Inspiring Interiors

A bit of black.

I love black as an accent color (ugh, I hate the term “accent color”! It’s almost as bad as “feature wall”) in a predominantly white room. I’ve used black paint (Benjamin Moore Toucan Black, a rich, inky-purply black) in various places throughout my house in small amounts—on the stair treads…the fireplace inserts

…and the pocket doors.

I’ve been thinking about doing a whole wall (moldings and trim included!), though, after seeing these pictures:

(from Belle Magazine, via Emmas Designblogg)

(from Inspace Locations)

(from Domino)

(print ad for Ligne Roset)

The key to making this look good, I think, is in painting the moldings the same color. I don’t love black (or very dark) walls with white trim—the effect is a bit “cartoonish” for me, especially in an older house with more ornate wood/plaster work. The high contrast can make the moldings seem a little overly precious, but a monochromatic floor-to-ceiling (or at least to the picture rail!) paint job looks more modern.

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  • Reply Stephanie August 27, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    I love the black on the stair treads with the contrasting white risers. Did you use a semi-gloss? I was thinking about doing that to our stairs after ripping off the carpet. Do you find that the treads need to be touched up after all the wear and tear?

  • Reply theonly August 27, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    Too right! Other decor expressions I hate: ‘water feature,’ and ‘pop of color.’

  • Reply Anna at D16 August 27, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    Ugh, theonly, I hate those also!!! I also cringe at “window treatment”. EWWW!

    Stephanie, I used BM porch & floor paint in a satin finish for the treads. They’re pretty dinged up after 2 years — not from normal wear & tear, but from having cast iron radiators and bathtubs dragged up and down the stairs. If you sand, prime, and do two coats of paint (let it DRY WELL between coats), you should be fine.

  • Reply donna August 27, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    There was a post on AT yesterday about painting trim to add some drama to a room
    but I agree, I think that painting the mouldings the same color as the walls looks more modern.

  • Reply Cupcakes and Cashmere August 27, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    if only you had posted this a few weeks back when i painted my living room! that black room from belle magazine is amazing and i’m totally lusting after a black room now…perhaps a bathroom with lots of thing hung on the walls to brighten it up? great post!

  • Reply erin@designcrisis August 27, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    That picture of the black bay window is AMAZING! And I was totally inspired by your black pocket doors… I have one that’s getting painted black very soon (I hope).

  • Reply jennifer in sf August 27, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    I think a black wall would look great in your house. And I’m loving those pictures. Especially the bay window and Ligne Roset ones. This is making me want to paint the doors in my apartment black!

  • Reply Christopher Grace August 27, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    This post was sent from Heaven! I was thinking about painting a nook in my bedroom black but had been debating it. Now I think I will do it. If you have a look at my apartment blog, and see the palms I am painting, do you think a black nook would be too much?

  • Reply kay* August 27, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    i LOVE black walls. done right i think they are extremely chic and best of all totally unexpected. when i move into my apartment i’m definitely painting a room, or at the very least the hallway, black. i’ve done two posts, with inspiration photos, in the past month on black walls.

  • Reply sweet fine day August 27, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    Hmmm…you and I have similar design aesthetics (gray walls..did I write that post? I have 15 gray paint chip watches I’m considering). But yes, black walls. We painted a narrow wall that divides the kitchen from the living space and it is fabulous. A bit of a leap because like you, we have all our walls white, but it looks great. It’s actually black chalkboard paint because originally I thought we would use it for chalk (I love that chalk board patina the walls get when there’s been some scribbles and erases on it), but I loved the black so much that the kids are not allowed to write on the wall now.

  • Reply lauren August 27, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    i did my whole bedroom in black and painted the trim too. the white trim was just a bit too stark of a contrast. i used the behr “midnight black” at home depot and it turned out this lovely navy/black color. people looked at me like i was crazy when i told them about my plans, but now they all marvel at my good taste :)

  • Reply Jenne August 27, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    This blog’s
    totally made me want to paint every piece of trim in my house black….not to mention use more purple on the walls. And the mosaic snowflakes? *swoon* I love their house.
    It looks so awesome

  • Reply Anna at D16 August 27, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    Jenne!!! Wow, thank you for those links. I’m going to spend the next hour drooling, and then the hour after that replanning my downstairs bathroom…

  • Reply Anna at D16 August 27, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    Ugh, although I have to force myself to not read the comments on their posts.

  • Reply Priscilla August 27, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    I hate the term “bonus room”.

  • Reply DiP August 27, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    As the person who’s house is actually painted black (Ben Moore #2135-10 “Blacktop” for those playing the home game) once you paint a wall or two an extreme dark gray, blue, or green like some of your images show, you won’t know why you didn’t do it sooner. We have a “feature wall” of BM #2131-30 “Lead Gray” and I could never go back to a light color on that plane of wall again. It balances the room just right IMO.

    It’s paint, so easy and cheap to change, go for it, trim and all.

  • Reply Anna at D16 August 27, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    Alright, DiP, I think it’s time for me to ask you to send me a full list of recommended BM grays — light AND dark! I’m foreseeing a lot of sampling in my future, so any suggestions would be much appreciated. :) My big fear is that the grays will read as blues or slates. I don’t want that!

    p.s. Priscilla, “bonus room” is truly a loathsome term!!

  • Reply DiP August 27, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    BM “HC-105” Rockport Gray has been my default gray for years! Even the dogs are Rockport Gray! ;)

    I’ll pass a few more of my greatest hits soon!

  • Reply stacy August 27, 2008 at 6:25 pm

    I love black. May I recommend black in the bathroom. It gives it such a crazy cool feeling.

  • Reply georgina August 27, 2008 at 7:58 pm

    Try and grab a copy of the current Elle Decoration UK. It has Abigail Aherns London house, she has gone dark grey walls , molding and painted floors. It looks fabulous.

  • Reply heather August 27, 2008 at 9:09 pm

    I think my least favorite is “jewel box.”
    A friend of mine painted his entire bedroom black and it is gorgeous. He has a lot of dark elements and metallic in it which just makes it seem more dramatic. Which room or wall are you thinking of for black?
    I love your pocket doors – mine are really sad right now!

  • Reply suzanne August 27, 2008 at 9:41 pm

    i wear black on the outside because black is how i feel on the inside.

    …sorry couldn’t resist!

  • Reply Adam August 27, 2008 at 10:04 pm

    Anna, what walls or area are you thinking of painting black? I think it looks awesome! I’m going to get you those living room measurements soon because I am dying for some color changes in my house!

  • Reply karly August 28, 2008 at 12:18 am

    Yay! love this post! I’m about to paint a black wall (not accent!) in my bedroom and have been looking for the perfect shade.

  • Reply euni August 28, 2008 at 12:21 am

    i love your interiors and inspiration sources! my husband and i are closing on house in the mid-hudson area shortly, too. i was so excited to find your blog!!!!

  • Reply read me... August 28, 2008 at 6:30 am

    I have always painted walls, skirting, door/window frames and ceiling the same colour… in my first home I used a dark chocolate brown in the hallway, which had no natural light and it looked amazing — people were always so suprised at how such a dark colour worked so well in the space. I think it will look stunning!

  • Reply donna August 28, 2008 at 11:56 am

    Speaking of words we hate. I can’t stand “colorways”. What’s wrong with “colors” or “color palette”? Who thought up “colorways”?

  • Reply zee August 29, 2008 at 9:56 am

    The pocket door looks so good that colour! You’re lucky to have a large house that allows for you to use dramatic dark colours, so make the most of it, I say. And you’re so right about doing the trims, etc. in the same colour as the walls- it’s such a chic, modern look.

    PS: The house is looking gorgeous! The trolley is so cute in that spot.

  • Reply Juddie August 31, 2008 at 6:18 am

    Yes yes yes!

  • Reply Chad September 2, 2008 at 11:09 am

    A Moomin book! Cool coffee table reading…

  • Reply Stine [rhymes with bean] September 4, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    I LOVE this look. I’ve been dying to “accent” with black. Wait until I get my own place. Your work is GORGEOUS!

  • Reply house decor September 25, 2008 at 1:11 am

    Great photos. I love the house of cards picture. Cool ideas

  • Reply Alana February 18, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    I know this post is from ages ago, but I love the blog and I’ve been digging through your older posts for inspiration. I also know you got rid of this rug, but can you clue me in as to where you found it originally? Thanks!

  • Reply Anna at D16 February 18, 2009 at 10:49 pm

    Alana: The rug is from IKEA, and I didn’t get rid of it — it’s just not in the living room anymore. :) It’s beautiful and top quality!

  • Reply eva May 19, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    ack, i just did this to my mom’s bay window this weekend! and i posted the same photo (via but now i’ll credit you too:)

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