From the first few generations of goths all grown up who are now decorating their forever homes to minimalists trying to avoid bright colors for fear of clashing (or plummeting resale value), black home goods are seeing a major upswing lately. Black food was all the rage on Instagram and ThreadBanger gave us black bath bombs, black grilled cheese, and whole host of other things no human being should ever ingest. You don’t have to eat the contents of a bag of activated charcoal, but you can get some black lace curtains for your home!
Thinking about going beyond things like wall hangings and stepping into the dark side? Here’s what you need to know about black home accents and making them work with your dream abode whether you want to go completely devoid of color or just give your toes that ebony satin finish you always wanted to try out.
Your Walls Aren’t a Cybergoth Dress: Don’t Get Glossy with Me
Painting the walls black is a dream that many home buyers of a certain age and predilection have, present company included. Painting is always going to be a complicated endeavor no matter what color you’re going with, because just like how clothes will always look different on the model compared to when you buy them? The same is true of those color swatches and room simulators when you’re contemplating which paint will look best in the actual room. Multiply that challenge several times when painting with dark colors.
You might be reluctant to paint the walls black, or let your children do this in their rooms, for many reasons not the least of which is potential resale value. Or when your elder child into death rock moves out, you envision transforming that arcane-looking cave into that floral guest room or sea green relaxation room you always dreamed of and fear it will be impossible to paint over.
If you’re going for any dark colors, it’s a good idea to just buy some cheap wallpaper and then paint over it. It will cost more upfront and depending on how long it’s up for, to remove, but it will be less likely to leave stains behind if you’re concerned about resale value or remodeling the room in the future. If you don’t want to risk permanent staining or having difficulty painting over it in the future, the wallpaper will be worth the peace of mind.
But if you want to really commit to those black walls? Go for Behr’s Evening Hush shade in a soft matte finish. It’s like charcoal pencil black, and with enough soft natural lighting it can make black outfits stand out! It looks fantastic when you go all in with it, just go for one wall, or down to the molding only. As far as glossiness goes, you won’t want to go much farther than eggshell. Semi-gloss and hi-gloss will make you feel like you’re in a trash bag and not that dark elegance you’re going for.
The possibilities are an infinite abyss like your soul. If you have to spring for wallpaper anyway, why not go for a cool texture? This screams “beach goth”.
Basque wallpapers, some of which might already be black, can also be fun to work with for that medieval vibe. Plain black also always gets the job done, and you can add a little pop of color and your own personal touch with a wallpaper border or wall decals.
Get to Know Your Shades of Black
If you’re new to the realm of black decor, you need to hear this from someone who’s been in subculture in some shape or form over half her life: there are different SHADES of black. Black isn’t monolithic! We see it with our clothes all the time, some black garments are “brighter” black than others especially when they’re newer. That cut-up band t-shirt you’ve had since high school is likely to be really muted and look noticeably different from a pair of brand new black pants. But shockingly, the same can be true of newer garments and sometimes this isn’t always noticeable.
Don’t believe me even though I gave you the example with most black textiles versus Evening Hush? Let’s start with a gateway thing like nail polish or browsing paint swatches. If you’re more technically inclined, go take a gander at hex color charts, there’s soft blacks that are closer to dark grays and that harsh “true” black when you slide the dial back to #000000 or 0,0,0 if you use RGB color wheels. Twitter has a nifty bot that can help you find the right shades of black!
If you’re going for a grayscale minimalist look, varying up your harsh and soft blacks is a must before you add medium and light grays then white. If you plan on incorporating other colors in your design, it definitely doesn’t hurt to stray from “pure” grayscale and look into the hard and soft black hues that also have tinges of red, purple, or green to really bring out the lighter shades along the same color axis that you could be using for accents. This room doesn’t feature black elements very prominently, but pulls off the grayscale effect magnificently with a “less is more” approach.
This can be a challenge if you’re mixing up your furniture, but if you’re upcycling old pieces this is where having the same color paint can come in handy. You’ll want to opt for a darker and possibly glossier black than your walls. Knowing when and where to keep it consistent and when to use variation is how you can make an all or mostly black room or accents look breathtaking.
If you’re not painting the walls black but want to center black furniture and accents, you’ll want to keep the surrounding elements on the lighter side. Black goes with everything but you’ll have a harder time drawing attention to these pieces if the carpet, walls, and other furniture are too dark for them to really stand out. Shades of black are important to remember if you’re going for a more consistent all-black look, but if you want just a few pops of black then it takes a little more tweaking to really pull off. Don’t go for a harsh, bright white. A softer white or cream-colored wall and accents can lend plenty of noir vibe to the area without the contrast causing your eyes to bleed the second sunlight pours in.
Lights, Camera, Style
Black walls can be elegant, relaxing, and any number of positive associations that you have with the color and it’s a myth that they’ll instantly make the room feel small and closed in. That’s only if you paint every square inch solid black and never get any lighting in the room, ever. Painting the CEILING black can also contribute to that boxed-in effect if you don’t properly plan for what you’re going to do with that part of the room. But if you’ve been hesitant to dip your toe into the realm of black home decor, start with a room like the one pictured where you’ve got huge amounts of natural light like the one pictured.
Once you’ve figured out your paint or wallpaper plans, lighting is the next key element to designing a room that will elicit gasps of awe instead of “Sure, it’s nice…if you want your living room to look like a Hot Topic dressing room. From RECENT years, not the glory it was in 1999.” This ultimately depends on what you’re going for with the room: harsh lighting that doesn’t bounce like flush-mounts isn’t going to do a black room any favors, and neither does light that doesn’t reach most of the room. THAT is what can cause black walls to feel like you’re being boxed in.
Bright light should preferably come from the sun and when it’s not shining, light that’s soft enough to flatter the tone of the room but also harsh enough that you can read and look at another person without squinting. Pendant lights and omnidirectional lights with sufficient shades that are fitted with 40-watt bulbs can provide that romantic, dreamworld feeling you might be hoping to achieve with your noir setting without compromising functionality.
But if you really want to have some fun, don’t be afraid to experiment with colored light bulbs if you have one of those omnidirectional standing lamps with several shades or can fit several bulbs in an apparatus like a chandelier. Putting a few blue bulbs in can make it really relaxing while red bulbs can make for that home dungeon you always dreamed of but weren’t sure you could actually build!
Most of all though, don’t neglect your ceiling. A bare white ceiling can either be a saving grace in an all or mostly black room, or leaving it white can make it feel incomplete. Ceiling tiles are a fun way to make an all or mostly black room feel incredibly decadent, like it came from another time, or both.
Vintage tin ceiling tiles like this can make for a breathtaking effect, and there are acrylic versions that won’t break the bank. Some manufacturers make them black so you can match them with your paint swatches in advance, or you can always paint over them in the color of your choosing.
Don’t Be Afraid of Color!
That sounds paradoxical, right? The whole point of black decor is that you want a totally noir look! But having some bright accents and decorations can make a room’s design all the more cohesive, and give it your own personal touch as well.
This room is mostly on the grayscale side but executed this concept marvellously with all of the yellow accents that add a cheerful touch to what’s otherwise a pretty minimalist layout. Lime green or electric blue might seem a little too “tech startup” or “retrowave album cover” for some people’s tastes, but they can work well if you find the right accessories. Kelly green with a mostly black or grayscale would also make for a beautiful pop of color and a comforting aura, especially if your home is in a colder area. Coral and purple accents like throw pillows, curtains, linens, and sundry might be the contrast that fellow beach goths are in need of.
You’re only limited by your imagination and colors you personally dig. When it comes to black decor, some people really deep-dive into it and delve more into shades of black while others opt more for a spectrum or palette approach. But depending on the layout and lighting of your home, throwing in more color just might be what the place really needs to feel complete if an all or mostly black setup isn’t cutting it.
Black furniture will always be in vogue whether you shop at IKEA or get your pieces custom-built and more and more home goods stores and individual proprietors found at the likes of craft fairs and Etsy are offering more black home accents than ever before. Whether your style is over the top or keeping it simple and just dipping a toe into the dark side, there’s something out there for you.
Rachel Presser is a crazy toad lady from the Bronx who was exiled to New Jersey, spending a significant chunk of her youth where all the hideous 1970s couch covers and avocado shag carpeting went to die. Upon escaping the sea of brown and founding Sonic Toad Media, she decided to devote her time to writing from the fantastically-preserved Googie artifacts in LA and former speakeasies in Chicago, to forging new game worlds in the tea lounges of Taipei and Tokyo. She can be found at game jams, hardcore shows, vaporwave dance parties, and petting amphibians on a sensible corner loveseat.