Put some black magic — and drama — into your decor

 <span class="cutline_leadin">DRAMATIC TOUCH:</span> Every room needs some black. This powerful neutral fuels a room with drama, offering both a strong presence and much-needed negative space.
DRAMATIC TOUCH: Every room needs some black. This powerful neutral fuels a room with drama, offering both a strong presence and much-needed negative space.
Bob Greenspan / MCT

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Don’t think I’m a dark person, but in my opinion, every room needs some black. This powerful neutral fuels a room with drama, offering both a strong presence and much-needed negative space.

Here are seven places you can introduce some black magic into your decor:

•  Furnishings: My love affair with black and white furniture goes way, way back, and it’s only grown stronger through the years. I’m in the throes of rehabbing a little lake house, and I’ve imagined it done up in lots of different colors. But in the end, I went back to my first love: black and cream. I started by covering a few chairs in the living room in a subtle black and white mattress ticking. The cozy room is now filled with powerful touches of this non-color.

Black can act like the lines in a coloring book, defining the silhouette of upholstered furniture. The black edging on a cream linen sofa, trimmed with geometric black tape, took a sophisticated but sedate piece of furniture and raised its drama quotient.

Whether it’s a bookcase, hutch, coffee table or chair, be sure to add a piece of black furniture to your room. The beauty of painted black wood furniture is that it will always look hip, never dated, making it a safe investment.

All you need is a provocative mix of pattern to make a black and white grouping vibrant.

•  Accent pillows: If you want to decorate with today’s bold patterns but aren’t a fan of the saturated colors that are so hot right now, add a geometric pattern in black. We tossed a dynamic duo of colors on a white sofa at Nell Hill’s Briarcliff and were amazed by how it looks both contemporary and traditional at the same time. Black and cream accent pillows can buddy up to every other color in your room, from pastels to bright bolds.

•  Bedding: Custom bedding transforms a bed from a place you crash at night to a work of art. Create a beautiful bed by decking it in black and cream, and pop in a sprinkling of green, blue and coral. It’s fresh but timeless.

Try a pillow mix that’s a blend of old and new, like a gorgeous toile pillow sandwiched between restyled houndstooth check and daisy crewel pillows. I love this just the way it is, but if you want to add a splash of color to a black and white bed, anything would go.

•  Artwork and accessories: Artwork that relies solely on the interplay between black and white is some of my favorite. Whether it’s a black etching, black and white photography or a modern painting, mix some black and white art into your home’s galleries to provide a nice contrast.

Black accents are a perfect pick for any room. The simple touch of a black backed mirrored tray, a little black wooden box and a few black coffee table books make a picture-perfect coffee table display.

Black lamps are also a marvelous accent for a room.

•  Rugs: In my lake house, I tossed a black and white striped flat weave rug on the floor to pull the conversation area together.

•  Dishes: Whether you want a tablescape that is casual or formal, dishes and linens that feature black are the perfect pick. Add in clear glass goblets and white pottery in the centerpiece and the table steps up its style.

If you don’t have a set of basic white dishes, get one. You can constantly reinvent your table by starting with white dishes then adding an accent plate or two.

Dishes also could hang as artwork, or prop one on an easel and use it as a backdrop for a display on your mantel or in a bookcase.

•  Paint: Every January, we repaint at Nell Hill’s, treating the store’s walls as a color lab where we can experiment with different color combinations. When Rich, one of our talented interior designers, suggested we paint the main gallery black, I was game. He had just painted a client’s dining room black and couldn’t quit raving about how amazing it looked.

He was right! The black paint melted into the background and called attention to everything else in the room. Light and dark furnishings looked equally as magnificent against the black walls, as did the artwork. It’s a very sophisticated look and I’m so glad we stepped out and tried it.

This column was adapted from Mary Carol Garrity’s blog at She can be reached at

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