Looking for a way to make a traditional white kitchen seem fresh? Want to add polish to reclaimed materials? Think black, even in the kitchen.
Black is showing up on more than runways this year as basic black edges its way into kitchen palettes. For the last two years, black has been building momentum at design events, showing up in more than a few kitchens in faucets, hardware, lighting and even cabinets. Suddenly, a touch of back doesn’t seem out of place; instead, it looks just right.
“Black is a versatile color and can be classic, modern and edgy all at once,” says Sue Wadden, director of color marketing at Sherwin Williams.
Black is circulating through the industry at all levels — high end and low end, says Lana Canova, vice president at Design Tec, Inc., in Orange County, who designs for builders including MBK Homes. “It’s happening with faucets, cabinet finishes, lighting and appliances. And, what follows are materials such as tile,” Canova says.
She characterizes the reintroduction of black in kitchens — as accents or even the main event in cabinets — as “pretty exciting.” She also emphasizes that good design still requires balance with other components.
Designers might be quick to remind homeowners that black, like white, isn’t a color, but few other tones are quite as adaptable or pair well with a variety of materials and styles. “It can be quite elegant, but it also works well with an industrial look,” says Canova. “When it’s a high-contrast situation, such as black and white, there is nothing fresher. It’s stunning, it’s snappy.”
The New Black: How to Soften a Harsh Tone
If a mention of black conjures visions of shiny lacquered surfaces, think again. Today’s black is nuanced with a range of tones from warm to cool and, quite often, with a soft finish. “A matte finish brings a softer, more sophisticated look to the color. The key to matte black is selecting the right shade for the space and mood you want to create,” says Wadden.
On wood and cabinetry, matte finishes add a textural element and give black a softer, but rich, appearance. Often, black is used as a glaze over paints or stains and even over wood. Along with ways to enrich wood grains, techniques such as brushing add another dimension.
“A matte finish puts a contemporary twist on this classic,” shares Stephanie Pierce, director of design and trends at MasterBrand Cabinets.
“Popular cabinet finishes are ones that can soften the transition from reflective appliances or shiny countertops and help balance the distribution of light within the space. Of course, the balance of higher and lower sheens can be applied and mixed throughout any of the finishes selected within the kitchen. But the biggest trend is toward creating that balance; therefore, driving the growing importance of matte options,” says Pierce.
The Trend of Using Black is Not a Trend — Black is Timeless
Kitchen designers say white and gray are here to stay, at least for a while. The addition of black accents can enhance this look. “People are at the point where they prefer something they don’t see everywhere, like chrome, stainless and brushed nickel,” shares Christopher Grubb, president of Arch-Interiors Design Group in Beverly Hills. “And black because it elevates “makes a faucet more special, like a piece of art.”
For the last few years, appliance manufacturers have looked for alternatives to stainless, introducing finishes such as graphite and a hue dubbed black stainless. These hues might give a slight push toward more black. But most designers don’t see black as another evolution from gray. “Black is always a fashion statement color. It doesn’t matter if dominant color trends are grays, white or yellow-based beiges, black is a strong contrast color that works timelessly as an accent and, for certain style preferences, as the main event,” says Pierce.
A number of builders are also embracing black, particularly in kitchens, and are introducing black accents in model homes. In Las Vegas, designer Bobby Berk has made liberal use of black in models for new communities built by Pardee Homes. They are geared toward a range of buyers and varied price brackets, underscoring the value of black and its appeal to a range of price brackets, from entry- or mid-level- to high-end production.
One current home trend that does support more emphasis on darker color, including black, is the open floor plans with larger windows providing natural light. “Black is classic and sophisticated, but does shrink the perception of the space,” says Pierce. “The best way to combat the overwhelming feeling when using black is to utilize it in a more open area.”
Looking ahead, many expect to see matte back continue as an essential in design palettes.
Camilla McLaughlin is an award-winning writer specializing in house and home. Her work has appeared in leading online and print publications, such as Yahoo! Real Estate, Unique Homes magazine and Realtor magazine. She has also freelanced for the Associated Press.