It doesn’t get more iconic than black and white. The high-contrast palette brings sophistication to any space and provides a clean, neutral slate for layering texture, art, greenery, and more. Five interior designers share their guiding principles with Jaipur Living when it comes to achieving the striking aesthetic.
Step One: Embrace Neutrals
Thanks to its timeless and grounding neutral hues, most designers seem to favor the noir et blanc trend. “My design theory is you can never go wrong with using neutrals, especially black and white,” shares Karlin Vance, owner and principal designer of Vance Design Studio. “A classic space is one that makes a statement subtly, and neutrals are the key to that for me.” Adds Alexis Pearl, owner of Alexis Pearl Design, “There’s a calming neutrality to this aesthetic, lending an overall feeling of peacefulness to the interior.”
Often this two-tone palette pulls double duty as both foundation builder and conversation starter. “The noir et blanc trend enhances a space by grounding a room in neutrals,” says Poplar Creek Interiors owner Nicole Reid, “yet it offers interest with texture, bold geometric designs and lots of movement.”
Indeed, the beauty of a black-and-white aesthetic lies in its versatility. As Jubilee Interiors owner and principal designer Judi Lee-Carr explains, “These two noninterfering color schemes can be either perceived in a neutral aesthetic, or a dramatic one (which are on completely opposite ends of design trends).” Whether you opt for bold and glamorous or simple and pared-down, “noir et blanc has a classic, timeless look that can be complemented in many different directions,” she says. Since black traditionally adds depth to its surroundings, especially when injected into a bright white space, the trend creates “a clean, classic and contemporary element that can be applied to almost any design style,” agrees Vance.
Step Two: Add Warmth
To avoid black-and-white interiors that feel cold or stark, it’s essential to bring in warmth through texture and accessories. “Typically in our design process we start with something that really stands out and work everything else from there,” says Lee-Carr. “It could be furniture, a tile, or a black and/or white rug. We like our aesthetics to feel warm, so we will then focus on adding varying textures of whites and ivories into all other elements and incorporate greenery.” She cites a recent project in Santa Monica where the client’s main request for the living room was a lack of color, which could have seemed unimaginative had it not been for her inspired vision. “We brought in a neutral blank canvas that had only black, white, and shades of wood/tan leather tones,” the designer shares. “It created that warmth of organic modern living.”
Vance agrees that using varying textures can help a black-and-white space feel more layered and dimensional. “Personally, I always bring in other textural elements or a neutral color to help balance the stark black and white and help soften it,” she says. “For example, add in things like linen fabrics, wood elements, concrete, and some greenery to help give the space a well-rounded look.”
“Black and white can sometimes feel unwelcoming so using natural elements and warmer wood tones will make your space feel more inviting,” adds Reid, who recently completed a project for a bachelor who purchased his first home. “He specifically requested a white sofa and expressed his love for black-and-white decor and modern/minimal spaces; however, he wanted his home to feel inviting and welcoming,” she explains. “I brought his vision to life by layering in lots of textures through artwork, wallpaper, and wood decor. The result was a space that felt warm yet refined and mature.”
Finally, Pearl suggests embracing the imperfections found in nature as a way to liven up a basic black-and-white interior. “When accessorizing, we like to bring in natural elements to add warmth into the space,” she says. “We love using vintage terra cotta vases and ceramics as well as wood and brass pieces. All of these materials are living finishes, meaning they are imperfect and change over time. Every space needs a little bit of imperfection.”
Step Three: Get Creative
The noir et blanc trend also leaves plenty of room for creativity and experimentation, from mixing vintage and modern pieces for a curated-over-time look to playing around with graphics and art.
For Fennell, who’s known for her modern-eclectic vibe, it’s fun to punctuate the stark palette with bright pops of color and pattern. “When I work with black-and-white rugs and if the pattern is bold, I design the room’s larger pieces of furniture, like sofas, in a solid fabric and incorporate colorful and fun patterns on the chairs and pillows,” she says. “But I also make sure the fabric pattern has a bit and black and white so they can all ‘talk’ to each other.”
Meanwhile, Vance loves the wow factor that comes from applying the high-contrast aesthetic in unexpected spaces, such as a beach house. “We recently worked with a client on a new build who started with the idea of wanting a ‘global boho’ type of look,” she shares. “The first thing we did was look at the location of the house—it was right by the beach. So we had to incorporate a light and airy beach feel along with using a lot of items with stark black-and-white contrast. We kept our bases neutral—light wood flooring, white walls, white countertops—then added pops of black in through art, rugs, and decor to help pull it all together.”
Ultimately, a black-and-white interior provides the perfect backdrop for allowing other colors or design elements to pop while still making an impression. And best of all, you can easily change up the look at any time with a rug. “That is why I push my clients into keeping their main elements neutral, to give them the opportunity to evolve their style without having to purchase high-dollar items again to fit each trend,” Vance offers. “Rugs are my favorite way to transition styles that won’t break the bank. Start with a traditional colorful rug and a white sofa and transition instantly to the noir et blanc look by just switching out the rug.”
Get the Look
“I love Jaipur Living rugs and in particular the Nikki Chu line speaks to my brand and aesthetic. One of my favorite rugs is the Etho collection, and I used it recently in a Charlotte SouthPark project, where I converted a client’s formal dining room into a hip and well-loved billiard room.”
“Satellite’s striking yet simple geometric pattern pairs well with sleek modern spaces as well as natural ones. And Cambridge’s organic textures create a layered look that adds warmth into an otherwise stark palette.”
“There is a sophisticated simplicity to the Vera rug. The neutral background plays just as strong of a role as the black patterned foreground.”
“Jaipur Living rugs such as Traditions Made Modern, Cambridge, Reign, and Rize absolutely speak to this trend. They feature countless options in neutral tones—all with beautiful texture, designs, and durability.”