Colour theories in interior design and lighting: Black

An illustrated guide to how, where - and why - to use the colour black in your interior design. Plus a guide to black table lamps, black lamp shades and all things to do with black lighting.

Colour is one of the cornerstones of interior design: colour choices affect mood and atmosphere, and reflect tastes, identities and changing fashions. Our new series looks at different colours in interior decor: what they mean, how to incorporate them into your home, and how to use them in relation to lighting.

For the first in the series we’re going dark…So, should you paint it black? Here’s our guide…

Black, or predominantly black, interior design schemes tend to produce polarised views. But is it simply a case of love black or loathe it? Black is certainly a bold choice for home decor, but it can be surprisingly versatile. It can be used generously or selectively, to provide striking features and, for Renoir, black was always ‘the queen of colours.’

Chauvet Cave painting created over 30,000 years ago, Ardèche, France. Image credit.

As prehistoric cave paintings have revealed, black was one of the first colours that humans used decoratively.  So, if you have already opted for black in your home or are thinking about it, you are paying homage to a colour choice with an enviable and very long history.

 

Black interiors – why, when and how

If you are unsure about black, perhaps it's because of the colour’s association – at least in some societies – with death, funerals, doom and general gloom. Maybe you are worried that a black or partially black interior will be oppressive or make a small room seem even smaller? It could be that black seems too hi-tech or, dare we say it, too masculine.

While black can be each and all of these things, it can also be soft, sumptuous, welcoming and, warm, as well as dramatic and edgy.  It can work on its own; it’s ideal as part of a neutral colour scheme; it can make an excellent setting or backdrop for vibrant colours, and nothing shows off the sparkle of chandeliers to better effect.

Black has been inspiring interior design schemes through the ages: combined with gold in the Regency period or the Art Deco years, for example. As with all colour schemes, you’ll need to think about natural light and lighting features but it’s worth the effort to ensure that everything works exactly as it should. If you get it right, black is so rewarding.

Let’s take a look at some 21st century versions of the beautifully black home…
 

Making an entrance – black front doors and hallways

Putting on a gloss –  the front door of 10 Downing Street, London. Image credit.

It should come as no surprise that the UK’s most famous front door is glossy black. Home to British Prime Ministers since 1735, 10 Downing Street’s imposing front door suggests permanence, solidity, confidence, and a sense of gravitas - irrespective of the disposition and length of occupancy of its temporary occupants. No other British front door has been the focus of as many memorable comings and goings as that of Number 10. But black is an equally good choice for today’s private homes too; a black front door conveys taste and sophistication and works well with a range of wall materials, finishes and colours.

On the other side of the front door, a black and white tiled floor (yes, just like that of Number 10…) always looks elegant.

All the right notes – black and white tiling for a grand entrance. Creative commons

 

Matt black paint offers a great backdrop for a gallery wall, not least one that features black and white photographs or artwork.

 

 

Making the most of black in your home

White brings out the best of black in this kitchen (Styling by Grey Deco, photographed by Jonas Berg, for Stadshem. Image credit)

As with all the interiors we are featuring, prepare to be amazed at how effective and how versatile black can be in a kitchen; combine it with white – from grouting to tableware – for maximum impact, even in a small kitchen.

 

 

 

 

 

Image: Creative commons

It was once assumed that dark colours, including black, made a room look smaller, and so are the last thing you need in a bathroom.

But today’s interior designers know that this is not necessarily so. Just as the light in a room changes throughout the day, so do the colours and the way we see them; all colours, including black can have warm or cool undertones.

Another way of using black in a way that is not oppressive is to opt for a feature wall.

 

Photo by Joao Oliveira

But what about black in a sitting room or seating area, where you want to unwind – how does that work? Remarkably well, as it happens.  Not only are black walls practical because they can blend or contrast well with other colours, but they can also be used as the foundation of a warmly dark and relaxing ambience.

Adding touches of colour, soft tactile fabrics such as velvet, and warm throws and rugs can enhance that sense of welcome.  The right lighting makes all the difference, not just your own but other people’s too – as this city loft shows. Make the most of what is on offer!

Bright city lights: the perfect backdrop for the black interior of this spacious loft. (Creative commons)

 

Black bedrooms do not need to be the stuff of nightmares, nor a guarantee of insomnia. However, size definitely matters. Small bedroom? To help create a sense of space and stop you feeling that the walls are closing in, opt for soft, cool black tones. If you want to make a large bedroom feel cosier, go for for warm blacks.

Using other neutrals, grey in particular or touches of white, can prevent black walls and floors from overpowering the room, as will plenty of natural textiles, like cushions and knitted throws.

 


 

The best of modern black lighting at Pooky

Looking for the perfect black lamp, fitting or shade? At Pooky you are spoiled for choice.

 

Black table lamps

You wouldn’t mess with the Brigadier, would you? Standing sharply to attention, shoulders back, chin out, impeccably dressed and the shiniest of shoes, the Brigadier is our take on a classic shape. Seen here in a gloss lacquered black finish, this lamp will add significant authority to any room (or battlefield, for that matter).

Then there’s the thoroughly modern Crescent in marble and brass. Eye-catching and very smart.

Shop black table lamps here.

 

Black floor lamps

Our Samarkand floor lamp is made of that blackest of woods – ebony.  It’s a classic style that works equally well in a wide variety of interiors.

Whatever your preferred angle, Pooky’s Mo floor lamp, a contemporary tribute to Mid Century Modern, works hard – with style.

Shop black floor lamps here.

 

Black wall lights

Inside or outdoors, Pooky has some stunning wall lights in black, all with sturdy, well-made fittings.

We’ve always been partial to a nautical touch here at Pooky and our Fowey ip65 curved downlight has a distinctly marine look. Pointed up or down, it’s a model of discretion and elegance and, as in all of our outdoor lights, Fowey can be admitted to your inner sanctum too! It’s ideal for a corridor or wherever you want some discreet ambient light. This is the Storm version in black powder coated aluminium.

Shop black wall lights here.

 

Black lamp shades

We’ve developed a range of black lampshades, guaranteed to appeal to all tastes and with plenty of choice whatever your style of home.

Take this 40 cm drum shade, for example…in Raven Dupion, the granddaddy of silks, with a superb lustre that synthetic materials can’t match. With just the right amount of slubs (where two threads of silk are twisted together to give a little extra thickness in places), Raven is the glossiest of black silks.

Shop black lampshades here.

 

Pooky make beautiful lighting for beautiful rooms. Browse our range of lamps, shades and more here.