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When thinking of paint colors for your room, it’s unlikely that black will enter the picture as a first consideration, but for those of you searching for new answers, it’s time to rethink black’s place in the design world and take a walk on the dark side.

The fact is: black is not a color; instead, it is the “result of the absence or complete absorption of visible light…a color without a hue.” This shade, however, eclipses its definition when it comes to being one the most popular “colors” in both fashion and design. And if we wish to simply focus on what color delivers, it’s about the feeling. So we could argue that black is, in fact, a promoter of feeling and therefore a color.

Known as the “blackest black”, Vantablack is a dense coating, made up of carbon nanotubes, that absorb 99.9% of all light much like the black hole. Image from cnn.com

Designer Discussion:

When pondering this dark and inspiring subject I turned to my friends — the “radical badass” Thomas Moll, owner of Raven Vanguard Design Studio and Buffalo designer Timothy Aaron — to discuss this moody, mysterious and inviting color.

Photo courtesy of Raven Vanguard Design Studio

A Designer’s View of Black

Here is an excerpt of our conversation:

How do you view black?

Me: Intense, embracing, provocative, it will either eclipse or elevate other colours.

Thomas: A many centuries old debate continues to rage on about black – is black a color, or, is it the utter absence of light? To [us], the physics and frequency vibration of black are inconsequential. Black is the transformational essence of revelation. Black is the artifice of the conjurer; the means by which sensuality, eroticism, intimacy, and ecstasy are laid bare through the interplay of shadowplay and the sacred sight of the mind’s eye.

What parallels do you see between black in fashion and design?

Me: In fashion – black has always been considered of as classic, sophisticated and timelessly stylish , that was supported qualitatively by the fabric and cut. It was in my view, often revered in design as being too dominating as a singular used colour … Until those colour pioneers started to see the benefits and drama within its constraints. You always know the outcome will be embracing and strong.

Timothy: Why do we love the little black dress or our go-to black shoes? Could it be because they are classic or there’s comfort in the ease of wearing them and they give us confidence? Black as a decorative choice for a space can do all the things that a black wardrobe does when we wear it. It can be bold while providing a sense of ease. It can be trend-forward and modern while being classic and traditional. It can be a backdrop to highlight art and decor while other elements recess into the background. Black has long been a favorite in our wardrobes perhaps the same should be true for the spaces that surround us.

Since C2 doesn’t use any traditional black in their colors; they have some beautiful near blacks. What about their palette is appealing to you?

Me: With our bespoke colour matching services – there is always the opportunity to mix a true jet black if needed, though i love the near blacks that provide a softness … Its like a recipe with an extra added ingredient you cannot quite determine, that adds something unique to a well known dish.

Timothy: The color palette is beautiful. Colors are deeply saturated and pure. Though the color options may seem limited compared to big box brands the C2 palette is full of colors that are forward, yet classic. The C2 palette is well focused perfectly suited for today’s designs. I find great inspiration in this dynamic palette.

Popular C2 Paint near-blacks: Aperture, Stout, Black Bean, Andromenda

Paint it Black

I see a red door and I want it painted black. No colors anymore I want them to turn black – Rolling Stones

As trends lean strongly towards minimalism, this colour, is a surefire way to add instant haute chic, and some mystery, in a clean space and certainly applies to the minimalist “less is more” philosophy. As much as I love, adore and appreciate colour – and it’s walk before me every minute of my day – there is something so refreshing and appealing in the choice to remove it all and surround myself with black, and the many discovering shades thereof.

A mixture of matte and gloss finishes accented with dynamic lighting creates a beautiful minimalist design story. Photo by Michael Hunter via HGTV.

I underestimated the value of black as an exclusive choice, for many years in the earlier part of my career – black always played the supporting role in a colour production. Though it was a valued and highly regarded team player, it was never full center stage. Perhaps fearing that this solid, single, strikingly dramatic and embracing solo player, might possibly overplay its hand. How wrong can one be!

From bathrooms to bedrooms to kitchens and accessories, black is back—and here to stay, though for some, it never left.
Courtesy of San Francisco Showhouse; photo by Christopher Stark.


A show-stopping black exterior home exudes style


Matte black cutlery. Takaoka-doki for TAKATAFACTORY_photo by hiroshi_iwasaki


Hotel Du Marc Dining room L’Hôtel du Marc (located in the Champagne capital of Reims, France), interior designer Bruno Moinard crafted a dark, moody dining space. Photo by Jacques Pépion.

Designing with Black

Black painted walls in design covers the gamut — from using it as a neutral to creating saturated drama. It exudes both moodiness and a sense of timelessness, and can be brought to life in a variety of ways. Accent black walls with velvets and other rich fabrics, jewel tones and dramatic art, flowers and lighting. For a cozier effect, layer with warm neutrals, textured creams, whites and natural elements.

One of my favorite enthusiasts of the color black is the much-admired designer and “style disruptor”, Abigail Ahern. Her home, which was once head to toe white, is now fully immersed in a sea of inky dark. Deep eggplant, off blacks partnered with muddied greens and a kick of something luminous … she swears she’d never go back to light, bright and airy.

Photo via Abigail Ahern


Photo via Abigail Ahern

Black needs no partners; it has a mysterious and secretive world all of its own. It contains and absorbs all colour. Today, there are so many variations of the standard black-black that instead of feeling mired in the darkness, they highlight the subtle undertones: bruised blue-black, deep amazon green-blacks, black with a warm red or umber influence that looks like dark roasted coffee beans – all rich and intoxicating.

For our collaboration at a Buffalo Showhouse event, I used my new ally partnered simply with white (the other non-color). The classic combination was chic, classic and sophisticated. I partnered with Traci Ackerman of Red Disk and created a schematic around their ‘Flowers at Night’ wallpaper which was originally designed by Charles Burchfield.

Red Disk wallpaper’s Flowers at Night is a reinterpretation of an Untitled wallpaper design by naturalist painter, Charles E. Burchfield, circa 1921. Burchfield Penny Art Center, Buffalo.

As I open myself up to black in its quiet, reflective solitude, I am learning to focus on its nurturing qualities outside of my design frame – the richness of good soil, the lone flight of a raven across a grey misted winter sky, the surface of a long road that supports me each day in travel. In my design, black supports and almost demands a lack of clutter and the introduction of furnishings and art that allows these pieces to shine bright like stars in the darkness. And, I confess to going to personal extremes in my new-found respect of black by eliminating the flavoured creamers in my coffee that lined the refrigerator door. I am now a coffee-drinking purist with no ten-word order for my morning java.

Black only, please

How do you use black paint in your design? We’d love to know!

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