Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Timeless Aesthetic of Black & White

I have been away from my desk for the last few months, enjoying summer!

 I hope all of you have been enjoying your summers and have spent a lot of time outdoors, traveling, reading and, in general, recharging and relaxing. Thanks to all of you who have reached out to me over the summer. After my little break, I am bursting with inspiration and look forward to great blog conversations this Fall.

Let's talk about all the chic black and white interiors I keep seeing. Do you like them?

They remind me of the elegant, timeless look of Jackie Kennedy Onassis wearing a crisp white cotton blouse, skinny-leg black trousers and exceptional jewelry and accessories.

I am attracted to the chic simplicity of these spaces. I love seeing these spaces punctuated with a very edited collection of beautiful antiques.

The antiques take on a sculptural quality and the space takes on the feeling of a serene gallery.

It's that juxtaposition, of old and new, sleek and textured that has me intrigued.

My guess is that it takes a very sophisticated eye to create one of these beautiful spaces. Probably, a lot harder than decorating in color. 

Take a black and white photo of any room. You will know right away if your 'composition' is worthy. There is something about seeing a space in black and white that brings all the basic interior design principles - balance, scale, proportion, harmony, rhythm even color - into focus.

Two rooms decorated by the legendary Albert Hadley illustrate the timeless qualities of a black and white interior. French, English and American antiques mix easily. Although these spaces were put together many years ago, they still feel fresh and current. Notice the floors in the photo above are painted white and those below are painted black. 

I personally love the way the painted floors give these rooms a fresh, edited more modern aesthetic.

If you look closely at many of the images from Albert Hadley's own home, you may notice pieces of furniture that 'float' from one room to another. I am particularly fond of the little bench in the foreground. It is also featured in the first room, in front of the fireplace. In another picture, you will notice that it resides at the foot of a four-poster bed (below}.

I think that is one of the magical qualities of a house with a black and white palette...the rooms are united and form a serene yet modern backdrop where the furnishings can move from room to room and a desperate collection of personal treasures can live in harmony.

"While I like things that I own, I don't have anything that I could not live without. I am constantly moving things around, passing them on to friends - a sort of sharing - and when it is appropriate, using things I own in decorating schemes. When I use something that I have owned for many years in a project for a client, I don't think of it as getting rid of something. For me, it is like keeping things in the family."
~Albert Hadley

You can't pick up an issue of one of the latest magazines without noticing a signature home designed by Darryl Carter. A lawyer by education now a self-taught designer with a thoughtful eye and passion for antiques. He creates over-the-top gorgeous gallery-like spaces. Darryl Carter embraces white, in all its possible tones. One of his favorites -Benjamin Moore’s Moonlight White. In fact, he has just released a new collection of signature paint colors through Benjamin Moore.

Whether you embrace the black and white palette or not, you can learn a lot from Darryl Carter about creating edited spaces and incorporating antiques into modern interiors.

"By pairing classic, time-honored forms with unorthodox textiles. Many antique pieces have a striking simplicity when executed in an unexpected fabric. Typically, I juxtapose these pieces against modern art in a relatively monochrome palette."
~Darryl Carter 

“A room is complete when you are called to it for respite. If, while still stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on your drive home from a long workday, you see relief ahead in the form of a chair in a particular room, perhaps with a good book or a glass of wine, you have finished.” 
 ~Darryl Carter

"Part of creating interesting and unique environments is juxtaposing furniture pieces and objects that have no obvious relationship to one another but that simultaneously counterbalance one another.”   
~Darryl Carter

“When buying furniture, be thoughtful and disciplined. Choose fewer pieces of greater quality and interest. You should first go looking, not shopping. If something flirts with you, trust that you will later find something that seduces you; discover what uniformly appeals to you before making any purchases. While an object or a furniture piece may be beautiful standing alone, imagine it keeping company with other furniture pieces as you see the room evolving. You will discover that certain styles or periods appeal to you.”
~Darryl Carter

Designer Betsy Brown of Birmingham creates beautifully modern spaces that leave me breathless. 

I have been smitten with her elegant interiors from the first time I saw her chic, little bungalow featured in House Beautiful here. Her interiors are a study in contrasts. I absolutely love how she incorporates antiques and modern art into all the spaces she designed. "Modern" has always had the bad reputation for being "cold" and her interiors, although clean and edited, have a certain warmth to them.

"To me it just feels appropriate and comfortable. I love color, but I think it should either declare itself as the major player in a composition or quietly add the crucial notes that balance a room and make it intriguing. I usually opt for the latter."
~Betsy Brown 

"Betsy Brown teases classical and modern elements into elegant harmony." 
~House Beautiful 

"We expand upon the authentic and delete the superfluous. Modern sensibilities form the foundation while antiques inform and balance providing a delicate tension and subtle energy."
 Betsy Brown Interiors

Black and white photography can add a graphic punch and contrast in white spaces.

Designer Phoebe Howard unifies a collection of family photographs with matching black frames and crisp white matting creating an elegant and personal family stairway. I love the ebony stain on the floors and chic black lacquer railing.

Architect Bobby McAlpine and Interior Designer, Susan Ferrier create a dramatic and graphic passageway with an interesting palette of black and white and soft gray. The elegant gold sconces are a nice contrast to the modern aesthetic.

It's hard to play favorites with all the beautifully designed homes we see everyday 
but I fell in love with this house featured in Atlanta Homes and Lifestyles Magazine and find that I keep referring to it for inspiration. I love the texture and timeless quality these spaces have but also find myself falling for the contrast of the black & white palette. It feels modern and current and incorporates beautiful old materials and a warm collection of antiques.

This small kitchen is a perfect example of how simply elegant a black & white palette can be! It's timeless, chic, fresh, masculine, feminine and modern all at the same time.

Have you noticed all the black and white rooms popping up lately?



  1. If ever I DIDN"T like a black and white room…I do now! These are some of the prettiest pictures I've seen in a while! I truly love to go in a home that is done in mostly black and white and yet I can't see myself living with it every day. It sure is beautiful though! I especially loved the images from Albert Hadley's work! Thanks for sharing! Have a great Wednesday!

  2. You sold me with the first it and am a huge fan of adding a little something black to every room!

  3. I adore black and white and you've captured some of the best examples of the classic beauty a room can achieve with this palate.

    1. This was interesting to read and the furniture with a nice post.