Black and white is still the most dramatic color scheme for a room. White, the presence of all color, is dazzling when contrasted with its opposite, black, the absence of all color.
Woody Allen's new film, "Manhattan," was filmed in black and white. The quality of the velvety blacks and sharp, crisp whites, blended with hundreds of shades of gray, has a rich and elegant effect. Did anyone who saw it miss technicolor?
Black and white can be used successfully in living rooms, where the many areas of contrast -- floors, walls, windows and the varied sizes and shapes of the furniture -- make it easy to adapt. Black and charcoal walls may be appropriate for a living room, which is usually the largest room and contains large window areas for easy daytime illumination, no matter how dark the walls are painted.
In a bedroom, however, a black and white scheme is far more difficult to stage, because there are fewer surfaces, less varied forms of furniture and smaller space.
I was faced with designing the bedroom of a woman who had collected Polynesian masks and baskets when she lived in New Guinea many years ago.
To stage them to their best advantage, I built a headboard wall that went from ceiling to floor, deep enough to create a 10-inch shelf over the bed. The shelf was the bottom of a box I cut out of the new wall, proportioned to fit the width of the queensize bed and tall enough to hold a framed black and white drawing or small object of art.
The alcove was illuminated with two downlights, strong enough to be used as reading lights and highlight the art as well.
The outside of the new wall and the adjoining window wall was covered in heavy textured charcoal linen. The same fabric was used to make the contour bedspread. The color was the same as the wall-to-wall flat plush carpeting in the room and adjoining bath. Linen and other fabrics are now available at many stores and shops, with a paper backing, making them as easy to install as conventional wallpaper.
A black and white tortoise shield is set against a black background, while a giant cult figure in carved dark wood is silhouetted against the blinds covering the windows.
Huge baskets are used to store magazines, and serve as useful laundry hampers, as well, while a patterned rug, reminiscent of the bark paintings of the Pacific islands, is used next the bed. Another black and white pattern, a chevron stripe, is needlepointed in one large accent pillow on the bed, further emphasizing the black and white scheme.
The same idea could be used whether a collection was at hand or whether the space was a simple and uncomplicated contemporary bedroom. To take the place of the sculptures, modern prints or plants could have the same effect, while baskets and rugs and pillows could be used for the same dramatic transformation of a box-like room into a place of black and white pizazz.