November 19, 2020
The classic black and white colour scheme for kitchens is one that has been popular since the very first kitchens in the home were popularised over a century ago.
A timeless approach to the décor of one of the most important rooms in the home where we cook, entertain and spend much of our time. The chequerboard flooring, metro style (or butcher shop) wall tiles and vintage kitchen appliances of a by-gone age define this image. But black and white can equally conjure up a cutting edge more avant-garde contemporary design. The black and white kitchen is chameleon-like in that sense and should be considered a classic perennial and reliable choice for decoration. But there should be nuances integrated to avoid ‘over-egging the omelette’ so to speak. This article examines ways to add texture and detail in order to best decorate and customise the black and white kitchen.
The obvious and visually dominant elements of the kitchen are the cabinet doors, base and wall units. These together with the worktop, wall finishes and flooring define the configuration and design of kitchens.
With black and white the range of variations on these tones is enormous because black and white remains the most popular choice for kitchen décor. White is the equivalent in design of the blank canvas whereas black is much more characterful and attracts attention. And the range of floor and wall tiles on the market reflects this popularity. The advantages of this colour tandem are that light is reflected by white where necessary and that normal wear and tear can be somewhat camouflaged with darker finishes in the black range. Practical design and elegance combined.
Colour specialists would argue that neither black nor white are true colours at all but in fact non-colours.
They are more accurately described as light intensities. This is why the black and white kitchen offers the ideal canvas for introducing complimentary elements and colours. Bright primary colours, pastels, shading and colour ‘pops’ are all easy to integrate through selected finishes and accessories.
Occupying the brighter end of the intensity scale the use of mostly white (or off white) in a kitchen provides an efficient working environment.
To accentuate the sense of light a grey or complimentary off-white flooring can help prevent glare and avoid drawing too much attention to inevitable wear and tear. White floor tiles include stone, marble and bleached wood effects. When it comes to the cabinetry translucent or transparent, wall units can provide greater depth to a small kitchen and a feature in a larger one.
To help brighten a dark space the use of white wall tiles is recommended which can be textured or smooth patterned or plain. Another approach to soften the intensity of white is to combine it with a timber kitchen worktop. This helps to warm the somewhat sterile nature of white, especially a gloss finish, by contrasting the machined with the organic.
Black is a dramatic choice for the kitchen, the colour tends to absorb the light and this is an important consideration when choosing other finishes. Darker woods like walnut and other hardwoods tend to combine best with black for worktops and kitchen accessories.
Black floor tiles can heighten the overall effect and at the same time help add luminosity, especially with slate, marble and stone effect tiles. The use of metal, matt or shiny also highlights black tones in an interesting way; taps, kitchen utensils on display and lighting fixtures provide great opportunities for metal accents.
The neutral backdrop of black wall tiles ensures that these accents and details draw the eye. The range of finishes can recreate the effect of marble, concrete, wood and slate. Quality materials that nonetheless work best as framing the kitchen area, not distracting but complimenting. Even the subtlety of a geometric patterned dark wall tile allows the kitchen and its paraphernalia to shine.
By keeping to the always reliable black and white colour palette it becomes easier to add more colourful accessories or accents to the kitchen. This is a risk-free way of decorating the kitchen but the nuances in shade and effect are important to get right. Ceramic and porcelain are the ideal choice for both kitchen floor tiles and kitchen wall tiles because of their resistance to damp, low porosity, easy maintenance and the sheer range of tile choices. For the black and white kitchen, there are almost as many tones as there are other colours. Black has a markedly masculine feel in the kitchen which needs to be balanced somewhat to achieve a more harmonious décor. White on the other hand denotes hygiene, light and optimism. The aesthetic effect of black or white tiles can be radically transformed by the grouting colour, white with back for example is a totally different effect than white tiles combined with white grouting.
For purists there is no need to leave the chromatic territory of black and white, greys, off-whites and raw shades provide a huge range to work within. For the more daring fans of colour strong shades work really well with black while white is highlighted best by pastels and more watery tones.
Worktops and tiles (specially the backsplash and the floor) are the two best ways to add a decorative flourish to the kitchen. Feature light fittings, taps, utensils and planting are also powerful tools in re-imagining the space as more a living room than simply a place to prepare food. Think of these elements as accessories for kitchen décor that are relatively inexpensive and easily changeable.
The beauty of the black and white colour scheme in kitchens is that it will not age. Unlike fashions in colour and pattern black and white never appears dated; think of the black & white Op-Art of the 1960s, or the 1980’s penchant for chequerboard pattern, even the Loft aesthetic of the early 21st Century fetishised black and white. It’s a colour scheme that gets rejuvenated with each generation of kitchens.