Black is back in home design (but it never left)

HANDOUT IMAGE: A project by interior designer Natalie Nunes. ONE-TIME USE ONLY. (Aaron Leitz )

There’s a reason the little black dress gets its spot in every woman’s closet. Black is at once classic, fresh, modern and edgy. It can be whatever you want it to be, and it always looks good.

The same holds true in the home: Black is both a rebel and a darling, but it is always stylish. Right now, we’re seeing black hardware, appliances, trim, doors and walls on the upswing as homeowners seek to find something that will last longer than the next fad.

Dee Schlotter, a trend forecaster at PPG Architectural Coatings , says that while neutrals have been gaining in popularity over the past five years, "we're seeing deeper neutrals coming." In fact, each year, PPG creates four color palettes for designer inspiration, and next year, each one will have a black in it. "People are so cluttered in their lives every day that they look to black and white to get that color silence and space," she says.

It doesn't hurt that black "heightens the level of sophistication in a room," adds Natalie Nunes, a D.C. designer. Turns out, black is always timeless, even when it's trending. Here are experts' top four ways to master this color.

Use it to highlight architectural elements

Imagine a feature wall that reaches up to a vaulted ceiling with a floor-to-ceiling fireplace: Black would give that fireplace the backdrop and drama it deserves. But say you don't have anything that special — that's where black becomes a secret weapon. Carrie Hayden, a designer and creative consultant in Seattle, likes to paint doors and the wooden trim around windows in matte black. "Take highlights that you've been given naturally and give them a new look," she says.

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Nunes also likes painting frames black, noting that it makes them look like wrought-iron frames from an older home or a loft in the city. Black can also be used as a foundation for a salon-style gallery or a display of collections from travel, letting the art and objects be the stars. Hayden likes to use a textured wallpaper or grasscloth for this, to add more depth.

Combine different tones and finishes

"Black is not just black," says Hayden, who started her career in couture fashion. There's onyx, ebony, jet, charcoal. There's blue-black, gray-black, brown-black, green-black. For the best application, you want to vary the shades and sheen of black in a home. Think oil-rubbed-bronze lamp fixture, ebony-stained table, velvet drapery. A variety of textures, too, creates depth and gives the eye a lot to look at without getting overstimulated. Woven leather pillows or cowhide rugs invite touch. (See Hayden's Instagram feed at, a veritable feast of color, sheen and texture inspiration.)

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Baby steps

Is painting all of your trim black a little daunting? Then start small, Nunes says. “If you’re not sure, start with your handrail and newel posts in your stairwell,” she says. “Paint that black and see if you like it.” (She’s sure you will — and that you’ll then move on to your trim from there, or even your ceiling.) Other places to start are cabinet hardware, bathroom lavatory sets, frames, fixtures and small accessories. If your room were a sentence, these would be the punctuation marks. “It’s a toe dip,” Nunes says. But if you find black just isn’t right for you, Schlotter recommends going with a dark gray to get a similar dramatic effect.

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Make trends look more sophisticated

“Black is a great foundation for trends,” Hayden says. “It’s easier to change out than even painting a wall.” For example, retro-looking appliances, natural fibers and bold graphic prints are all having their day in the sun. Do these trends in black, and they’ll have longer staying power. Chalkboard walls are still trending, too, and while you can get chalkboard paint in any color, Nunes likes them best in traditional black or charcoal. “The trends, done in black, look richer with time,” Hayden adds.

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Roberts is a freelance writer. She can be found at