7 Simple Ways to Decorate with Black and White

Do you have the guts to do an entire room in black and white? Decorating with this bold combination is not for the faint of heart. In fact, it might be best to start small—maybe with an accent like a vase, decorative box or lamp.

As you feel more confident, gradually incorporate an ottoman, rug or even a grouping of black and white prints into the space. For some, this level of saturation may be enough to satisfy. However, you may find yourself obsessed and wanting more. If so, try these simple ideas to up the black-and-white quotient in your home!

1. Use black and white in the kitchen or bathroom to create classic elegance. Nothing looks more sophisticated than white subway tile paired with black honed granite or oiled, soapstone countertops. Break up an expanse of white shower tiles with a band of black mosaic glass tiles to add some sparkle. In the kitchen, Carrara marble floors provide a chic counterpoint to ebony kitchen cabinets.

2. Transform your walls into artful canvases with the addition of black-and-white wall coverings or paint techniques. Start with an accent wall or small room and decide if you like the look. Check out wallpaper samples at home improvement centers or specialty retailers. Once you’ve decided on a particular manufacturer and pattern, go online and shop price.

You can achieve a similar effect with paint for a fraction of the cost of wall coverings. If you like the graphic nature of black-and-white chevrons or stripes, simply measure, tape off the wall and paint away. You can even replicate an elaborate wallpaper pattern by using large-scale stencils and paint.

3. Not quite ready to paper or paint your walls? Do a test run by hanging black-and-white curtains in your room to create similar impact. This is also a great solution for renters who can't paint the walls. Choose a pattern that suits your design personality, whether it be a modern stripe, traditional damask or exotic paisley. Curtains are the perfect way to experiment with black and white decor on a larger scale.

4. Recreate the ambience of an upscale hotel right in your own bedroom. Paint the walls and ceiling a frosty white. Dress the bed in crisp white linens accented with touches of black for a hint of drama. Imagine white pillow shams trimmed in black grosgrain. Throw pillows embroidered with black monograms give the room a burst of personality and class. A theatrical black chandelier will look stunning set against the shimmering, white ceiling.

5. Don’t forget to include accessories in your black-and-white design scheme. Keep it simple by looking for decorative items in either black or white. That way you can easily use them in future design incarnations. If you feel the need to include accessories with a pattern, include in a couple of black-and-white throw pillows, a single vase or decorative box to spice things up a bit.

6. Black and white works just as well outside your house. Consider curb appeal: how can you not love a white house with black shutters and a glossy, black front door? Create the same feel in your outdoor living space by replacing existing floral cushions with black-and-white cabana stripes. Accent your covered patio with white, weather-resistant curtains trimmed in a black Greek key design.

7. As hard as it might be, try not to get too carried away. Temper your black-and-white palette with an accent color to offset the graphic contrast. A third color like yellow, red, chartreuse, turquoise, purple or blue will not detract—it will create even more impact and give your eye a place to rest in a room dominated by black and white. 

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