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Bright as Black

The first time I had ever heard the mention of a painted black room was probably back when I was in elementary school. I think my mom had read it in The Enquirer or perhaps saw it on Entertainment Tonight that Elvis Presley had a black bedroom.[1] She was so disgusted by the idea, “Why would anyone want to live in a black room?” was her general response.

I don’t know why I remember that detail—then again as a designer, I suppose I’m prone to have these types of recollections—but at once the idea struck me as odd and intriguing. Since then I have loved the idea of a dark, mysterious room.

Then, when I returned to school to get my degree in Interior Design, I had a classmate who worked for one of my favorite singers. I would mention the artist’s name, except for what I’m about to divulge now: while the artist was at a second home, my friend invited me to the artist’s home for a tour. Of course I jumped at the offer. We drove through the winding roads of the NY Palisades to reach our destination. Once inside, it was everything I expected to see, but I was still pleasantly surprised. Among the crystal-wallpapered living room with human hair art sculptures, among the antler chandeliers running the length of the 14-foor dining table, among the boulder-lined bathroom, was the black master bedroom. It took my breath away. Elegant in its simplicity. Black walls and ceiling, a giant timber bedframe, and a simple light source. I could imagine laying there and feeling like I was sleeping outside, or perhaps on the set of a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. I would lay in complete blinding darkness, wondering if my eyes were open or closed, waiting for a forest nymph to pinch me…. It would be a dream indeed.

I’ve always had a dark sensibility (if you’re familiar with my Pinterest, you will see that I have a board devoted to black). Last summer, I might have scared away a potential client when I told her I had always wanted to design a black room. I find that a black room offers more depth and playfulness than what most people believe. Think about fashion. Some of us dress in black only to pop it with color. It’s a balance between sophistication and quirkiness. Black is the perfect backdrop to showcase just about anything, from furniture to architectural details. Of course, light plays an important part in deciding whether or not black is the right choice for a room. It all depends upon on the amount of natural light and the furnishings the room will hold. Afterall, living in a well-designed black room is a good thing. Living in a dark room is not.

Here are a few black interiors that got it right—the balance of dark and light creates beautiful living spaces that just might convert the skeptical. And if you’re one of them, let me know, and I’ll help you design your own bright as black room.

(L-R) Mid-century furniture in neutral, parquet floors, and ample sunlight balances the dark walls in German cinematographer Sylvester Koziolek's "blacker than black" apartment (via finetingogsjokolade). Natural wood molding and hints of gold juxtaposed against black walls creates an interior that feels airy yet cozy (via the d pages).

A charcoal-painted walls accentuate the architectural details of showroom of Danish fashion brand, Style Butler. Interior design by the Copenhagen based studio Design by Us (via the d pages). This industrial guest bedroom takes on the feeling of the American Gothic (via Pinterest). The only color in this living room comes from the books on the shelf, but the monochromatic studio still holds interest due to the inclusion of textures such as the plywood-paneled walls, classic chesterfield sofa, and the quirky "manhole" covers on the floor (via details oriented by shape plus space).

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