an entryway. It would give the space an “Alice down the rabbit hole” effect. By painting a random checkboard on the floor, people will stop and wonder if they step on the black square will they just keep falling through the floor? A real conversation starter, for sure!"

Caitlin Murray / Black Lacquer Design

"As a company that stokes the power of black in design, we could easily be tempted to go overboard experimenting with Vantablack as a finish; however, I think it would be most refined in small doses to punctuate seamless silhouettes. I would love to use it to finish a sleek, contemporary frame to a circular mirror. Contrasting the light-absorbent Vantablack frame with a bright, reflecting mirror would provide a striking and unexpected conversation piece, producing a dream-like effect with the mirror appearing to float."

Nicole White Quinn / Nicole White Designs Interiors

"Aww, what a thrill it would be to have this blackest of black for a master bedroom retreat. I love the moody and sexy feel of black paint in a bedroom, and with a matte finish that would absorb light, it will be the perfect space to retreat to every night to soothe away the worries of the world. I'd paint all molding details — baseboards, crown moldings and trims — in black as well with just a hint of sheen for contrast. A white tufted headboard with black nailhead details would add just enough light to the room to truly showcase the color of the walls. I'd finish it off with a bit of bling with an Odeon-style chandelier, then I'd never leave because it'd be my master suite!"

Laura Knight-Keating / Lauren Rubin Architecture

"Vantablack is amazing. It creates depth and almost looks like what I would expect infinity to look like. We would use the Vantablack on the ceilings of industrial spaces, like a gym or bar, where the ceilings need to disappear and feel limitless. We would also use it on walls where we would layer it with graffiti art, interesting wall stickers or layers of bright paint. It would almost create a 3-D effect to the colors and images on top. We almost feel like the color could go on forever!"

Designer Secrets to Decorating With Black

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A Dining Room Decked Out in Black

The dining room of this Sherman Oaks, Calif., home is decorated almost completely in black. From the dining room table, wallpaper, trim, chandelier, chairs and table settings, the dark color is layered to create the perfect balance.

Making Black Work Every Day

To achieve proper balance with black, many factors come into play including use of metallics, layering of different shades, use of reflective finishes and proper lighting. Once balanced, a black room can take on a timeless, elegant and edgy personality.

Varying Shades

While using the same exact finish of black throughout a space can be modern, sexy and sleek, it can also fall flat and appear cold. One way to warm up black is to make it tactile by layering different shades of black and by incorporating different textures.

Glossy Finish

Since black absorbs light, many homeowners hesitate to use it for fear of instantly making a room too dark. Yet a glossy finish on materials painted black instantly infuses a reflective quality that plays with light.

Chrome Accents

The inclusion of metallics can play a huge part in successfully designing with black. Whereas gold tones can evoke an overly rich, lush and traditional feeling, polished chrome is a great alternative for sleek, streamlined modern rooms.

Mismatched Materials

In this space all the dining chairs are black but vary in shape and materials. Each adds its own sense of visual interest, breaking up the overall black design. The same principle applies to room accessories.

Bringing In Life

Adding life to rooms is a designer's trick to ensure it feels lived-in and inviting. This trick is especially effective in black spaces. The green tones found in fresh-cut flowers or interior plants truly pop against the dark black backdrop.

Eye-Catching Chandelier

Since black absorbs light more than any other color, it's important to counterbalance black's darkness with proper lighting. Overscaled chandeliers or pendants that combine black with metal not only break up an overall black color scheme but play with light on reflective surfaces.

Black-Painted Glass

Glass surfaces in black spaces also offer the chance to play with light. Back-painted glass can be done in almost any color; however, sticking with black offers the chance to switch up the look over time by just changing out the hardware.

Easy Reflections

One of the most glamorous pairings in design is the use of black with mirrors. In addition to taking on a Hollywood-glam look, mirrors bounce light around an all-black space. In this dining room's case, the mirror centered over the buffet makes the room feel much larger, mimicking the window it reflects.

Patterned Wallpaper

When it comes to wall covering, whether black paint or black wallpaper, as in this dining room's case, always take into consideration the impact that molding will have in relation to the wall covering. While leaving molding white may shift the attention away from the intended all-black look; painting it an accent color with too strong of a contrast can be too jarring. For proper balance, consider painting base molding, crown molding and casing either the same shade of black as the wallcovering or a shade or two lighter.

Pulling In Natural Light

When decorating with black, always take into consideration the room's source of natural light. If there is ample sunlight for most of the day, and adjacent rooms are painted a lighter color, the light will essentially bounce off of the walls and into the black space. This is a huge help in keeping a black room from feeling overly dark.

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