Off the Rack – Back in Black

At first I thought the altitude was making me light-headed.

But after returning to the plains I was assured that my original assessment was correct.

Black is the new black at least when it comes to wall color in the September shelter mags.

Shiny or matte, paint or paper, I applaud them all.

I considered matte black walls in the dining room of our first house and a friend with solid, if conventional, taste gasped, “It will look like a chalkboard! Don’t!”

In a crisis of confidence I demurred. It was not the the first time nor the last that I allowed someone else’s opinion to change my course.

I rarely look back on these shifts with relief and often with remorse. Life is shockingly unsure. Be bold.
Images from top: Bookshelves and tray-top table, Mark Badgley and James Mischka’s Kentucky library, Elle Decor, photography by Roger Davies; Robert Duffy’s Provincetown library, Elle Decor, photography by William Waldron; Windsor Smith’s entry and glimpse of game room, House Beautiful, photography by Victoria Pearson; Eric Cohler’s Manhattan bedroom, House Beautiful, photography by Jonny Valiant; Houston home designed by Rob Southern, House Beautiful, photography by Victoria Pearson (the paint here is actually a smidge brown); Jane Krakowski photographed for Town & Country by John Huba in Steven Gambrel’s New York townhouse. All images appear in the September 2009 issues.
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27 thoughts on “Off the Rack – Back in Black

  1. I have a small library—a folly really—that I upholstered in a matte and satin black stripe. Very little shows between the bookcases, but the mood of the room is quiet and like a little vacation when I go in there. Next I am painting the ceiling of my stairwell black and the halls in black and white stripe. Have always loved black and white. I have come to the age when someone gasps and says what about resell, I simply remind them there is always KILZ the next owners can buy by the barrel. I am with you, Mrs. B life is uncertain, unsure. Be your best and boldest self!

  2. Here, here! Just what one needs to hear a day before her 30th birthday, especially while pondering the possibilities of black walls in my next house (hopefully quickly forthcoming!). I think I'll go for gloss and say to hell with the gasps.

  3. I have been waffling back and forth between black and white for my sewing area cabinets. I have been swaying to and fro over this for over a year now, maybe two! Now I am convinced, black it is, besides, it's only paint!
    Paula ~ Mise en scène / Elizabeth Lane

  4. I love a good black room. I've been painting my interior hallways black for more than thirty years, but if I had admired (or even respected) the taste of any of my friends, I might have listened to them when they all warned me about how awful, how depressing, how whatever it would look if I went and painted one of my main rooms black. But what did they know? For one thing, their places were either full of Herculon plaid couch-&-loveseat sets or tame calico miniprints on every possible surface, and for another thing, we were in Peoria, so what did I expect them to say? Besides, I had a ton of black velvet stage curtains that I hauled out of the dumpster behind a theater, and I had already paid a bundle to have them cleaned, so it was too late for me to stop then. So I just went ahead and did what I wanted to do, which is what I always do, anyway. Of course, after I finished the room, everybody loved it, but all that did was prove my point.

    Moral: Never pay any attention to what your friends say.

  5. Should I ever become your neighbor (hope springs eternal) I'm planning on a black dining room. You're welcome to drop in anytime you need a fix.

  6. I have read your blog for a while now, came in via Cote de Texas, love love love your style, your writing, and your beautiful turquoise beads. The admonition to be bold was just what I needed. Thank you for all your hard work on your wonderful blog, and for sharing your writing and design with us.

  7. About 7 years ago, I painted the walls of the library in our previous home matte black. For bookshelves, I purchased some grocery store shelving from a salvage place and had it sandblasted. Industrial chic, right? Then had the slipcover ladies (who are justifiably famous here in KC) cover all the furniture in tailored, natural linen slips. Still one of my favorite libraries (of ours) ever.

  8. I'm loving the black walls. Trim should be a soft white, and antique pine should be somewhere in the room. What's wrong with chalkboard walls? I say go for it!

  9. I love black and recently saw a barn in a magazine painted black. It was beautiful. So I'm wondering if my old rickity in town barn would look good in black. Such a big risk ! But a fun thought.

  10. I am a black/white kind of gal. Selecting b/w mattress ticking wallpaper for my childhood bedroom wallpaper floated my boat.
    As a painter/printmaker, B/W does it for me. I embrace all colors when I work with a design client, but somehow, I like working from the neutral.
    Currently, I live in a warm white interior with layer of paintings, prints, and textures, mostly black and white.

  11. I haven't always been a fan of black walls but lately having seen what amazing rooms are out there in the various shades, I'm coming around. The first picture is simply stunning! xxx

  12. I am coming around too! nice post & welcome back, my inbox just wasn't the same. Hope you had a great little break.

  13. HELLO, MRS B-

    Welcome back.

    Yes, black never goes out of style.
    But in rooms it needs the contrast of white…and judging by most of the rooms shown here, designers have come to that conclusion as well.
    Black walls with white moldings–drama.

    There is much to ponder here,

  14. As an artist, black always seems to be the common color connector. We dress in black, we drink black coffee, there is something appealing about the drama of black, be in matte, hi-gloss or that of a black tie party. Black has a timeless elegance on the wall or in the room. I am a fan of black lamp shades.

  15. How nice to receive a "Mrs. Blandings" in my mailbox again. I have missed you and hope that you've had a good couple of weeks away from your blog. Oddly enough, I have been helping a friend "blackify" her house during this time. Not depressing at all, just bringing out what is substantial. Even more than the "black is beautiful" message, I'm taking away your encouragement to listen to my bold self and act on it. Thanks for this beautiful post.

  16. Thanks to everyone for coming back. It turned out to be an incredibly difficult week and it was unlikely that I would have posted anyway. The break allowed me to realize that the blog is not causing stress, it is my escape from it. I missed it. And I missed the folks who would stop by here to talk about things like black walls.

  17. To each and every person who has posted here to let me know they have painted walls black – I know you and I'm not surprised. Not a timid soul in the bunch.

    And, Magna, I ran across a Cecil Beaton portrait right after with a velvet drape background and it will forever make me think of you.

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