Minimalist Look

Eliminating color from a room can induce an atmosphere of calm and tranquillity. Modern minimalist furniture designs feature clean, functional lines, uncluttered by decorative elements. You can accentuate these qualities with the simplicity of pure white walls, screening windows with black Venetian blinds, and laying shiny marble-effect vinyl or black-studded rubber tiles on the floor.

The minimalist style is practical for hardworking areas such as bathrooms and kitchens where space is limited; inexpensive white tiling provides the perfect backdrop for black steel mesh accessories, black wooden or melamine doors, and stainless steel pans or white appliances. Brisk and businesslike, the look has a hygienic, squeaky-clean feel to it.

Natural Warmth

The black and white theme acts as an excellent foil for the glow of wood and other natural finishes. You can think of mahogany, oak, or limed ash as colors in their own right. The purity of white walls and stark black paintwork is also good for accentuating the delicate tones in basketwork, rush matting, natural linen, stoneware, and terra cotta, and calls for little in the way of extra color; glass and metallic finishes, such as copper, bronze, and gilt, add a vital touch of glitter.

Adding Color

Black and white accents the glowing tints of other colors very well. Setting one or two strong colors, perhaps a sofa in rich burnt orange, against the calm monochrome allows the true flamboyance of the colors to shine. Even a small touch of subtle color, a bowl of delicate pink tulips, for instance, comes into sharp focus. The huge advantage is that you can vary the whole look of the room by the addition of quite small, mobile items. You can swap a bright framed print for a pair of electric blue glass vases, for example, or have a new cushion cover every few months.

Use in Color Schemes

Using the mix of black and white as accents in another color scheme produces an exciting range of options. Pick one strong color for a background – say a flat Greek Island blue on all the walls – and then set black and white against it – a black iron four-poster bed with white curtains and lots of black and white photos in narrow black frames, for example. The blue accentuates the detail of the black and white very clearly; add a few rustic textures like an old pine wardrobe and natural jute matting to soften the effect, and a huge bunch of cornflowers in a white pot.

Most schemes benefit from a touch of black and white somewhere in the room. Small decorative articles – ivory and ebony inlaid tables and jewelry boxes from India, for example, a collection of black and white photographs in silver frames, a neat black and white piped edge on a deep green sofa, or an eye-catching applique cushion or wall hanging – add liveliness to the most traditional of schemes. Imagine an elegant sitting room in soft yellow and gray: yellow silk curtains, gray leather upholstery, and butter-and-cream striped wallpaper. The addition of a series of black and white botanical prints, neady framed in black and hung on black and white striped ribbons, adds just the right spark.