Using the Color of Contrast


Decorating with Black and White

Color is such an important part of design that we sometimes forget the power of simple contrasts. Black and white is a classic design theme that refuses to go away, even in a world dominated by a full spectrum of color choices.

The simplicity of black and white belies its complexity. Without multiple hues to choose, shape and texture become more important. Patterns, silhouettes, and interplay rise to the forefront when decorating with black and white.


Mulberry Tree from Thibaut

Keep It Simple

The trick to black and white is to use its simplicity to your advantage. Play with dominant themes, such as white cabinets with black handles in your kitchen or black sofas and love seats with white carpet in your living room. Patterns carry the themes further. Stripes can be narrow or wide, equal in width or favoring black or white. Patterns can be symmetrical, like a checkerboard, or random, like zebra stripes. The interplay of black and white can create a sense of movement or flow that becomes striking.

Traditionally, dark colors have been used to shrink space and light colors to expand it. Black and white have special properties that allow space to expand and contract in unusual ways. A black room may seem to grow as the walls appear boundless, while bordered white walls seem to contract.

black and white room
Ramsey Interiors | Photographer: Matt Kocourek

Add Accessories

Accessories help further themes of black and white by adding details and textures. The flatness of a black and white design creates a platform for textures to emerge. Pillows, lamps and picture frames can use the depth of texture to bring subtlety to rooms dominated by sharp contrasts. Tiles, appliance surfaces and wallcoverings can draw the eye in a playful way.

With strong black and white themes, simple touches have added power. The flames from a white fireplace seem to jump from its black interior. Green plants seem more alive when placed near white walls and flooring. Red pillows leap from white sofas, and magenta towels pop in a striped bathroom.

For all its simplicity, it may not be obvious how to incorporate the theme in our space. Start by looking at how others have used black and white in their homes; find a room that inspires you. The staff at your local paint store is a great resource as they deal with customers and colors every day.

In a Technicolor world, black and white can still thrill. Enjoy your exploration and celebrate the space you create using this classic theme.

Since Frank and Elizabeth Hirshfield opened their first store in 1894, it has been our mission to do the best job possible meeting customer needs and solving customer problems. Hirshfield’s. People and products you can trust.

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