A Minimalist's Guide to Designing With the Color Black
The perfect way to decorate using the color black.
Minimalism is the perfect trend to help us all maximize our lives with less. Our spirituality, our work, our diets and our beauty routines are all becoming more simplified. We’re streamlining our schedules by learning to say "no" more often. We’re devouring books like The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and giving up what no longer serves us (toxic relationships included). So it makes sense that home décor would follow suit. But following minimalist design principles doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice personality or avoid making bold choices. In fact, one of the hottest minimalist trends right now is to use the color black. Don’t be afraid; black doesn’t have to look goth. Here are a few easy ways to incorporate black into your minimalist aesthetic.
1. The Kitchen
Black-and-White Kitchen With Open Floor Plan
Black cabinets, island and dining table bring dramatic flair to the bright white walls and marble floors in this open floor plan kitchen. Gold pendant lights bring a touch of metallic over the sleek, built-in dining table, and the entire space opens up to the living room, making it perfect for entertaining.
Crisp white cabinets and countertops immediately look clean, modern, minimalist, and at times, super boring. Instead go super luxe, by opting for all black. Using gold accessories immediately lightens up this space, really making it feel inviting and instantly updating the room, giving it tons of personality. How can you do this and still keep it minimal? Your mixer, dish towels, rugs, canisters and the like should all stick to this simple color palette. And don’t keep anything out that you don’t use on a daily basis! If you want to take on a larger project, subtle, marble grout in a tile backsplash can also make a big impact.
2. The Living Room
Gray, Modern Living Room in Renovated Farmhouse
Paneled walls add structure, dimension and a bit of modern panache to the living room of this charming New York farmhouse. During the historic home's full-scale renovation, the design team raised ceiling heights, opened up the floor plan and updated the house with a contemporary color palette and modern furnishings, like the sofa and chairs in this comfortable, livable space.
This room probably gets a lot of use, but not a lot of design attention. (And it should get a lot of use, instead of seeming like a cold, sterile showroom.) Going minimalist is about providing space for life versus cluttering every corner of the room and every surface with stuff. Remember that you can also use other colors with black, but combining bold colors will become distracting. Using warm tan or camel, for example, can automatically make the room feel cozier. If you just want a pop of black, consider adding small, black end tables; thin, black picture frames; an area rug with black in it; a blanket with black in it; black and white photography; and/or black lamps. If you’d rather go big, scrap the black accessories and opt for a black couch (and don’t be afraid to get a genuinely comfortable one, instead of a mid-century modern one strictly for the clean lines).
Edgy Farmhouse Look
Farrow & Ball’s Black Blue paint instantly updates this farmhouse reading nook, adding modern character to the existing woodwork. "We like these dark colors with a subtle sheen on woodwork because it brings out the depth of a paneled wall," says designer Rafe Churchill of Hendricks Churchill LLC. "It’s especially nice on hand-planed boarding or beadboard paneling."
Luxury + Drama
Black lower walls and a black ceiling accentuate the gorgeous floral wallpaper in this small powder room. "The black really adds drama and surprise to an otherwise dull space," says interior designer Corine Maggio. She says the wallpaper brings soft elegance to the look, while gold finishes add a touch of luxury.
In certain design scenarios, black is the smartest color choice. It effortlessly highlights light-hued artwork and overlooked architecture. "We always knew the focal point of this room would be the custom neon art piece we were designing for our clients," says interior designer Jenn Feldman. "The black backdrop was our immediate first thought to make the art pop, creating a dark, bold and saturated canvas to let the neon piece truly shine." The black paint also accentuates the room’s beautiful white moldings.
The striking, high-contrast design in this contemporary kitchen is all about balance. "We made a bold statement by using [black] on the focal wall of the kitchen," says architect Nicole Jui of TerraCotta Design Build. "We had a large, open space with a lot of natural light, along with light cabinets and countertops, that provided perfect balance."
Mudcloth-inspired wallpaper and bursts of vibrant color energize this black home office from HGTV Magazine. A light-toned area rug softens the space, offsetting the intensity of the dark walls.
Crisp white and jet black combine for an edgy, high-contrast look in this bedroom. Once again, the black wall serves as the perfect, saturated backdrop for neon artwork. A patterned area rug featuring muted color tones adds an unexpected touch, mellowing the overall design.
Spa Bathroom Serenity
While many people are afraid to try black in a bathroom, interior designer Shannon McLaren Wilson of PRAIRIE says it’s an excellent choice. "The black actually creates a dramatic and intimate bathroom space," she says. The other half of this room boasts white subway tile to keep the space from feeling too heavy.
Dark walls work great to visually separate spaces and moods within a house. "The office walls were painted black to create a moody den that felt separate from the rest of the home," Shannon says. "We used natural woods to balance out the richness from the paint."
Layers of Texture
The dynamic use of texture in this home office ensures the dark-hued space is both livable and interesting. Soft elements, like the faux furs and sheer curtains, offer a sense of whimsy and warmth, while cool, sleek elements, like the clean-lined table and chrome chandelier, lend a touch of futuristic flair.
Shiplap Goes Modern
Freshly milled boards with crisp, black paint give this shiplap accent wall a modern edge that its reclaimed, white-painted counterpart can’t match. This modern farmhouse look pairs well with earthy materials like natural wood and terra cotta.
Classic Yet Trendy
High-gloss black cabinets steal the show in this clean-lined kitchen. "Black is bold and masculine and contrasts perfectly with white walls and matte and polished brass fixtures," says interior designer Laura Umansky. Though the black-and-white palette is classic, brass accents add a trendy vibe to the space.
While the bold black wall color makes this room feel hip and modern, carefully selected accents ensure it still feels cozy and whimsical. "Incorporating softer touches in texture and color, like the sheepskin rug, sculptural wall hangings and stuffed animals, along with copper accents, really balanced out the chic look I was going for when incorporating black in Rocco's nursery," says interior designer Katherine Carter.
Small Space Solution
"If a room doesn’t get any (or much) natural light, it’s often our instinct to try to make it feel brighter," says interior designer Allison Lind. "But a small, dark room is always going to be a small dark room, so I say embrace it!" She says matte black walls create interest and drama while accentuating the coziness of a small space. "When mixed with some lighter, natural tones and textures layered in, it will feel like a rich retreat," she adds.
Black’s Best Sidekicks
Black pairs surprisingly well with a wide range of colors, one being navy. "If you want to add a bit of edge to a space, definitely incorporate black with the more traditional colors of navy and white," says designer Lauren Nelson. "All three pair really well together and give a modern, fresh feel to any room." She also suggests incorporating plenty of light hues to keep the look balanced.
Design By: Lauren Nelson
With velvet, brass and faux fur, this ultra-chic living room combines some of the hottest design trends, so it's no surprise to see a generous dose of black on the ceiling. People often worry that a dark ceiling will make a room feel smaller, but here it actually makes the ceiling feel taller. Bright, white walls help to create this illusion.
FLO Design Studio chose a charred black wall to help ground this oversized bedroom while bringing texture to the space. Megan Tagliaferri, principal of FLO, says she’s seeing more black used in interior design lately. "It is a great parlay from the industrial design trend into the Scandinavian design trend that is happening more and more."
Black walls and floors help to create a hip, urban feel in this master bathroom. White subway tile brightens the space, while a sleek wood vanity lends a splash of warmth. The use of mixed metals is totally on-trend, providing a fitting finishing touch.
Eclectic in Ebony
The ebony black wall in this eclectic living room creates an immediate sense of intimacy and depth. Earthy, neutral tones balance the dark wall, and punches of bold, bohemian-inspired color infuse the space with life.
"Black works in this home because the color palette ties perfectly into the architecture," says Jerry Hooker, principal of Mirador Group. "Everything from the ceiling details to the decor and color palette is a modern take on neoclassical architecture." He says black works best when there’s meaning behind its use. Whether it’s carrying out a style of architecture or carrying out a decorating theme, he believes the color should tell a story. "Here, there is history and a heart behind an otherwise modern space."
Interior designer Sarah Wittenbraker pulled the dark, inky wall color in this master retreat from the patterned drapery. "The deep navy is cozy and moody, without being as aggressive as a true black," Sarah says. "Plus, it creates a great backdrop to make the drapery and chrome bed pop." She says dark, almost-black wall colors help to instantly evoke a mood.
3. The Home Office
The first thing you may think of when it comes to your office is your desk. Consider a sleek, well-structured, black desk. Or better yet, one that incorporates dark wood and gold to modernize it. Today’s minimalism is also often about bringing in natural elements like wood finishes and live plants. You can also use most of the same principles used to decorate the living room in your office with the addition of black office supplies. As with the kitchen, however, only keep out items you use regularly or the room will feel cluttered. Our favorite way to bring black into a minimalist office is to paint a single statement wall and keep everything else light.