The many shades of black

Black is probably one of the most intimidating colours out there. It's a paint colour that's usually used with a lighter colour so that the look doesn't end up too dark and gloomy. 

When do-it-yourself home decorators think of the colour, some of them assume there's only one shade. In reality, there are a huge range of blacks to choose from.  

So, what is black good for? Which rooms does it work best in?

At face value  

On the positive side, black often evokes thoughts of power, mystery and even gentility and it's often associated with things that are upmarket or exclusive. On the opposite end of the spectrum, it can have an ominous feeling.  With such a range of reactions to it, the way the black paint is used and your personality has a huge bearing on how you feel about the colour.

One study found black has such a strong impact on our perceptions that it can manipulate our physical interpretations of objects. For instance, the University of Kentucky conducted a study in which it asked participants to lift green and black boxes.  

The research discovered workers believed that black boxes were heavier than the green boxes, when in fact they weighed the same. Given the results of this experiment, it's not difficult to understand why black is associated with strength, given certain circumstances.  

Keeping the doldrums at bay 

The key in designing a home with black is to bring out its positive aspects. At times, it may work best to use black as a secondary colour, and have a more vibrant counterpart fill in the primary role. There are many colours that work well to lift black, and here's a few to get you started:

  • Resene Impromptu is a light green with hints of yellow, which works well with black furnishings to create a sense of sturdy tranquillity and balance.  
  • Resene Abbey Road can provide a light purple contrast to a darker black. This has the potential to be a winning combination in a room where you want to inspire mystery and elegance.  
  • Resene Barometer delivers a navy blue colour that inspires thoughts of luxury. When blue is used dominantly, the black in the background adds strength to the mental calmness of the blue.  
  • Resene Bright Spark could make your room look like an oversized bumblebee if used everywhere, but it can be great combined with black. Even when used as a secondary colour, it balances out the heaviness of black by introducing an optimistic feeling.  Take care how you place the colours together – black and yellow colour blocking can work well as an alternative to stripes or solid colour spaces.  
  • Resene Adrenalin got its name for a reason. While an orange-and-black room may remind some of Halloween, orange is a very energetic colour. Combine this emotion with black's strength, and feel the room come alive with energy.  

Choose your location wisely 

If you have a room adorned with a bookshelf, piano and a few cushiony chairs, black may be a good choice for a dominant colour.

Depending on how it's leveraged and the amount of natural light available, black could prompt guests to sit down with a couple of glasses of wine and listen to some music. Adding shades of yellow and green can add a bit of liveliness to the atmosphere. 

Black can work well in a bedroom with white furnishings for contrast. If you find black soothing and cocooning, a bedroom of black may help you get to sleep quicker.

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