In the science world black may be the absence of all color, but when it comes to design black sings a different tune. Bold, glamorous, even earthy — black on the walls can be a bit of a chameleon. This makes it no surprise that with the rising popularity of deep hues, black is claiming ground — er…wall space — in every room of the house. It takes guts to go dark — especially in a small space — but every time a black wall pops up in a House Tour it sends many a reader and editor swooning. So, what scares us away from taking the plunge? Well, the most obvious reason is that few of us relish the thought of living in a dark dungeon, and just as few relish the thought of facing the task of painting over a black wall if we're displeased with the results.
So, how do you decide whether to go for it or not? As with most design-related questions, there's no one-size-fits-all rule, but there are some basic points that can help you decide whether you and your home can handle the dramatic look, and if so, which rooms can flaunt it best…
• How much time do you spend at home during the day? For most of us who don't work from home or work off-time shifts, the answer is probably just a little, in which case your concern should be focused on how well your wall colors react with artificial light rather than solely natural light. Black walls are often more forgiving of artificial light than light walls, which can look institutional under the wrong range of bulbs. Conversely, if you spend a fair amount of time at home during the day, think about going dark in a room that receives an ample amount of natural light.
• The balance of other light and dark furnishings in the room. Unless you're craving the cave feel, the best way to counter the weight of dark rooms is to let it breathe by adding light colored accessories and textiles. It's hard to go wrong with black walls and white fabrics. Likewise, gold is a perfect glamorous compliment to black— instant luxury! To lighten a dark room you can try other shiny or reflective surfaces like mirrors and glass, which counter the weight of the walls.
• Is the room in question lacking in architectural detail? A deep hue is the fastest way to compensate for a bland room. Beige wall-to-wall carpet looks dingy at best paired with white walls, but slap on a swathe of black paint, and your 70s box can start to feel a little glamorous. The same holds true for bland bathrooms or other small rooms that could use a little punch. Just make sure that you have enough light (artificial or otherwise) to compensate for the dark walls.
• Consider going heavy on textured and natural accents. Many of us regular people are more concerned with having a home that it comfortable and inviting than ultra sleek. So if the idea of an 80s bachelor pad makes you cringe, imagine bringing softer elements into the room. As you can see in Victoria's, of sfgirlbybay fame, apartment (pictures 2, 3 from RUE) black walls can look elegant and soft at the same time by adding natural elements like wood and potted plants. Like wise, heavily textured textiles like furs, soften the harshness of dark walls.
• Bring on the color! Black walls don't mean sacrificing color elsewhere. Like the little black dress, the big black wall will compliment just about any accessory, and can handle a fair amount of other colors in the same room.
Images: 1: Living Etc of Jenna Lyons apartment, 2, 3: Rue, 4: Molly Anderson for Apartment Therapy: SF, 5, 8: Lonny, 6: Domino, 7: Metropolitan Home, 9: Ikea, 10: Elle Decor