The color black works magic


In interior design, black is as dramatic as it is in couture. Think of classic Audrey Hepburn - the little black dress, the perfect pair of black pumps, the quilted black Chanel bag or the sporty black petal pushers.

Casual to dressy, there isn’t anything that doesn’t look good in black - and the same goes for interiors.

To some, black may seem to be the most somber color, but it also can create definition, lend a striking contrast and provide an anchor in a room. The elegance of black in an interior creates a sophisticated feel with even the most minimal accents.

Black has a way of showing up in the most traditional rooms to the very contemporary. Black lacquer coffee tables and side tables work well in contemporary interiors because of their elegance, simplicity and unobtrusiveness in a room. That sleek and sophisticated appeal of black is also very dramatic in granite, tiles, slate and other hard surface materials.

One of my favorite spots is the Ralph Lauren store on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue, aka The Magnificent Mile. The home furnishings department is always my first stop.

Last December, it was decorated beautifully for the holidays, but what stood out was the brilliant use of black suede fabric covering the walls in one of the vignettes. I had to rub my hand across the wall to make sure it was really what it looked like. Accented with white molding, bold plaid fabrics and a very gutsy leather sleigh bed, it was contemporary chic holding hands with traditional, handsome elements.

The classic combination of black and white never goes out of style. Tweed, houndstooth, and graphic patterns in black and white are showing up everywhere in the showrooms. These 1930s and 1940s designs are modern, very compelling and back in vogue.

Fortunately, black and white provide the perfect background for another color - even if it’s in limited amounts. For instance, mix black and white with red for an unbeatable knockout punch. In a black and white bathroom, add bright yellow accents or towels. For an upscale French country look, use elegant black and white striped fabric on draperies and upholstery, and mix with black and white toile. It’s a sure winner.

Penelope’s Style Tips

  • Use black picture frames and mats to draw attention to art and photographs.
  • Mix black accents to create a striking contrast and definition in a room.
  • Update a lamp with a black lampshade for a dramatic and sophisticated look.
  • Use upholstery pieces and accent pillows in black and white graphic patterns to bring big impact to a room.
  • Add black lacquer accent tables or accessories for glamour and elegance.