Black is the New Black"I've been 40 years discovering that the queen of all colors was black."
- Pierre-Auguste Renoir
We love black… it is slimming, it’s elegant, it’s mysterious. In fashion, black can be the perfect counterpoint to that one stand-out piece of jewelry or accessory.
Who doesn’t remember Holly Golightly’s sleek black dress and pearls from Breakfast at Tiffanys?
When done right, black is the epitome of subtle sophistication. And in the lexicon of today the LBD is synonymous with the perfect attire for an evening event, and is de rigueur for every woman’s closet.
My daughter, Peyton Hayslip, and me before an event at the opera….
… and with our elegantly attired dates.
In interiors, black can be smoky, like the subtle swirling effect achieved by master plaster artisan, Ralph Murphy, in our office foyer.
“Any color, so long as it’s black.”
- Henry Ford
I’ve used black with much success in other spaces as well.
In bedrooms black is particularly effective. One can derive a feeling of a cocoon through the use of rich blacks that incorporate pattern and texture. Lighting and the inclusion of some glimmering pieces are key in keeping the space from feeling morbid or overly gothic.
But, black needn’t be heavy and dramatic all the time. In this Preston Hollow home we created a comfortable guest suite inspired by the homeowner’s collection of black and white transferware plates and platters. The room has a homey feel, enhanced by the iron bed with its simple white bedding and the rich wood tones of the antique writing desk. The black walls bring the aesthetic of the room up a notch. What could have been overly sweet and country is given a dose of surprising drama.
“I see a red door and I want to paint it black”
- Rolling Stones
In another Dallas home I had great fun remodeling an attic into a teenager’s apartment. It’s very MTV Cribs… all black with striking slashes of red and white. Pure fun and very rock n’ roll.
"There's something about black. You feel hidden away in it."
- Georgia O'Keeffe
The last place people would think of using black is in the garden… but it’s amazing! Black flowers seem mystical… magical. At Highgrove House in Tetbury, England, the country home of HRH Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, they have installed a very formal black and white sundial garden. White and black flowers mingle in rolling hills of green.
The "black and white" Sundial Garden - photo by Andrew Lawson
Here, Queen of the Night tulips are inter-planted among White Triumphator. Both varieties shine against the cool green of their foliage. Another stunning black tulip is the frilly Black Parrot tulip. I love its feathery petals.
But gardens are more than flowers. Some plants boast beautiful black foliage, as well. In the south we are familiar with potato vine. I love all of the different varieties, and how little maintenance they require. One variety, Black Heart Ipomoea, is particularly beautiful underplanted with white flowers.
Black coleus is another stunner, and provides wonderful texture. Their leaves have a velvet like quality. The border of striking, almost chartreuse, green is a wonderful surprise.
Even some of the gardens at Giverny incorporate a black and white palette. We are so familiar with the misty, dusky qualities of Monet’s water lilies that we might think we know all the gardens have to offer; however, if one ventures deeper, one can find the black and white gardens of the Giverny Musée des Impressionismes.
Images from Freda Cameron
“Without black, no color has any depth. But if you mix black with everything, suddenly there's shadow - no, not just shadow, but fullness. You've got to be willing to mix black into your palette if you want to create something that's real."
- Amy Grant
And I hope you also enjoy my little visual essay on black, as well...