A Guide to Decorating with Black and White | Articulate

A Guide to Decorating With Black and White

What do old films, zebras, and some of the most stunning interiors on the planet have in common? They’re all defined by a black and white color palette. 

As the ultimate symbol of balance, black and white work together to create a timeless look that can evolve with your personal style. Whether you’re into a rich and glamorous look or prefer a more minimalist Scandinavian aesthetic, a black and white color palette brings sophistication and style to your space. This contrasting look is highly versatile — and hard to mess up. 

In this post, we’ll explore some of our favorite black and white spaces, and show you how to create your own monochromatic paradise. 

A graphic black and white rug is shown in a living space with a white Article sofa and black armchairs.
This upscale resort creates a black and white paradise for their guests using the Lento Lounge Chairs, Timber Sofa, and a graphic black and white rug.

How to decorate with black and white

Not all black and white spaces are created equal. While the color palette may be the same, the look and feel of a room can be drastically different depending on how it’s styled. 

Before you go for a full black and white look, you’ll need to establish what mood you’re aiming for. If black and white decor were a spectrum, you’d see glamorous, Old Hollywood on one end and simple minimalism on the other — plus countless iterations in-between. 

For example, in a glam, statement-making black and white space you’ll likely see:

  • High-contrast, crisp, and stark shades of black and white (think Arctic white and a deep, midnight black)
  • Bold patterns and prints
  • Shiny and lush textures (think marble, lacquer, and velvet)
  • Lustrous metal accents 
Two Article black leather armchairs are shown in a living room space with a gold cube side table.
Jen of Burlap and Sea accents her black leather Otio Lounge Chairs with graphic pillows and metallic brass accents for a transitional glam look.

At the other end of the spectrum, minimal, Scandinavian black and white is often defined by:

  • Softer contrasts between shades (creams and ivories with inky blacks and charcoals)
  • Solid black and white accents (as opposed to bold, graphic patterns)
  • Natural textures such as woods, marbles, and leathers
  • Sleek, matte black metals

Already leaning towards one look? Good. Once you have an idea  which end of the style spectrum feels right for you, it’s much easier to make decisions when picking out  other design elements. 

A black and white living room is shown, with two black armchairs, a white sofa, and a leather tufted bench as a coffee table.
On the softer side of things, Shelby of Urban + Gray Home layers textures and materials in her black and white space. The wood accents of the black Lento Lounge Chairs bring warmth, while the leather and scale of the Level Bench keep things grounded.

Scale

When it comes to designing with black and white, size matters. The scale of your different shades will make a big impact on how your room looks and feels. 

For instance, if you’ve got all-white or cream walls, a white sofa, and a white rug — and a black powder-coated steel coffee table or a black wall mirror — your look will still have a mostly light and airy, minimalist feel. 

If you believe bolder is better, you might go for a  graphic black-and-white wallpaper, or a black accent wall and a black leather sectional, keeping only your smaller decor pieces white. This will lend a moodier, more dramatic feel to your space. This type of room definitely makes a statement, and shows that you’re not afraid of a little mystery. 

A living room features a baby sleeping in a bassinet, along with two white armchairs and a black sofa.
Shauna of Quentin and Co. has perfected the art of scale with the Sven Oxford Black Sofa. As her space uses soothing cream and ivory tones, along with the light wood accent of the Brezza Coffee Table and baby bassinet, she’s able to achieve an airy, minimalist look.

Texture and materials 

A monochromatic room (or home) is the perfect neutral backdrop when it comes to texture. Add a soft, woven floor covering like the Alabaster Upsa Rug to bring coziness, or an art-deco inspired brass floor lamp to amp up the glam factor in any black and white space. 

When you start with a black and white foundation, adding woods and organic-toned leathers softens the contrast between the two shades. For example, the Madera Dining Table is built from solid oak that’s finished in a deep Smoke color. The darker hue can ground a space, but the visible wood grain keeps it from looking harsh amongst more minimalist decor.

Woods in their natural hues can also give the eye a break when looking at a high-contrast black and white space, which can sometimes be a lot for our brains to take in. Natural accents like a wood sideboard or bookshelf help break up the look.   

A dining room features black Svelti Dining Chairs and a wooden dining table
The mix of wood grain from the Madera Oak Dining Table and textured shiplap on the walls, creates the perfect backdrop for the black Svelti Dining Chairs in Stacy of Mountainside Home’s space.

Pops of color

“But I thought this was a post about black and white decor?” Okay, you’re not wrong, but sometimes the best design moments come with an element of surprise. 

When you have a mostly black and white space and add a punch of color, you put the spotlight on that particular hue and piece. 

A brown leather Article sofa sits in a loft living room.
With the black and white plaid Savary Lounge Chair, Tromso Coffee Table, Meno Lounge Chair, and neutral-toned Mello Sofa, the addition of a cornflower blue throw makes a colorful statement.

Imagine a completely black and white space with the addition of a green velvet lounge chair. Absolutely divine, darling. Think about what colors bring you the most joy, and look for a way to incorporate these as design elements into your black and white space. It could be as small as a green velvet pillow set added to your bed or sofa, or as grande as a pink headboard when the rest of your space is black and white. 

Whether you’re ready to go all the way with a full black and white color scheme, or you just want to dip your toe in the monochromatic waters, it’s easy to see why this classic combo is such a popular choice. With scale, texture, pattern, and a pop of color in mind, you’re equipped with everything you need to create a black and white space that’s anything but boring. 

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