In­te­ri­ors How to use black

Country Life Every Week - - Interiors -

In­te­rior de­signer Suzy Hood­less re­veals the se­cret to us­ing black paint

Why is black a great colour for walls?

It’s a good foun­da­tion colour—you can put any­thing with it, so it makes a great back­drop. I look at in­te­ri­ors as a recipe, a com­bi­na­tion of in­gre­di­ents and black walls make a strong, ba­sic in­gre­di­ent, to which you can add all sorts of in­ter­est­ing things. What­ever you put against the walls will be beau­ti­fully framed by the dark back­drop, so their shapes are made stronger and more graphic. Fur­ni­ture, shelves, book­cases, pic­tures, even a wall-hung mar­ble basin and brass taps in a cloak­room: all can be made to look sharper and more strik­ing.

Of course, black isn’t for ev­ery­one, al­though I’m sur­prised and pleased by the num­ber of clients who like it. If you want a room flooded with nat­u­ral light, it’s prob­a­bly not for you, but the drama is hard to beat. Black walls can make a room feel cosy, but can also, cu­ri­ously, make a space feel big­ger, rather as if the wall is pushed back. When white, a wall ends; when black, the ef­fect is like a tun­nel, stretch­ing to in­fin­ity.

I try not to fall into the trap of colour trends. One of the things I par­tic­u­larly like about black walls is that the look is al­ways clas­sic, al­ways chic.

Where doesn’t it work?

I don’t think there are any rules. We’ve painted walls black in sit­ting rooms, stud­ies, bath­rooms, cloak­rooms and bed­rooms, but we have yet to cre­ate a black-walled kitchen, al­though we’re cur­rently de­sign­ing a kitchen with a black is­land. In base­ment rooms, which tend to be darker any­way, it of­ten works to paint the walls black to ac­cen­tu­ate the more in­ti­mate feel and then layer up with colour and tex­ture to add more warmth.

Should wood­work be black too?

Yes! My rule with wood­work is to paint it an­other colour only if I want it to stand out. Once the walls are painted black, the eye is best drawn to the room it­self, not the skirt­ing at floor level.

What black paints do you pre­fer? Far­row & Ball’s Off-black and Lit­tle Greene’s Lamp Black are favourites be­cause both are warm, friendly shades and a lit­tle softer than clas­sic black paints. What about gloss?

I love gloss black paint, but we don’t use it much be­cause it will high­light ev­ery lump and bump in the wall un­less it has a very flat sur­face. How­ever, we’ve re­cently dec­o­rated a hall with gloss black (and very flat) walls and used beau­ti­ful pen­dants and wall lights to cre­ate dra­matic shad­ows, mak­ing the walls ap­pear to glis­ten and glow in a glam­orous way.

What colours pair well with black?

Green works par­tic­u­larly well, so I might mix in all kinds of green­ery and plants and green up­hol­stery or fab­rics. I like black mixed with white for a clas­sic mono­chrome look.

Some colour com­bi­na­tions date, such as brown and or­ange, but black and white or green are time­less. They al­ways look con­tem­po­rary and el­e­gant. Black works well with brass and gold, dusky pink or soft grey; in fact, it can be com­bined with just about any colour.

Suzy Hood­less (www.suzy­hood­less.com; 020–7221 8844)

Al­ways clas­sic, al­ways chic: black walls beau­ti­fully frame what­ever you put on them

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