Black – In or Out?

Black – In or Out?

Black – In or Out?

A couple of years ago I clipped a feature on a house from Elle Décor that had ebonized floors – meaning black, laquered floors.  I absolutely loved it.  The house wasn’t necessarily cold or modern, as you might expect from the description.  It was just appealing.  Somewhere I lost that clipping, but the idea stuck with me. In my design work – and in my own home – I sometimes find traditional hardwood floors difficult to work around in terms of decorating.  On one hand, the richness and simplicity of pretty wood flooring is a winner.  But sometimes without going all white or cream, it is often hard to incorporate a balance of color and texture in a casual, traditional look without it feeling heavy – which is why I think neutrals are so prevalent right now, both in fabric & wood finishes.

I clipped this home from the pages of the now (sadly) defunct Cottage Living a few years ago, & have hung on to it.  Everything about it speaks to me.  Initially what caught my eye were the doors and window sashes accented with black.  That takes a boring, blah room and gives it immediate personality and gravitas.  And in some cases it eliminates the need for window treatments, although I love the natural shades they’ve used on these windows. (There is a trend now toward big iron window frames in black, a look I really like.) The upholstery in this room has clean lines, but the black floors and doors and windows add character to the room, as well as warmth.  And the black also pulls in the family antiques the homeowner wanted to incorporate while allowing her to express some of her own decorating sensibilities. The sisal rug keeps the feel clean but give great texture and contrast to the black.  These are all the ideal elements to incorporate in a room for balance. A dark wood floor like ebony here, or the reverse – a very light brown or even grey – shows off the furniture more and makes the room more updated.

In this Jonathan Adler house for maternity designer Liz Lange, the more contemporary furniture and colors are softened by the black accents he uses on the doors. Visualize this  entry with white doors, and the entire feeling changes from clean and warm to cold and stark, despite the splashes of color in the furniture & art.  By contrast, with the floors in a traditional stain, there would not be anything cohesive to make it flow.

In this kitchen they’ve tied the ebonized floors in with dark granite or soapstone counters.  Of course the white cabinetry keeps the overall feel light.  I’m guessing the floors carry into the family room, where they’ve also incorporated black in the built-in bookcase/tv cabinet.

Gorgeous stairs with the ebonized tops!  The banded sisal runner softens the starkness of the black & white, & the antique rug in the entry pulls the table styles together.

I love this kitchen from the movie “It’s Complicated,” including the black trim on the windows!  They are perfect with the industrial feel of the lights over the island & the pots & pans.  Cute stools, too!

My mom reminded me that I painted the trim in my bedroom black similar to this bedroom several years ago.  I liked it, & this is darling, but maybe better in a space like this that looks like it could be in a New York apartment, but harder to pull together in the context of a larger house where everything needs to flow. The big black Mediterranean furniture styles of the past decade are now out of vogue, but with neutrals being so appealing in design now, it’s fun to look for ways to sneak some accents in black back in.

What about you – black or no black?

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Libby Haynes

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