Black & White
Color is everything, black and white is more.
– Dominic Rouse
I have always loved color and felt it is healing and life enhancing. But it took me a while before I experienced the amazing magic of combining black and white with color. I’ll never forget how I learned this important lesson. I share it with you so perhaps you too can enjoy the beauty and magic that only black and white can create, if you haven’t discovered it already.
Several years ago, my longtime friend, Naomi, called one day in tears, “We broke up,” she said between sobs. She had lived for years in an Edwardian in the hilly Noe Valley neighborhood of San Francisco. Now that her long-term relationship had ended, she needed a new home. “How can I help?” I asked.
I met Naomi the following week to look at several places she found in the City. None of them was quite right. At the end of the day she took me to a loft-like space she had almost ruled out in Glen Park. It had been converted from an old French laundry. When I saw the funky black and gray building crisscrossed by power lines. I admit I too was dubious.
Although the colors were dull, the walls dingy and the paneling dated, the place had good bones – 12’ high ceilings, a big wall of windows, an expansive deck bordered by trees, two fireplaces, and fabulous architectural detail. Naomi wasn’t sold but I was. This place was a find, I convinced her.
Once committed to the loft, Naomi decided she wanted a bohemian feeling in her new home. She had seen a Matisse painting that had vibrant reds and oranges which she loved. We painted the walls a skin tone color, Kelly Moore Bridal Wreath – yellow with pigments of red and burnt sienna.
Then we added persimmon-colored accent walls in the kitchen and entry to enhance these smaller spaces. Naomi was on a budget, so we used her existing furniture, adding paint to update some, and colorful accessories to enhance others.
Black and White
By this time, I had discovered the magic of glossy black paint, so I suggested Naomi apply it to the frames of three small paintings she had bought in Mexico. She also covered her wicker table, headboard and a big basket with high gloss black giving each a fresh look.
To create soul and character we hung Naomi’s collection of paintings, prints, textiles and collectibles from her travels, many of which were black and white. She bought only one new piece of art for the loft’s dining room – a large abstract painting with a colorful bold palette mixed with black and white.
Absorbing and Reflecting
It was during the process of hanging Naomi’s art collection that I discovered the magic of using black and white together. Even though scientists and artists debate this, I have come to define both black and white as colors, each containing pigments of the color spectrum.
But here’s the amazing thing about black and white – they somehow, magically counter balance each other – black absorbs color and white reflects it. This combination results in giving surrounding colors vitality and radiance. It is visible wherever you see black and white paired with bold colors as seen in the adjacent images of Naomi’s loft in San Francisco.
The Take Away
Combining black and white with bold color can enliven a funky, dated space even if you’re on a budget. It’s easy and inexpensive to paint an accent wall, buy some colorful pillows to reinvigorate a tired sofa, or paint a worn-out mantle black and white checkerboard. Whether you want a change for the new year, or you’re going through a transition, why not add some vitality and radiance to the rooms you live in? It might just enhance your life and make you love coming home.
It worked for Naomi. Nineteen days after she moved into the loft, she had a party for 25 friends. The loft got rave reviews and friends continued to stop by frequently to hang out with Naomi in her new colorful space. In time she met a wonderful new partner who she is still with today.
The San Francisco Chronicle even wrote a story about Naomi’s life transition – Auntie Mame Modern, Color Puts A House With Good Bones – And Its Owner – In A Good Mood!
Yours in color and light,