Not-So-Basic Black header

PH Artichoke Pendant by Poul Henningsen for Louis Poulsen.

Looks We Love:
Not-So-Basic Black

Timeless and trendy at once, black is here to stay. Discover the interior design tips
and tricks to incorporating this all-important shade in almost any space.

Black is back, not that it ever truly went away. This perennial favorite is a classic in the fashion world (little black dress, anyone?) and a staple in a range of home design aesthetics. But every decade or so, we see a resurgence in the use of dramatic black features in interior design. So how do interior designers use black without recreating the Addams Family look? Read on to find out how to incorporate varying levels of black in any design scheme.

Statement Pieces

Far from a black Czech-crystal chandelier with all its associated Gothic vibes, a black lighting fixture can punctuate a space without overwhelming it. Statement pieces in otherwise light and bright rooms are best when the design is delicate. Look for complementary design elements, like the slim lines in the seen above, compared with the wire-framed chairs. Although the light is the only black element in this space, the airy silhouette keeps the color from dragging down the room's design.

Alternately, in a mostly light room with a few black pieces, choose standout lighting that is a focal point in its own right. Geometric designs command attention, like in the Art Deco-inspired pieces above, giving the eye a strong shape to behold.

Tech as a Focal Point

If you want to get in on the trend but just don’t want to commit, try using portable pieces and tech items as accents. A sleek, black, that goes anywhere can’t be beat for style and convenience, and it can complement such tech as your clock or smartphone for a Silicon Valley insider feel.

A cool black task chair can also give a strong techie impression while setting its user apart in shared spaces. Especially in contrast with more traditional mid-century elements, a appears that much more futuristic while offering all the benefits of an ergonomically designed throne.

Pick Up on Other Elements

Use black as your primary accent color by tying in a functional piece with decor. A might have seemed out of place in a lofty living room, but the gears on the shelves complement the design with a steampunk feel that isn’t too on-the-nose.

Similarly, the slim black trim around these windows creates depth in the white walls, and the slender black lines are repeated in an all-black coffee table, multi-color rug and fluttery black chandelier. Even the little legs on the chair and ottoman pick up the thinness of these black elements, tying the color together visually and leaving room for other palettes to breathe.

Shades of Black

Black can appear black-ish, especially when lit. A glossy versus matte finish changes your black light or furniture’s appearance, as can internal light sources or ambient lighting from windows. This can work in your favor with an otherwise subdued palette. Above, the glare-free light inside the pendant lends a charcoal-gray gradient color to the shiny metal leaves, softening the black finish for use with a predominantly muted pink room.

Even blacks of similar saturation can appear as slightly different colors. In an eclectic design, mixing different black tones can create a dynamic look, particularly when a variety of textures are used. If your palette is defined by other colors, however, it is usually best to select blacks with the same undertones to avoid clashes. Look for the undertone of the black you’re considering when using with other colors, and stay in the same cool or warm color family.

Textural Touches

Black isn’t always glossy finishes and slick surfaces. A more natural look can suit a range of design styles, and a textured treatment adds depth to the color selection. Whether wood tones show through, as in a weathered finish above, solid black textures are layered on each other or a deep rug pile, the added dimension brings black out of the shadows.

All-Out Drama

Using a lot of black in a design can be utterly sophisticated rather than scary. Keeping the selections modern and artful can balance the use of such a strong shade, while remaining plenty dramatic. Gold accents in this example go a long way toward refining the look.

Though it may not be intuitive at first, using black really is all about balance. In this predominantly black space, the delicacy of the offsets the imposing black painted walls and doors, and the different finishes on the paint, furniture and light fixture gently contrast with and complement each other at once.

Finishing Touches

As a supporting element, black is a classic and timeless choice that will withstand all the other trends your spaces see come and go. While a bold shade, black can also be the safe choice as it tends not to suffer the same ups and downs as other fashion colors. This makes it an ideal choice for home decor items like planters, since the main focus will be on the plants inside. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a sculptural base for artistic aesthetic whether you have a green thumb or not.

A minimalist design is also a great way to incorporate black into a room design. Just a taste of black anchors a design that could otherwise get lost on a vast wall. This example also picks up on the table lamp’s black cord, making a necessity of design appear deliberate.

As with most concepts in interior design, there is no end-all, be-all rule regarding how to use black. It’s a strong shade that can be incorporated into almost any design scheme with a whisper or a scream, and its strength in your design will be subjective. No matter how much or how little you choose to incorporate, you can’t go wrong with black.