Interiors: Embrace light and shade with a monochrome home

A monochrome interior

A monochrome interior - Credit: Archant

Sometimes we yearn for life to be simple and our choices ‘black and white’, in the hope that prevarication and confusion can be avoided.

That’s rarely realistic unfortunately, but taking a monochrome approach could be a perfect stress-free solution for decor.

No one’s more convinced of the merit and power of a classic black and white pairing than Hilary Robertson, author of Monochrome Home.

“White loves black. Black loves white. Exploring their relationship builds an interior which is timeless, flexible, practical and liberating,” she enthuses.

“By restricting the colour palette, having a colour cleanse if you like, any number of eclectic elements can easily exist happily together; inexpensive or simple things will look more sophisticated and decorating decisions are made easier.”


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Choosing a monochrome interior is a minimalist stance, she points out, but more than that, it’s a refusal to get caught up in the drama of colour, with all the attendant complications of what goes with what, which, all too often, bedevils the amateur decorator.

“Once you decide all the colours of the rainbow are not an option and commit to a monochrome scheme, you won’t find it restrictive or as drastic as it sounds,” she reassures. “Creativity can flourish within the boundaries of black, white, grey and all the shades in between. It actually affords the decorator considerable freedom to experiment with mixing pieces from different decades, adding pattern and layering texture.”

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Deciding which type of ‘monochromist’ you are, she says, will ensure your interpretation truly matches your taste. “Just as there are night people, who favour black and moody, atmospheric boltholes, there are others who prefer to bathe in light with black merely providing a subtle contrast,” she points out.

Choose from a ‘white-out’ or ‘back to black’ approach and transform your home simply into a stylish space.... It might even change your life too!

Bit of all white

You lean to the brighter side of life, preferring shades of white, light-flooded rooms, pale or bleached floors and a smattering of black for details.

“White is reflective, peaceful and restorative and maximises daylight. It’s a perfect neutral, unobtrusive canvas for furniture and decorative objects. The white envelope approach - with both pale walls and floors - wraps a space in light but demands some defining characteristics if it is not to turn into a blurry snowy scene,” advises Robertson.

“Mixing black furniture, black and white photography and a lamp or two adds punctuation to a room, and a rug combining both colours will ground it, which is essential. There’s something awkward about a room where objects float, offering nowhere for the eye to rest.”

Brilliant whites have a more contemporary feel than softer shades, and sit well next to objects with some patina and age. Consider a palette of three different tones of white and vary the warmth and coolness of these. The lightest should go on the ceiling and mouldings, darkest on the floor, and the middle shade on walls.

For lustre, opt for pearlescent white paint, and for a chalky effect, try unfinished white plaster.

On the dark side

You are temperamentally suited to darkness, would happily swap day for night, and cannot resist the striking effect of light on dark.

“Black’s taken it’s time to slink back into our consciousness because it earned a bad reputation in the Nineties where it was all about machismo, with matt black walls, chrome, leather and no feminine balance,” says Robertson.

“Now it’s been reinvented for our times. This incarnation is softer, more sensual and complex. There’s something undeniably glamorous, louche and sexy about a dark room.

“Texture is all important in this interior, which relies on the tension created between hard, soft, rough and smooth to add character. Employing a mix of finishes and materials, from matt paint to glossy lacquer, gives monochrome rooms depth.”

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