Decorating in Black and White


While the classic color combination of black and white—a tried and true formula—never really goes out of style, the daring duo is de rigueur these days. Decorating in black and white in any setting, from living room to dining room to bedroom or even a staircase, makes a deliciously bold statement that is always sophisticated and never, ever dull. If you find yourself drawn to this high-impact look, try some of our tips below.

Start Small

They say opposites attract, and in this case, we definitely agree. Pairing these two contrasting colors together can produce dramatic results. But if you’re a little nervous about committing to such a big look, start small.

Adding just a few touches of black to a room with creamy white walls can have an instant grounding effect, such as a chandelier, a pair of pillows and a wall collage with black frames and simple white mattes. Or get creative with black paint. Coat the backs of a white built-in bookshelf or swipe one wall in a white kitchen with chalkboard paint for an oversized memo board.

Another way to incorporate the look is to place just one or two large black pieces in an otherwise neutral room to serve as the focal point: a desk in an office, a console in the entry or an entertainment center in the living room. Or, change up your textiles. Hang a pair of black panels and throw down a black patterned rug to anchor a seating area. You’ll notice the difference right away without making too much of a commitment.


Punch It Up

If you love the look, take it from barely there to breathtaking with patterns. Whether you like the formality of damask or prefer the clean lines of geometrics, patterns add graphic appeal—and a little personality boost, too. As long as you stick to a black and white color palette, you can mix and match prints to your heart’s content. Just be sure to balance the scale of your patterns. Choose one big print and contrast it with smaller designs, such as a small check with a large-scale toile. You can also mix in solid black and white fabrics to keep the mix pleasing to the eye.

Architectural details and interesting shapes also serve to heighten the drama in a black and white decor. Highlight crown molding with black paint, create a gallery wall with black decorative ledges or hang a large-scale clock or mirror to dazzling effect. Furniture featuring classic details, such as the X-motif, offers just the right amount of flourish in a room absent of color or clutter.

BW fabric swatches


Make it Shimmer

The revival of classical regency style during the golden age of Hollywood made decorating in black and white all the rage. But what really distinguished the style was the glimmer and glitz. So go ahead and infuse a dose of glamour into your decor.


Look for an accent piece with mirrored or metallic tones or furniture with a high-gloss finish (we’re conjuring a campaign chest in lacquered black with brass hardware). In one of our photo shoots, we used our gold Typesetter Plaques to set off the black and white color scheme. So take a look around your home—you may already have the perfect piece to bring a little shine into your life.

Have ideas of your own for decorating in black and white? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

How to Decorate Team

We enjoy spending days interacting with How to Decorate readers. From answering Design Dilemmas to writing How To articles and working with guest designers, our passion is to provide informative and accurate resources to help people solve their design problems.


  1. Reply


    September 13, 2013

    Can you tell me the paint color in the second photo down with the horse pictur? It is also on page 20 of the fall 2013 catalog. Thank you!

  2. Reply

    Patti Heffron

    August 21, 2013

    Where can I purchase the black and white striped sofa found on Pages 26-27 of your August 2013 catalogue?

    • Reply


      August 22, 2013

      Patti: Our Parker Settee is shown in Sunbrella Canopy Stripe and can be found here: Style Studio Team