A Guide to Modern Decorating With Black & 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.
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
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.
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 modern 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.
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.
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.
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 modern 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.