Black and white living room ideas – 13 monochrome looks that make a statement
Discover the art to two-tone decorating with these black and white living room ideas
Black and white living room ideas are popular with those looking for a sophisticated and timeless feel.
A classic and versatile pairing, black and white can be used to create myriad interior looks, from Parisian chic to mid-century modern, plus, the two-tone combination works well with nearly every shade on the color wheel.
Here we've rounded up an array of living room color ideas that embrace the monochrome palette alongside some tips from the experts to help you master two-tone decorating.
Black and white living room ideas – 13 statement looks to inspire
Black and white living room ideas can be tricky to get right, the key is to first decide on the look and mood you want to create as this will dictate the tones and the proportions of black and white you use. Do you want a calming sanctuary to retreat to at the end of a busy day, or a luxurious scheme with drama and wow-factor?
Used in isolation in their pure form, the black and white pairing is perfect for creating a head-turning look, but, by introducing a series of different shades from the tonal spectrum, from off-white and grey through to charcoal, there's scope to create an array of different looks.
A neutral pairing, decorating with black and white is a great base for layering prints, accent colors, antiques, artwork and cherished possessions, but the two-tone combination can also make for a striking scheme used in isolation, or with greys as part of a monochrome design.
1. Use black as an accent in a white room
Decorating with white is guaranteed to make your living room ideas feel light and bright, making it a popular choice for small living rooms. For a chic, contemporary look, consider punctuating the space with stark black and white accessories, furniture and lighting and artwork.
Using pure white and black as part of a high-contrast look is a brilliant way to bring luxury, but it can sometimes feel cold and stark. In this space, a deep-pile black and white rug and long flowing curtains help bring an element of softness.
2. Balance white with black
All-white open-plan living rooms can feel vast and lack a focal point, but introducing large blocks of black can help anchor the space and make it feel more balanced. In this scheme, a sleek, low black couch, together with a black wall panel, help to define the living area while still keeping it feeling open and contemporary.
3. Add a bold accent color
White living rooms are brilliant spaces for introducing bold accent color ideas, especially when they feature high-contrast combination of black and white or graphic prints. Primary colors such as yellow, blue and red work particularly well with stark black and white, and are popular accent colors for mid-century modern living room ideas.
In this modern living room, the statement acid yellow chairs and a black and white zig zag rug work together to create a playful and engaging space.
4. Combine shades of grey for a softer look
Pure black and white is a bold combination which can feel stark and be hard to live with. Decorating with grey in varying tones is an easy way to achieve a softer take on the monochrome living room.
In this space, the textured grey rug, warm grey walls and grey fireplace all help soften the strong black lines and shapes within the room.
5. Use black and white in a mid-century scheme
Sculptural furniture with strong architectural lines and biomorphic shapes are iconic features of mid-century modern decor – if you're planning to furnish with these iconic pieces, alongside vibrant artworks, then opting for a simple black and white backdrop is an effective way to show them off, as demonstrated in this scheme by Jamie Nesbitt-Weber.
'The vintage Arne Norell Sirocco chairs from Sweden and George Nelson slat bench paired with the new modern Striad Lounge Chair and grid patterned Kasthall tufted Swedish rug give this room a mid-century aesthetic,' says the NYC-based interior designer. 'The bright primary colors in the art and accessories are a wonderful contrast against the white walls and black slate floor.'
6. Bring softness with elegant curves
Opting for living room furniture and lighting with sinuous curves can make a wonderful antidote to high-contrast black and white color schemes. In this minimalist living room, the elongated sofa, coffee table, side table and armchair all boast beautiful rounded silhouettes which help temper the two-tone drama.
To keep the room feeling clutter-free, sleek and sophisticated, the walls have been kept bare and instead a sculptural living room ceiling light serves as a piece of functional art.
'This season we’ve seen a growing trend for oversized fixtures and fittings, particularly pendants and lamps. Statement lighting adds a wow factor and in the case of pendant lights, helps to draw the eye up to create a feeling of space and luxury,' says Helen Pett, design ambassador at Arteriors.
7. Introduce pattern with upholstery
Covering a living room sofa or a pair of armchairs in patterned, monochrome fabric is a gentle way to add texture and interest to a two-tone scheme, as demonstrated in this space designed by Kitesgrove.
'We chose these Jaggar armchairs from Pure White Lines upholstered in a classic duotone houndstooth to introduce visual interest and nuance to the space,' says Clara Ewart, head of design at Kitesgrove. 'Houndstooth is a bold yet timeless pattern, and the fabric’s jagged geometry works well on the armchair’s curved mid century design, helping to define the layered and distinctive character of the space.'
'To keep the black and white living room feeling cozy, the space has been softened with a variety of natural materials including warm wooden furniture, while a long pile wool rug, and quieter accents such as the textured cushions and the plants to bring the space together,' adds Clara.
8. Create drama with black walls
For a dramatic take on the monochromatic room living room, try painting your walls black and using white as the accent color. While people often shy away from curating a predominantly black living room, it can be a great way of making this family space feel more intimate and cocooning, especially if warmed up with brown wood, as done here.
'Dark colors have become more mainstream – charcoal can really give a room a feeling of luxury and sophistication and works surprisingly well in a small area to give it some grandeur,' says Justyna Korczynska, senior designer at Crown.
'We feel black adds drama, strength and solidity to a space. It can either be used to create a bold living room feature wall, or if that isn’t your style it can be incorporated in more subtle ways via accessories and furniture.'
9. Add a decorative wallpaper
Monochrome wallpapers are a fabulous way to introduce pattern and texture to black and white schemes. When choosing living room wallpaper ideas think bout scale – detailed architectural designs such as this are great for adding interest without dominating, alternatively large-scale florals will bring drama and wow-factor.
To frame the design consider painting the skirting or doorframe in a dark color. 'Blacks and dark greys work fantastically well on woodwork, skirting or as a highlight stripe in place of a dado rail, adding definition and contrast to a design scheme,' says Ruth Mottershead, creative director at Little Greene.
10. Introduce black furniture
Painting furniture or architectural features in a contrasting color to the walls is a brilliant way to add instant depth and structure to living space, as demonstrated in this scheme by interior designer Corine Maggio, where the living room shelving has been picked out in black.
'This is one of my favorite living rooms we've done because it's so stately without being stuffy. The built-in bookcases were existing, but we painted them and added the gold wallpaper to strengthen that wall and separate them from the fireplace,' says Corine Maggio, founder of CM Natural Designs.
'The rest of the furnishings we kept neutral with just a slight hint of orange here and there. The neutral elements, which play on both modern and traditional forms are meant to feel as though they were acquired over time.'
11. Add a gallery wall
Hanging a series of black and white photographs in graphic black frames is a quick and easy way to create an eye-catching gallery wall.
'Despite being a rental, the client wanted a space that made an impact which is how we settled on the floor to ceiling black and white images. It had the added benefit of hiding the living room TV,' says Corine Maggio of this space. 'We also added drama by layering as much as felt reasonable. The space feels rich and lively because of this maximalist approach.'
'One of the few pieces the clients already had was the burgundy chairs, so in order to incorporate them, we had to either really embrace a lot of color or let them sing by neutralizing the rest of the space, which is what we ultimately decided on,' adds Corine.
11. Layer the pattern
In this black and white scheme, interior designer Anne Hepfer has used pattern liberally to create space full of interest and personality. A bold geometric living room rug sets the tone, while decorative room details are also introduced along the base of the sofa, over cushions and through the chairs, which are upholstered in a leopard-print design. A chimney breast with marble-effect wallpaper also adds to the layers of pattern.
For those that love pattern but are cautious of hanging wallpaper, a bold rug is an effective alternative. A graphic black and white geometric design can bring instant wow-factor to a space, however, it can easily be rolled up and switched if tastes change. Patterned rugs also also great for everyday spaces as they can disguise stains and wear and tear.
13. Use black to zone an area
In this scheme, NYC designer Fanny Abbes from The New Design Project has cleverly used a paint idea to trick the eye.
'Black was used as the natural concealer of the TV stand – hidden in plain sight. However, to make it more of a design feature, rather than just a mere black wall, we added black millwork and decorative shelving. If anything, we didn’t soften the contrast on this portion of the wall, we fully committed.'
How do you liven up a black and white living room?
Adding an accent color is an easy way to liven up a black and white living room, and luckily, as black and white are both neutral tones, the combination works well with most shades on the color wheel.
For stark black and white schemes, adding in primary colors and bold jewel tones such as teal, emerald green, cobalt and orange can look particularly effective. Alternatively, soft blush pink and myriad greys are safe choices for creating a softer more feminine look.
'If you’re looking to introduce color into your interior, consider painting a piece of furniture or adding a highlight to woodwork in an otherwise monochromatic scheme,' says Ruth Motttershead.
However, accents don't just have to be colors – adding in hints of metallic into a monochrome scheme is a wonderful way to bring warmth. for a touch of glamorous try adding in a gilt mirror frame or brass light fittings, alternatively just simple accessories like simple metallic candlesticks can be enough to lift the look.
How to do you style a black and white living room?
How you style a black and white living room depends on the mood and look you are trying to create. If you are using pure black and white as part of a dramatic high-contrast scheme consider opting for curved furniture, tactile fabrics and plenty of cushions as well as pops of monochrome pattern to soften the look.
Bold accent colors will work well against the strong two-tone look if you're seeking to create impact, while more muted accent colors will help calm the scheme. Mustard, olive and blush pink will bring color without overpowering the look and will work particularly well as part of a softer monochrome scheme which layers different grey tones.
Pippa is Content Editor on Homes & Gardens online contributing to Period Living and Country Homes & Interiors print issues. A graduate of Art History and formerly Style Editor at Period Living, she is passionate about architecture, creating decorating content, interior styling and writing about craft and historic homes. She enjoys searching out beautiful images and the latest trends to share with the Homes & Gardens audience. A keen gardener, when she’s not writing you’ll find her growing flowers on her village allotment for styling projects.
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