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 (opens in new tab) that embrace the monochrome palette alongside some tips from the experts to help you master two-tone decorating. 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. 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.
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. 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 (opens in new tab).
'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.' Opting for living room furniture and lighting with sinuous curves can make a wonderful antidote to high-contrast black and white color schemes. 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.
'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. 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.
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.'
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. '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 (opens in new tab).
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 (opens in new tab). '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.
'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. In this black and white scheme, interior designer Anne Hepfer (opens in new tab) has used pattern liberally to create space full of interest and personality. 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. 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.
'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. 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.
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.