This Is the Unexpected Color Combo Designers Love Most

updated Jun 14, 2021
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image

The right color combo can provide more than just an eye-catching interior scene, it can bring depth and dimension to a monochrome space. “High contrast really adds interest in an interior,” says interior designer Kristin Nix. “Incorporating a dynamic color combination into a neutral space can elevate an entire room when you’re designing on a budget.”

While there’s no shortage of interesting and unexpected color combos to experiment with in a room, there’s one surprising combination that designers say they defer to time and time again. “Black and white is fantastic because it’s all about tension and juxtaposition, balance and harmony,” says interior designer Tiffany Leigh. “My eye tends to gravitate to white spaces, but without black to ground it, a room can feel like it’s floating away. There’s a timeless, neutral essence to black and white that will never go out of style.”

Sure, it may seem like the obvious choice, but because black and white is such a classic and expected color palette pairing, it makes it all the more surprising to see it used in fresh new ways. “Black and white feels nostalgic yet modern,” says interior designer Maureen Stevens. “It’s dramatic and simple at the same time.”

Interested in integrating this classic color combo into your home in a contemporary way? From choosing complementary accent colors to tips for pairing it with prints, here’s how interior designers recommend decorating with black and white. 

Credit: Heather Hawkins courtesy of Studio Ten 25

Use a black and white rug to ground a space

When used correctly, Abbe Fenimore of Studio Ten 25 says that black and white can help anchor a lofty space while moonlighting as the focal point of the room. “I love using black and white to ground a space, especially with pieces that are the main staples for the design,” she explains. “A black and white rug can center a high-contrast room without disrupting the visual balance.” 

Credit: Patrick Biller courtesy of Tiffany Leigh Design

Incorporate black accent pieces into a monochrome scheme

To create a subtle sense of contrast in an all-white room, Leigh recommends incorporating small but impactful pops of black throughout the space. “The easiest way to implement black and white into your scheme is to paint your walls white, and then introduce smaller hits of black like a black floor lamp, black hardware, or a black coffee table,” she explains.

Credit: Michael Hunter courtesy of Kristin Nix Interiors

Play with tonal hues

For a sophisticated riff on a traditional black and white color palette, Nix suggests layering in decor items in gradient tones of either hue. “Shades like ivory, ecru, and taupe can really play up brighter whites in the room, while various shades of gray can soften bold black accents while still adding to the tension.” 

Credit: Emily Hart courtesy of Studio Ten 25

Have fun with bold accent colors

Don’t let the contrasting shades fool you, Fenimore says just about any color of the rainbow can complement a black and white palette. “Any bold color combinations will get my vote when it comes to working with black and white,” she explains. “Lavender and coral, or any combination of pink, have become my latest go-tos for a sophisticated look, but for a bold and modern look, jewel tones, like amethyst and emerald green, are my favorite accent colors.” 

Credit: Kayla Stark courtesy of Maureen Stevens

Integrate black and white decor accents

If you aren’t into the idea of a full-blown black and white color palette, Stevens says you can sprinkle some black and white decor objects into the room for an equally impactful effect. “Black and white accent pieces, such side chairs, vases, and art or wallpaper can breathe fresh life into a space without overpowering the room,” she explains.