Black and White Design

Yves St, Laurent

Fashion understands black and white. It’s strong, clean and provocative. Cultural icons know. Interior designers too. A look as smart as a tuxedo-sporting beauty has arrived.

Jane Birkin and Nicole Kidman
Jane Birkin and Nicole Kidman, Shutterstock

This style begins with low lustre white-toned walls, ceiling and trim, the tabula rasa or blank slate of interior design. Just a little black is introduced, like Emma Watson’s striking gown. Wallpaper with painterly black lines is the bold edge of the trend. The most artistic of the genre are Porter Teleo Wallcoverings, available through Primavera Interior Furnishings.

Emma Thompson courtesy Wallpaper Magazine; Interior courtesy Porter Teleo Wallpaper
Emma Thompson courtesy Wallpaper Magazine; Interior courtesy Porter Teleo Wallpaper

Furniture that’s light, as opposed to heavy, is added with care: translucent, black, white and gold pieces. This small entry hall points the way. I love their Kintsugi paper too.

Photos courtesy Porter Teleo Wallcoverings
Photos courtesy Porter Teleo Wallcoverings

Going back to our tabula rasa, a subtler dark line comes from applying mouldings to the walls that create shadow lines, then carefully building in shades of white, shapes in black and lines of gold. I’ve been writing about sculptural lighting. Imari from Cameron Design House is a perfect example.

Cameron Design House
Photo courtesy Cameron Design House

Marina Vanteeva incorporates all the elements in this exciting room. I posted versions of the amazing black/white orb lighting designs a year ago at Also love the tall alabaster-white drapes. They look like my own cashmere ones from Holland and Sherry.

Photo courtesy Behance
Photo courtesy Behance

Speaking of fashion, the Coco Chanel Suite at the Ritz fits this style (with a Jean Michel Frank cabinet!) even if current designs might use more black. Do you long to add a bright colour to the mix? I began by including it, but black and white with a strong colour wants its own report.

See Also

Ritz Carlton Hotel Paris
Photo courtesy Ritz Carlton Hotel Paris

Black lines detail my linen pillow designs, some I hand embroidered after Picasso plates. The other pillow picks up a graphic detail from a Braque painting. It’s appliqued using the finest linen I’ve ever touched, from renowned fashion designer Loro Piana, available through Theo Décor.

Lois Macaulay
Lois Macaulay

Be well, engender calm and carry everyone in your heart, dear Diva at home.

View Comments (4)
  • These rooms are so sophisticated! I love the detailing with the mouldings and those alabaster drapes are stunning… just like your beautiful cashmere drapes, Lois. I am not usually a fan of black and white but the way you have presented your various offerings makes it so appealling… very warm and ultra luxurious!

  • Thank you Peter. Your custom styled and coloured Stencilled Walls are amazing too. I’m planning to feature the new focus on ceilings. You probably have gorgeous images of your gold leafed, silver leafed and decorative paint finished ceilings!

  • Thank you Carmela for the thoughtful review. You’re right, black and white could be very stark, but the new “maximalism” design style’s warm environments are filled with interesting and meaningful detail once again. The decorative arts are repositories of myth and ancient symbols that stimulate living pictures in the human psyche.

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