Renovation & Design

Black is the new black

Add panache and character to a plain setting

Just like a tuxedo or simple black dress can elevate your wardrobe, basic black in the d��cor can add instant panache.

The vignette featured today is a good example of how a plain setting can be upgraded to dramatic by including a few simple design elements. What once was probably a simple window in a plain hallway is now a stunning focal point with loads of character.

Basic black

Just like a tuxedo or simple black dress can elevate your wardrobe, basic black in the décor can add instant panache. The fact all of the elements in our featured vignette are black really makes the point. The classic accent chairs and chest of drawers set the tone here. The patterned drapes add the element of height, which always adds to the drama.

Last weekend, we looked at symmetry and in this example, symmetry is used to create balance and focus, which helps catch and hold the eye. Symmetry is introduced here not only through the matching chairs but also in the drapery panels, the artwork and even the three-and-three split of drawers on the chest front. Each of these matching elements brings focus to this setting.

Balancing that with a medium-toned wall colour and accents on the furniture in a softgold colour adds a dimension of regality.

How to pull it off

If you don't have a similar setting to work with, then use a taller piece of furniture as the centre focal point in place of a window. A china cabinet could work well.

You don't have to run out and purchase new, expensive accent chairs and black accessories in order to get this look. Any two matching chairs could work. If you have wicker chairs then paint them black. Even two kitchen chairs can be covered with black/charcoal slipcovers to start you off. If you are working with a window, then curtain panels -- while a little hard to find in black -- can be found at an affordable price if you're patient. Remember too, you can make your own curtains with discounted fabric from a fabric store and some hemming tape or clip-style curtain rings. Even the curtain rod can be fashioned out of wooden dowelling (even a wooden broomstick handle) painted black with simple craft paint, or you can spray paint a rod that you may have on hand in black.

If you had an old desk, table or hutch that can be used in place of a chest of drawers (like the one in our photo), then try it on for size. Paint it black if acceptable or even just paint accents on it in black, like drawer or door fronts and the horizontal surface. For example, if you have a wooden desk in a reddish stain, painting the top of the desk jet black with a bit of sheen will add enough drama without having to paint the entire piece. If you have a piece that you want to use, but don't want to paint, then try using a large, black serving tray on the top and accent it with black accessories or put black fabric under glass if your item has a glass-covered top. This would be a great way to display petit-point artwork.

Black picture frames are plentiful and affordable at most thrift stores, or you can paint ones that you have on hand. Instead of trying to find artwork, use your own photographs and print them in black and white for a contemporary and personal touch. You could also frame pieces of black and white fabric or wallpaper, like toile for instance, to add some dimension to your artwork display.

I'd probably go larger with the photo frames than the ones in our feature photograph and also add a splash of red or other vivid colour through tall flowers in the large white vase.

Consider including an area rug or carpet runner with a black background to ground the small furniture grouping. While the chairs may not be used as they are set in a vignette, they can be pulled up to a dining table when additional seating is required. While they are not being used, they will look lovely in a stylish vignette.


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