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COLIN AND JUSTIN: Black, white combo a hot trend again

Successful monochrome isn’t always about painting everything black and white. Competent design is about clever layering, so balance paint with other schematics like wallpapers, ebony furniture, monochrome artworks and beautiful rugs.
Successful monochrome isn’t always about painting everything black and white. Competent design is about clever layering, so balance paint with other schematics like wallpapers, ebony furniture, monochrome artworks and beautiful rugs. - 123RF Stock Photo

“If you want to make beautiful music,” quipped Richard Nixon, “you must play black and white notes together.” Contextually speaking, the former U.S. president was attempting to obliterate prejudice but, within the decorating oeuvre, his statement, as far as we see it, works similarly well.

Little wonder, then, the pairing of black and white is once again such a hot trend. As a calming response, perhaps, to the vibrant colouration of which we’ve seen so much of during the last 12 months. Hmm: isn’t everything cyclical?

Yup, we love monochrome. From Mother Nature’s deft landscapes (think chalky moons in ebony skies and snow-capped Jasper mountains) to the man-made (Mapplethorpe snaps, for example, or the pages upon which our written words float), black and white play a huge role in life.

The two-tone combo, however, isn’t the only pairing that can be correctly labelled monochrome. Strictly speaking, monochrome is the state that arises as a result of playing any two colours together. So red and blue, arranged simultaneously, could – technically – be described as monochrome, as could pink and yellow. We could go on ...

To appease those who enjoy the art of splitting hairs, we should accord black its literal description. Here’s the science bit – the dramatic colour isn’t actually a colour at all, it’s the state during which an absolute lack of light is present. And white, conversely, is the polar opposite.

Factual observations flagged, we couldn’t live without the two colours; our schemes, indeed, would have considerably less pop were they to disappear. To bring your project alive, the following pointers should help…

It ain’t all about paint

Successful monochrome isn’t always about painting everything black and white. Competent design is about clever layering, so balance paint with other schematics like wallpapers, ebony furniture, monochrome artworks and beautiful rugs.

In the frame

Paint trim deepest ebony to frame your project, and use lashings of white to assist in the provision of background and foreground.

Threesome

Black and white – in isolation – can seem austere, so make a habit of employing a third tone to provide the eye with somewhere to go. In many cases, it simply looks better and more balanced.

Moderate costs, ahead of time

Monochrome is a wonderful backdrop with which to future proof. As time passes, add decorative elements (cushions, art works, feature walls etc.) to seasonally adjust your world. As we see it, the most effective schemes are those that can be tailored – without large expense – on an ongoing basis.

Period piece

Statement furniture will bolster your monochrome interior, so plunder the past to move forward. The classic lines of a Corbusier lounger, for example, or a black leather Mies Van der Rohe Barcelona Chair, will suffuse your project with added drama.  

Opt for flexible lighting

As Vincent Van Gogh proclaimed; “I often think night is more alive and more richly coloured than day.” Running with this, a sure fire way to massage mood is via clever illumination. Switch things up with coloured bulbs, or by searching out lamps with sequential colour pattern. Options such as these are now surprisingly affordable and a great way of painting at the flick of a switch. 

Texture

To add depth to monochrome, play around with texture and pattern. Consider leather trimmed throws, open weave blankets, chenille pillows or wall coverings with elevated pattern. In Miami recently, we saw loads of flock paper; yup, it’s on its way back and looks great when composed in black and white. Feeling brave? Seek out walloping great damasks (for commanding feature zones) or, if more subtly inclined, consider smaller crested patterns for overall application. 

Various guises

If you find pure white or black daunting, choose a knocked off tone to soften proceedings. When selecting black, we like Benjamin Moore Soot. Imbued with the faintest grey tinge, it’s all about restrained dram. If composing a monochrome scheme – where you need a hint of brown – try Farrow and Ball’s Railings 31. Antique White by Dulux is another good choice; with a cosy undercurrent, it’s utterly dreamy.

Our master class complete, we hope you’re feeling sufficiently emboldened, monochromatically speaking. As self-confessed human kaleidoscopes (with a personal colour index prone to high drama) we’ll admit there’s something reassuring about black and white. And so, Richard Nixon’s quote still ringing in our ears, perhaps it’s time to impeach ... all other colour combinations?

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