Black and white is a classic decorating scheme that can be incorporated into any style of home. It can be achieved either by using several small elements or decorating an entire room to the scheme, local decorators say.
The key, they say, is to make sure the shade of white you choose is consistent, you mix up the scale of pattern, and use a splash of an accent color.
Michele Ramirez, general manager and senior designer at Walter E. Smithe in Merrillville, said black and white is a timeless look.
“You can go back and see it in the 1960s,” she said. “It’s classic, even in the way that women dress in herringbone and houndstooth. It never seems to go out of style.”
Karen Wilson, an interior design specialist with Indiana Furniture in Valparaiso, said black and white is a popular color scheme because it’s simple, modern and clean.
However, Wilson said, it’s important to make sure that the shade of white you use is consistent throughout the design.
“Make sure your whites work together so that you don’t get too creamy or too pink,” Wilson said.
Ramirez suggests incorporating a variety of patterns into the design scheme.
“We have a 60, 30, 10 rule,” said Ramirez. “If you have 60 percent large patterns, then have 30 percent medium-sized and 10 percent small. Make sure the patterns don’t compete with each other.
Ramirez also suggested devoting about 10 percent of the room’s décor to an accent color.
“You can use a pretty bright green, or a yellow or even a softer color, like a lavender,” she said.
She suggested staying away from navy as an accent color, and said some shades of red can make a room seem dated.
“Red can be over powering if you use it with black,” she said. “But it’s a personal taste.”
Ramirez suggested consulting with a friend whose taste you trust or consulting with an interior decorator when making big changes to the room.
“It’s good to get other people’s input,” Ramirez said. “Also, pick out pictures of things you like.”
Ramirez suggested if you’re not comfortable creating an entire black and white room, you can start small.
“Use the black and white as accents in the room. Use pillows and artwork and that kind of thing, so it’s not so overpowering,” she said. “It’s a look that is dramatic and really beautiful.”
Black and white photography is an easy way to incorporate the design scheme into your wall art, said Carol Thorner, who teaches introduction to black and white photography for South Shore Arts in Munster.
Thorner said there are a wide variety of types of photos that look good in black and white.
“Graphic patterns are interesting, like patterns found in bridges and architecture,” she said. “But landscapes and portraits look good, too.”
She said to take a wide variety of pictures in color, and then use computer editing software to see what looks good in black and white.
Thorner suggests hanging photos in groups, matted and framed.
“You can have frames the same size in one big grouping, or have a dramatic wall with one big piece,” she said. “Or, sometimes you can use a small photo print with a big mat so people have to come close to see what it is.”
She suggests experimenting with different sized frames and mats, and frames of different depths.
“Nothing is more gorgeous than a beautiful, handmade black and white print,” she said.
If you choose to make a bold statement with a black and white scheme, Wilson suggested painting one wall black.
“It could be a real wow statement with white furniture, white trim, and black and white accents,” she said.
She suggested keeping big investment items, like furniture, in a solid black or white so they are more easily incorporated into other styles when you decide it’s time to change up the look of the room.
“Keep a solid black or a black tweed sofa or chair, or a white texture, so when you’re done with black and white. You wouldn’t want to do a black and white plaid sofa, because you might get sick of it,” Wilson said. “Put your pattern in accents and pillows.”
More than everything, Wilson and Ramirez said it’s important to design a room the way you want it.
“It’s about what you’re comfortable with,” Wilson said. “Personal style is what you enjoy.”