Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Black is Back?




I was a little taken back recently when I read an article touting the emergence of black in interiors—not just as an accent, but everywhere—permeating, even saturating both commercial and residential spaces: black furniture, black cabinetry, black walls and ceilings. The photos, the praise, and the publicity for designers implementing these inky and ebony hues made it seem as though the ghoulish, haunted-mansion stereotype were suddenly in vogue. But what shocked me even more was the advice for the application of such paint color: “use a flat finish” and “painting a space black will make it seem larger and more expansive.”

This advice goes against everything I have ever learned about black paint and dark wall color. Haven’t we all been told that darker value colors make things appear smaller? (Isn’t that why the little black dress is so flattering?) And aren’t lighter colors meant to make a ceiling appear higher, while a dark color makes it appear lower? And a flat finish?! Hasn’t the advice always been (at least since Billy Baldwin lacquered brown walls) to use a high or semi-gloss for dark wall color to maximize the reflective light throughout the room?

If Baldwin’s shiny chocolate-brown walls exemplify a well-done dark interior, let’s compare a less appealing, more modern example that follows the new advice. Take for instance, Kelly Wearstler’s coffin-like boutique hotel, Maison 140. This already tiny bed-and-breakfast becomes a claustrophobic cave with matte black walls.

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