10 Bright Ideas for Decorating With Bold Black

You don’t have to live in a Gothic novel to bring this rich and versatile shade to your home. Here are 10 inspiring ways to use black to add modern drama, inside and out.

By: Amanda Lecky

Photo By: Design by GSA Architects; Photo by Nate Grant

Photo By: Design by Bryant Alsop, Photo by Rhiannon Slatter

Photo By: Caitlin Murray

Photo By: Allison Corona Photography, Let It Shine Photography, Doug Petersen Photography

Photo By: Douglas Hill Photography

Photo By: Design by Awad + Koontz Architects Builders; Photo by Troy Gustafson Photography

Photo By: Design by Jodie Rosen Design; Photo by Stephani Buchman

Photo By: Jennifer Boomer/Getty Images

Photo By: Design by Stephanie Wilson Design; Photo by Shelley Hoffman

Take it Outside

Black isn’t only for interiors: It’s a bold, modern choice for exteriors of every style, too. “The black exterior allows this house to blend into its dark, forested surroundings while providing a bold contrast to the colorful foliage and bright interior,” say the architects at GSA Architects. “Painting the vertical tongue and groove siding a dark color helps hide the joints between boards, giving the siding a more homogenous and minimal look. Make sure to use a satin exterior paint to avoid accumulating too much dirt on the siding.”

Create a Bold Backdrop

Museums and galleries may display art against stark, white walls, but black can showcase favorite pieces even better. Case in point, this contemporary space designed by architect Bryant Alsop. “Walls and cabinetry in Dulux paints’ Domino color creates visual depth and provides a moody backdrop for the client’s artwork and furniture,” he says. “Extending almost the entire length of the house, the color provides a unifying element connecting each of the individual spaces.”

Let In the Light

Black walls look dramatic in any room, but unless the space has plenty of natural light—like this sun-drenched home office, for example—the color can make a space seem smaller. Balance the light-absorbing qualities of black paint by balancing with plenty of white, as designer Caitlyn Murray has here. And don’t forget some rich texture: In this home office, velvet, lacquer, and rattan add interest.

Pick One Wall

If an all-black bedroom seems like too much of a commitment to the dark side, consider painting just the wall behind the headboard as designer Judith Balis did in this airy bedroom. The effect is at once modern and glamorous, especially if you incorporate plenty of contrast with splashes of white or another pale color.

Mix Black, White—and Green

“Black and white is a classic combination that I will always love,” says designer Brooke Wagner. “Using greenery in a high-contrast black and white room is a great way to soften it up a little, while still keeping the palette neutral.”

Fool the Eye

Painting the walls, ceiling, and trim the same, dark shade—in this case, black—can make a space seem larger because the eye perceives nearly endless depth when uninterrupted by color transitions. Here, a mix of high contrast (white) elements and rich earth tones creates an elegant, cozy, and eclectic look.

From: Robert Brown

Add Dark Definition

Using black as an accent color on the exterior helps draw attention to architectural details like windows, doors, and trim, and, as the team at Awad + Koontz Architects Builders notes, “gives a modern touch to a traditional home.”

Try Small Doses

“Using black for interiors can be scary as it’s usually associated with being dark or depressing,” says designer Jodie Rosen. Her advice: “Using hits of black as an accent is a great way to elevate a space and emphasize elements of the design. In this case, we used black on the trim around the range to make the area a focal point and then repeated the black in the oversized fixtures, stools, and the metal detailing on the island.”

Do the Unexpected

Joanna Gaines is well known for her love of white-painted shiplap paneling. But here she gave her trademark wall treatment a very different look by painting newly milled paneling black, giving it a more contemporary look than traditional reclaimed shiplap typically has.

Elevate the Deck

Sure, a stained wood deck is nice, but treat it to a coat of black paint and the look becomes significantly more elegant. “Black is versatile and dramatic,” says designer Stephanie Wilson. “Here, the black decking and rail acts as a strong base for the white walls and window trim; the black French doors tie the decking and the walls together and adds a lovely element of symmetry.”