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Nine Ways to Pull Off Monochrome

You see we love monochrome, and recognize its importance in the world around us. From Mother Nature's chiaroscuro (think chalky moons in ebony skies and snow capped Jasper mountains) to the man-made, black and white play a huge role in life.

Hot on the heels of their attendance at several European and American design fairs, Colin and Justin report the emergence of monochrome as a growing trend in design...

"If you want to make beautiful music," espoused Richard Nixon, "you must play black and white notes together." Contextually speaking, the former US President was attempting to obliterate prejudice but, within the decorating oeuvre, his statement, as far as we see it, works equally well.

You see we love monochrome, and recognize its importance in the world around us. From Mother Nature's chiaroscuro (think chalky moons in ebony skies and snow capped Jasper mountains) to the manmade (Mapplethorpe snaps, for example, or the worldwide pages upon which our virtual words float) black and white play a huge role in life.

And its popularity, as a decorating dictum, is rising. Having recently visited several design expos in London and New York, we can report that, while colour remains wildly on trend, classic monochrome is stealing a chase. We're certainly fans; if you watched Cityline last week, you'll have witnessed the vignette we created as a tribute to the master of modern monochrome, design supremo Marcel Wanders. A vision of ebony and snowy tones, it's one of our favourite ever projects.

The two tone combo, however, isn't the only colour pairing that can correctly be labeled monochrome. Strictly speaking, monochrome is the state that arises as a result of playing any two colours together. So red and blue, arranged simultaneously, could -- technically -- be described as monochrome, as could pink and yellow or brown and green. We could go on...

To appease those who enjoy the art of spitting decorative hairs, we should, before going further, accord black its literal description. Here's the science part -- the dramatic "colour" isn't actually a colour at all; it's actually the state during which an absolute lack of light is present. And white, conversely, is the polar opposite.

Factual observations flagged, we couldn't live without the two 'colours'; removed, our schemes would enjoy considerably less 'pop'. To bring your scheme alive, the following pointers will help but our best advice is to lose the fear factor. Start mood boarding, without further ado, and let your imagination run wild...

It ain't all about paint

Successful monochrome isn't always about painting everything black and white. Competent design is about clever layering, therefore paint should be balanced with other schematics such as inspired wallpapers, ebony furniture, monochrome artwork and beautiful rugs atop lustrous wooden flooring.

You've been framed

Paint trim work deepest ebony to 'frame' your project and use lashings of white to assist in the provision of background and foreground.


Two shades played in isolation (particularly black and white) can appear a little austere, so make a habit of employing a third tone to provide the eye with 'somewhere to go'.

Less is more

Black and white doesn't have to be an all encompassing overstatement; fluidity and drama should be allowed to evolve via carefully selected gestures such as a wall of ebony framed photography or a black glass chandelier suspended dramatically from a pristine white ceiling.

Financial times

Monochrome is a wonderful backdrop with which to 'future proof'. As time passes you can add decorative elements (cushions, art works, feature walls etc.) to annually - or seasonally - adjust your world. As far as we see it, the most effective schemes are those that can be tailored without large expense.

Explore classic furniture items

Complex, edgy pieces will give your monochrome interior a kick, so plunder the past to move forward. The classic lines of a Corbusier Grand Confort sofa, for example, or a Mies Van der Rohe Barcelona Chair in black leather, will add drama. For a great range of furniture inspired by period classics, visit

Opt for flexible lighting

As Vincent Van Gogh proclaimed; "I often think night is more alive and more richly coloured than day". Running with this theory, a sure fire way to flex your work is by employing clever illumination. Mood can be easily switched with differently coloured bulbs or, if you'd like to go a step further, by searching out lamps with sequential colour 'pattern'. Options such as these are now surprisingly affordable and a great way of 'painting' your room at the flick of a switch.

Texture; the new black

To add depth to a monochrome interior, play around with texture and pattern. Where finishings are concerned, consider leather trimmed throws, open weave blankets or snugly chenille pillows. And think about wall coverings with gently elevated pattern. In Miami, recently, we witnessed the re emergence of flock wallpaper; yup, it's on it's way back and looks particularly effective when composed in black and white. If you're feeling brave, seek out walloping great damasks (these make commanding feature zones) or, if you're more subtly inclined, consider smaller crested patterns for overall application. Our wonderful source of inspiration is Prepare to be seduced!

Various guises

If you find purest white or black daunting, choose a 'knocked off' tone to help you feel comfortable. When selecting black, we tend to choose Benjamin Moore 'Soot' (; imbued with the faintest gray tinge it gently softens proceedings. If composing a monochrome scheme where we need a hint of brown, we'll veer towards Farrow and Ball's 'Railings 31' ( and, when whisper white is required, we'll go for Pinting 2003 by Farrow and Ball. Composed with the merest soupcon of cream, it has all the expansive qualities of pure white, though it's considerably warmer. Antique White by Dulux ( is another C& J favourite; with a cozy undercurrent, it's a go to shade when we're painting traditional rooms.

Our master class complete, we hope you're feeling sufficiently emboldened, monochromatically speaking. Even though we're self confessed human kaleidoscopes (with a personal colour index prone to high drama) we'll admit there's something marvelously reassuring about black and white. And so, Richard Nixon's quote still ringing in our ears, perhaps it's time to impeach... all other colour combinations?


Shop Monochrome

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