Anyone who notices interior design has seen it: an inky stain spreading across American homes as people opt to paint their walls black. It may sound grim, but in execution, it’s quite chic.
By definition, black is the presence of all colors, which could make it the ultimate neutral. Therefore, there are few colors that don’t look amazing in front of it.
We asked designers about the country’s dark mood and to name their favorite black shades. Included in the mix are the array of “off blacks;” blacks with undertones of brown, blue, and gray. Follow along as they spill their secrets. —Mary Jo Bowling
“Black makes lighter or white colors pop against it,” says Vanessa De Vargas, principal at Turquoise LA. “It’s sexy and soothing, it makes any bedroom or TV room cozy.”
De Vargas notes that not all blacks are dark as night. One of her other favorites is this shade of gray-black. “This color is still light enough to not be too dark and goes with lots of different colors—royal blue, other shades of gray, and light pinks,” she says.
Another De Vargas favorite is this blue-black color. “I love this new color—it’s like your darkest jeans! It’s a great color for when you don’t want to commit to a solid black,” she says. “And still has that calming comfy effect.”
Interior designer John K. Anderson says black is a color that can be “wonderfully expansive.” He likes this shade because it has depth.
Architect Chris Dauer of ChrDauer Architects used a brown-black in this room for its non-reflective qualities. “The ‘absorptiveness’ of such a high saturation color helps to even things out and tempers the reflectivity of the otherwise bright white walls and ceilings,” he says.
He also notes the color can be useful to help highlight foreground objects, such as artwork.
Interior designer Noz Nozawa likes Black Beauty by Benjamin Moore so much, she selected it for two projects. For her own home: “I painted the walls in the living room this soft, warm-undertone black because I wanted a bold color that gave me options to decide on my furniture and accent colors later,” she says. “Also, I knew the room could handle a dark paint—most of the walls have large windows and tall baseboards, so there actually isn't that much black wall area!” (See the entire house in this Curbed SF feature.)
She didn’t have the luxury of light in another project. She interspersed the same deep color with areas of white—including bold stripes—to make it fit. “This kitchen-dining area is a very small space that doesn't receive much natural light,” she says. “The super-high contrast tricks the eye into seeing the white stripes and white cabinets as brighter and whiter.”
The Benjamin Moore website describes this shade as a “worry-free” workhorse that is at home in any room. Interior designer Lynn Leonidas calls it the “darkest blue-black.”
Interior designer Leslie Bamburg of Labexperiment chose this soft gray-black as the backdrop for vibrant orange decals and colorful bedding. She describes the effect as “serene.”
For Caitlin Murray of Black Lacquer Interior Design, her admiration of the noirish hue is in the name of her company. In particular, she says: “I like Black Panther because it has a velvet-like softness to it and reads as an off-black. It’s not too harsh but is definitely dramatic.”
Interior designer Amy Weaver, principal at Weaver Design Group, uses dark paint to highlight aspects of a room. In this living room, she used black in a high-sheen finish to draw the eye. “The dark paint really helps the molding detail stand out,” she says. “It definitely works best when you have lots of interesting details.” She underlines the effect with white molding for high-contrast.