The other neutral: Using black as a wall color

The Detroit News

What can send shivers up someone’s spine faster than a Freddy Krueger costume at Halloween? The idea of using large swaths of black in your home decor, specifically as a wall color.

Black may be the hue of choice for everyone’s favorite cocktail dress, but paint or wallpaper a room in black and eyebrows raise.

Renee Lossia Acho of Birmingham remembers the response she got when she told people she planned to paint her library, including the millwork, all black. They couldn’t believe it. She did it anyway — and loves the dramatic result.

“I love it. I absolutely love it,” said Lossia Acho, a Realtor who has built, designed and sold seven houses and currently has a library in her home that is painted black. “The furniture has been re-arranged 50 times. I think it’s a feature room. When people come in, they’re kind of surprised by how a black room doesn’t feel like a black room.”

Todd Kroll, on the other hand, didn’t blink an eye when his wife, Jennifer, told him she wanted to use a black wallpaper, Thibaut’s Portier Flock, in their big new dining room at the home they built in Birmingham nearly two years ago. Yes, it was black, but Todd trusted Jennifer’s judgment.

“Usually whenever she shows me something and if I’m not sure about something I say ‘Let’s do it’ because whatever she picks out turns out great,” said Todd. “I have a lot of confidence in her. I’m willing to try it.”

Today, their black dining room is textured and chic. It makes a statement right from the front door but doesn’t overpower the rest of the house. Large French subway ads from a vintage poster store in Maui add a whimsical pop of color to the space.

But for those considering black in their own decor, Jennifer offers some succinct advice: Go slowly. Originally she and Todd contemplated also painting the wainscoting in the dining room black but decided against it once the wallpaper was up. The ceiling is white.

“It never hurts to take it one step at a time,” says Jennifer, an artist.

All about that blend

Each of the seven houses Lossia Acho has designed comes from a different inspiration, she says. With her current home, which she recently put on the market after it was featured last month on the Birmingham House Tour, she says she wanted to blend several styles and create a little more eclectic feel. The library does that.

Still, the room took some time to figure out. Lossia Acho, who works with her mom, Evelyn Lossia, on each home project, went through four different shades of black before she found the right one (she doesn’t remember the name of the black she chose because there are so many paint cans).

“Blacks, like whites, are all different,” said Lossia Acho. “Some have a more blue hue, some have a more yellow hue. The black I wanted was very specific.”

The trim is actually done in a glossier paint than the walls, which are a semi-gloss. A built-in wall unit, meanwhile, is stained dark so the wood grain shows.

Lossia Acho says the entire room is put together, including the range of furniture styles from the Dorothy Draper Henredon sideboards to the mid-century desk, to blend.

“It was blending all of these things but not necessarily featuring any of them,” says Lossia Acho.

When it comes to using black in your decor — and specifically on the walls — Lossia Acho says you should consider the room before you rule out a dark color like black. Natural light is important but consider the entire room.

“People have a misconception that dark colors will close rooms in. (But) it’s more about the room than the color,” says Lossia Acho. Consider ceiling height, light fixtures and windows (including which way the windows are facing) before ruling out a dark wall color, Lossia Acho says.

Dramatic dining

For the Krolls, a flocked wallpaper by Thibaut called Portier Flock makes an elegant statement in their dining room. Their house also was recently featured on the Birmingham House Tour.

Neither Todd or Jennifer can remember the exact moment she suggested using a black wallpaper, but it was never cause for concern.

“Luckily we agree a lot on style,” said Jennifer.

Indeed. The dark paper contrasts beautifully with the white wainscoting and white ceiling. Three chandeliers give the space a touch of elegance.

“Once we did the wallpaper, we thought let’s just leave it,” she said. “We were going to take it step by step to see if it needs. But it (the wainscoting) keeps it bright.’

Since the Krolls, who have two teenage daughters, love to entertain, a big dining room table was a must. They ended up buying two of the exact same tables and having a carpenter connect them together. They now have seating for 12.

The French subway ads bring color to the space. On another wall hangs a collage of framed menus from some of their favorite restaurants, each one signed by the chef.

Jennifer said they’ve been collecting menus for their entire marriage, almost 18 years, but they’d never put them up before. They chose from the stack which ones would fit well.

“We started collecting menus when we travel or local. We just chose from the stack which ones would fit well when we moved in here,” said Jennifer.

For Tamela Ekstrom-Derian and Evan Derian of Ferndale, it was a white wall clock from a friend and white accessories that pushed them to paint their home office black. She used two coats of Behr Ultra Premium’s Black Suede.

“I wanted to use black because I like the crisp contrast between black and the light gray I used in the trim,” said Ekstrom-Derian, owner of Haven Real Estate + Design.

Sheer window treatments lighten the space along with a portrait of Michael Jackson that Ekstrom-Derian painted.

So if you aren’t afraid of taking chances in your decor and going for some drama, consider another neutral: black. Used in the right way, it isn’t spooky at all. It’s chic.

(313) 223-4686

Twitter: @mfeighan