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Life is better in black and white

From the Resene decorating blog

Most of Resene’s top selling 20 colours are versions of white which makes sense given the dominance of this colour in today’s interior designs – especially when preparing a house for sale where white gives a crisp clean background on which prospective buyers can envision their own furnishings.

Many of the ‘whites’ in Resene’s top 20 parade are actually tinged with another colour, coming in, in its purest shade at number nine, Resene Black. In fact, the top spot is taken out by Resene Black White with ever popular, Resene Alabaster, relegated to second place.

A black and white themed living area with pops of colour

In this living area, the back wall painted in Resene Nocturnal is softened and contrasted with the linen sofa and raffia rug on the plywood floor finished in Resene Colorwood Whitewash to set a general black and white theme. The space is then given a playful bach treatment, achieved by introducing a mix of colours – a side wall in a pastel blue, Resene Ashanti, and retro coffee tables painted in Resene Sakura (pink) and Resene Ashanti (aqua). A bold pop of colour is introduced by way of an old retro sideboard given an eye-catching overhaul in Resene Space Cadet (blue) and Resene Gorse (yellow). Sofa and armchair from Freedom, rug from The Ivy House, sunglasses and sunscreen from Good Thing, Modular in Yellow artwork by Inaluxe from Endemic World. Project by Kate Alexander, image by Bryce Carleton.

Black has been the perfect partner to white since time immemorial. Cue the lyrics to Stevie Wonder’s hit song ‘Ebony and Ivory live together in perfect harmony’ and look to nature with the striking strips of the zebra, so arresting that we use them in our urban landscapes to safely usher pedestrians across our roads. In the home, a black and white scheme works in every room and is a versatile and simple scheme that will lend itself to almost every decorating style from farmhouse to Parisian chic.

Embracing monochrome

A ‘monochromatic’ scheme is the use of one colour and either lightening the shade with white or darkening it with black. While this type of interior design scheme has since been expanded to encompass all manner of colours, black and white is the original monochromatic decorating style, as versatile as it is timeless. The combination of black and white can be as bold a statement as it's possible to make, especially when stripes are brought into the picture. But a black and white scheme doesn't have to be in your face – it can also be subdued and subtle. It all depends on the ratio between the two colours, the particular intensity of each colour that you choose and the tonal differences between them, whether you opt for a gloss or matt finish and the colours and textures in the furnishings that you use to complete the room.

Learning from the Tudors

Look to English Tudor style for the popular and striking use of black on exterior and interior woodwork to make it stand out from a white background. Dating back to the period of architecture between 1485 and 1558, the Tudor style has since made its way around the globe, cropping everywhere from Malaysia’s Grampian Highlands to the American state of Texas, often signalling wealth.

A courtyard with a monochrome backdrop

In this courtyard a monochrome backdrop is achieved with a fence in Resene All Black, contrasted with the house wall on the right painted in Resene Double Truffle to echo the concrete pavers of the courtyard, which have been finished in Resene Concrete Stain Bleached Grey. This courtyard is then dressed and enlivened with pops of turquoise blues and greens with Resene Dauntless for the upcycled pallet table and Resene Ziggurat, Resene Java and Resene Dali for the pots for a style that is the perfect place to relax on lazy summer days. Project by Claudia Kozub, image by Melanie Jenkins.

The traditional pairing of black and white is today a thoroughly contemporary treatment with black a popular choice for modern exteriors. Strong true blacks such as Resene All Black or Resene Black are good choices but if you like a very slightly softer look try Resene Gumboot. The Tudors opted for clear, crisp whites but if you are choosing a slightly softer black, you could pair that with a slightly softer, warmer off-white such as Resene Half Pearl Lusta.

Elegant kitchens and bathrooms

In the kitchen, black and white can make a bold statement. Think about glossy black cabinetry paired with marble or stone worktops or the reverse with fashion-forward white cabinetry and a glossy black glass splashback or an intricate black and white pattern on a tiled splashback. Black and white is also popular in bathrooms where you can use black grout with brick-shaped ‘subway’ white tiles or cloak a vintage bath in matt black. Painting the elements in the bathroom is a good way to create a cosy, cocooning feel in the smallest room in the house.

A minimalist’s dream

While black and white can work with almost any decorating style, the simplicity of the pairing and the crisp lines achieved are a minimalist’s dream. It is very hard for this colour combination to work well in a cluttered space – it is best enjoyed when the juxtaposition of the colours can be fully enjoyed with a little space around features. A black and white scheme can also work very well in an open plan home, unifying the space as a whole with different treatments designating the different purposes to each zone, for example, using an intricately patterned black and white Resene wallpaper in the lounge and colour blocking in the kitchen and dining area.

Adding pops of colour

You don’t have to stay true to the monochromatic look throughout the space, to add a little variation you can add interest with pops of colour. This can be achieved using a natural colour such as terracotta or stained timber to bring the scheme down to earth or with elements of gold or copper to elevate the scheme to the realms of opulence. Grey is also a natural fit, diluting the boldness of pure black and white to add interest and depth. Pure reds such as Resene Code Red or the brighter Resene Del Toro and deep pinks like Resene Colour Me Pink will also pop nicely against a black and white scheme. Another colour that naturally works is any shade of blue – a calming crisp colour that adds balance to a black and white scheme.

Flipping the script

It is more usual to use white as the main colour and black as an accent but it is entirely viable to reverse this if your space receives enough natural light. Contrary to popular belief, painting your walls an inky black hue won't necessarily make it feel smaller. In fact, it usually has the opposite effect, making it feel larger. The other attraction of a black and white scheme is that it is a gender neutral scheme so it might be a good option for a master or guest bedroom or even a gender neutral nursery for a scheme that will be timeless and won’t need to be changed as a child ages.

A living area with a conservatory feel

This living area is given a conservatory feel with a round mirror framed and inset in Resene Nero to resemble a window.

The black and white theme is achieved with a black chair and white cushion which is then softly complemented with wood panelling in Resene Double Merino and a tall planter painted in Resene Enamacryl tinted to Resene Quarter Merino. The floor is painted in Resene Foggy Grey with Resene FX Paint Effects Medium coloured with Resene Quarter Merino. Offering further contrast is the left wall in Resene Quarter Karaka, complemented by a small planter and cork stool in Resene Quarter Crisp Green. Stool from Jardin. Project by Kate Alexander, image by Bryce Carleton.

A black and white living space

In this living space a black metal-framed console, mood lamp and velvety chair is contrasted with a wall in Resene Half Stack.

The monochrome theme is then given added layers with the addition of soft greys. The console top is painted in Resene Half Grey Friars and the circle on the wall in Resene Silver Chalice. Lamp from Citta. Project by Vanessa Nouwens, image by Wendy Fenwick.

Gloss or flat

When choosing whether to use a gloss or matt (flat) paint finish, think about where you are using the paint and what your desired look is. Gloss paints, like Resene Enamacryl, are more reflective and the colour tends to be brighter and more intense. Gloss finishes are also easier to clean so it is a useful option for doors and handrails so that fingerprints can be easily wiped away. The reflective nature might also be good on an accent wall or to maximise light when it enters the room. One caveat is that gloss tends to more easily highlight imperfections and this is particularly the case with black so be sure that you are adding it to a beautifully smooth surface and opt for a semi-gloss like Resene Lustacryl for woodwork or a flat finish like Resene SpaceCote Flat if the surface is less than perfect. Flatter finishes are best used in areas that don’t get dirty, such as ceilings. Be aware with black that a flat finish will darken the shade as opposed to a gloss or semi-gloss which brightens it. If you want to adjust the sheen level of your black you can paint over it with a clear Resene finish to adjust the gloss level.

August 06, 2021

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