5 Must-Read Tips About Working With Black

There's a reason this midnight hue never goes out of style

Original Article: Fran Ng Photography: Jilson Tiu (Main Photo)

We all know that black is elegant and classic—some people even say, when you don't know what to wear, you can’t go wrong with a little black dress. It goes the same for design as monochromatic looks never go out of style. But how do you use it to the improve your home? Take some tips for going dark and bold below: 

1. It’s best to stain and not to paint.

Whereas paint covers it, a good stain job lets you see the grain of wood. Black stain makes wood more elegant, and what type of wood you use practically doesn’t matter here.

2. It should be used sparingly.

Wondering how to keep it from taking over your room? It should just appear in splashes. Think accent pieces like throw pillows and stools. Use black accessories in unexpected places, pillow tassels and lampshades, for example. Think about the color as artwork on your wall. Consider black-and-white photographs, calligraphy paintings, charcoal sketches, and pen-and-ink drawings.

3. Use it to help other colors pop.

A black kitchen countertop not only looks sleek; it also brightens up food placed on it. Imagine ripe tomatoes, golden bread, and even canned goods with bold logos. This is also why it’s a good idea to have black display shelves.  

4. See how it blends with the rest of the room.

It’s a neutral color, so you don’t really have to worry about it not matching your other pieces. But be aware of the mood you’re creating. If formal’s your style, mix black with other neutrals like taupe, beige and gray. If you want heart-pounding drama, go for strong colors like yellow and orange. 

5. Use it as a backdrop for textures.

When you have deep and moody walls, you aren’t going to need any other pigments to make it stand out. Instead, you can turn to textures to make your space more interesting—don't be afraid to play with wooden, steel or acrylic elements. 

This snippet originally appeared in the September-October 2003 issue of Real Living Magazine. Download your digital copy of Real Living on the Real Living App. Log on to for more details.

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