Suddenly I am noticing black painted walls with increased frequency. Is it me – my own predilection toward black – or is black back? Though I haven’t (yet) painted a room of my own in black it feels comparable to when you purchase a particular vehicle and suddenly notice them everywhere. It didn’t really hit me until I discovered an interview with Stephen Sills, conducted by the New York Social Diary, which included photos of his Bedford country house in its latest incarnation, which I recently covered in “Savoir-Sills“. A never-before-seen photo of a bedroom in the guest house had recently been painted not quite black but, let’s say, charcoal – a very dark gray – in high lacquer. Considering Sills’s body of work, which usually conveys a spare, quiet elegance awash in neutral color and low contrast, this strikingly glamorous room with its high-impact glossy dark walls seemed such a departure. So, I decided to do a little research and cull a few photos, past and present, that convey the allure of black rooms. What is it about painting our rooms black that seems so daring, so dramatic? Are we ready for a 1970’s redux, a return to glamour?
Stephen Sills; New York Social Diary, 2013. Photo by Jeff Hirsch.
Black is a power color – strong, vigorous, and dominant. It can be considered elegant and sophisticated – even conventional, conservative and serious (think “black tie”, or a classic black Mercedes). Black as a background in a room pairing classic and modern elements can be chic. Or, black can be minimal and modern in its severity, feeling cool when paired with chrome and glass (think the High Tech craze of the 80’s and early 90’s). Paired with white it appears crisp and graphic in contrast; yet with orange or red black becomes aggressive, even sinister. Left with itself black allows its subjects to stand out; it is shadowy and mysterious, conveying perhaps a coolly private retreat or, conversely, a place of danger and intrigue. A black background blurs the lines of readability and invites invention. Black, depending upon your perspective, can appear welcoming or foreboding. How do the following rooms, painted black, make you feel? Are you ready for a black room of your own?
ELEGANT AND SOPHISTICATED
Kalef Alaton; Architectural Digest, 1984. Photo by Peter Vitale.
Thomas Britt; the New York Social Diary, 2007. Photo by Jeffrey Hirsch.
Albert Hadley, c. 1990. Photo by Libby Cameron.
Jeffrey Wiseman and Andrew Fisher, c. 1990. Photo by David Duncan Livingston.
Architecture by Andy Skurman with interiors by Tucker and Marks, Architectural Digest c. 1995. Photo by Tim Street Porter.
Bunny Williams; New York Apartments: Private Views by Jamee Gregory. Photo by Mick Hales.
Paolo Moschino and Philip Vergeylen; AD 2011. Photo by Tim Beddow.
GLAMOROUS AND CHIC
Billy Gaylord; Architectural Digest 1975. Photo by Russell MacMasters.
Arthur E. Smith; Architectural Digest Visits: American Interiors; c. 1975. Photo by Peter Vitale.
Ernest de la Torre; Elle Decor 2006. Photo by William Waldron.
Tony Ingrao for Lisa Perry; Vogue Living: Houses Gardens People. Photo by François Halard.
Tom Ford, London, 2009. Via Real Estalker.
Jacques Grange for Aerin Lauder; Elle Decor 2009. Photo by Simon Upton.
Kelly Wearstler; Elle Decor 2011. Photo by Mikkel Vang.
Kelly Wearstler; Architectural Digest 2013. Photo by Roger Davies.
MODERN AND EDGY
Jay Spectre; Architectural Digest 1975. Photo by Jaime Ardiles-Arce.
Eric Bernard; Architectural Digest 1975. Photo by Jaime Ardiles-Arce.
Bray-Schaible; House & Garden 1980. Photo by Langdon Clay.
Bob Patino & Vicente Wolfe; House & Garden 1984.
CRISP AND CLASSIC
David Hicks, c. 1970.
Stephen Mallory for the Kips Bay Showhouse, c. 1970’s.
Kevin McNamara; Architectural Digest 1975. Photo by Richard Champion.
MAC II; The New York Book of Interior Design and Decoration, 1976. Photo by Norman McGrath.
Albert Hadley; Architectural Digest 1976. Photo by William Steele.
Miles Redd; Elle Decor c. 1997. Photo by Fernando Bengoechea.
Kelly Wearstler; House & Garden 2005. Photo by Oberto Gili.
Aerin Lauder; House & Garden, 2007. Photo by William Waldron.
Victoria Hagan; Elle Decor c. 2009. Photo by Simon Upton.
John Minshaw, 2009. Via John Minshaw.
Mark Cunningham; Elle Decor 2010. Photo by William Abranowicz.
Phillip Gorrivan’s Carnegie Hill apartment, via Phillip Gorrivan, 2011.
Luis Bustamante; German Architectural Digest, 2010.
Rob Southern; House Beautiful 2011.
MYSTERIOUS AND SHADOWY
Tom Ford and Richard Buckley, Paris; House & Garden 1998. Photo by Todd Eberle.
Abigail Turin, San Francisco, c. 1990. Photo by David Duncan Livingston.
Vincent van Duysen for Eric Paul van Lerberghe; German AD. Photo by Wouter Vanderstol.
Jenni Kayne; Architectural Digest 2012. Photo by Roger Davies.
Julie Hillman via Julie Hillman on-line.
Marc Meiré; German AD. Photo by Douglas Friedman.