White is light and breezy. Black is bold and dramatic. Put together, they bring yin and yang to a space, a dualism that is seemingly contrary yet complementary. In interior design, white and black produce a classic colour combination, but it is far from boring. Our interior design experts weigh in on this.
PHOTO THREE-D CONCEPTWERKE
“BLACK AND WHITE ARE VERY VERSATILE COLOURS AND ARE TIMELESS, NO MATTER WHAT DESIGN STYLE OR TREND YOU MIGHT CHOOSE.”
– DESS CHEW, PRINCIPAL DESIGNER OF THREE-D CONCEPTWERKE
A MODERN INDUSTRIAL LIBRARY
The black and white look has been interpreted with out-ofthe-ordinary materials. Instead of tiles, black epoxy flooring was chosen. The uninterrupted surface creates a unique sheen that gives a lighter presence in the home. Designed for a bachelor who is passionate about books and reading – he doesn’t have a television at home – the library is the highlight of the home.
The main idea was also to keep the focus on the bookshelves and lounge chair in the middle of the space. To achieve that, the design team at Three-D Conceptwerke selected fixtures such as track lighting and ceiling fan in white. Industrial touches were added by way of metallic fixtures.
Dess Chew says: “Black and white are very versatile colours and are timeless, no matter what design style or trend you might choose. Homeowners can inject personality into the home by making use of different materials and patterns to express this colour combination. It could be experimenting with different tile patterns, such as monochrome Peranakan tiles or geometric patterns. For example, in this case, using black epoxy paint instead of the more common cement screed flooring or black tiles.”
GO WILD WITH CLASSIC PATTERNS
One way to go bold with this basic palette is to embrace patterns in a big way. Here, Design Intervention introduced timeless patterns in black and white, such that the classic monochrome takes on new life. Bold black and white stripes on the wall are matched with traditional chequered flooring in this bungalow.
“Black and white is an eyecatching combination. Always crisp and glamorous, it can sometimes appear stark. So, at Design Intervention, we often add an accent colour to soften it. The black and white combination is a perfect backdrop for any accent colour such as lime, orange or soft powder pink,” says Nikki Hunt.
PHOTO DESIGN INTERVENTION
“THE BLACK AND WHITE COMBINATION IS A PERFECT BACKDROP FOR ANY ACCENT COLOUR SUCH AS LIME, ORANGE OR SOFT POWDER PINK. IF ACCENT COLOURS ARE NOT YOUR THING, CONSIDER SOFTENING THE LOOK WITH TEXTURES OR NEUTRALS.”
– NIKKI HUNT, FOUNDER AND CEO OF DESIGN INTERVENTION
REINTERPRETING CHINESE DESIGN
Think Chinese-style interiors, and what comes to mind are warm natural colours or bold, bright palettes. This apartment, however, redefines Chinese design elements with white surfaces and black-stained timber details.
When working on this project, Studio XMSL was inspired by Suzhou architecture. The design studio gave this project, which it named Suzhou Modern, a streamlined framework. The restrained palette and crisp lines provide a dynamic balance. Here, authentic antique scholar chairs, a plush sofa and modern classic pieces like the Noguchi coffee table and Wishbone chair share the space easily. “The subtle compositions of white and black create unique shapes, inform a sense of depth and evoke feelings of lightness and space. Applying these principles to interior design is similar. Some of our projects, like Suzhou Modern, are creative attempts at extracting the classical concepts and applying them to modern interior design,” says Matthew Lai.
“SOME OF OUR PROJECTS ARE CREATIVE ATTEMPTS AT EXTRACTING THE CLASSICAL CONCEPTS AND APPLYING THEM TO MODERN INTERIOR DESIGN.”
MATTHEW LAI, DIRECTOR OF STUDIO XMSL
USING MATTE FINISHES
This terrace house’s living area features a massive wall of storage units finished in matte white and black. The slim lines form a grid that accentuates the size of this wall. Architology then incorporated open shelves in contrasting colours to serve as a transition from the living area to the dining area and open kitchen. The matte surfaces bring depth by diffusing the light that falls on them.
This contemporary space forms a backdrop for other finishes like chrome, tribal patterns and leather. Says Bu Shukun: “Apart from using black and white to mark out texture, shape, contrast, shadow and tone, the emphasis is always to create a clear design aspiration. “Homeowners should focus on the spatial reading of their home, and personalise their space according to its function and their favourite objects to create purposeful interiors.”
PHOTO ARCHITOLOGY INTERIORS
“FOCUS ON THE SPATIAL READING OF THE HOME, AND PERSONALISE THE SPACE ACCORDING TO ITS FUNCTION.”
BU SHUKUN, DESIGN DIRECTOR OF ARCHITOLOGY INTERIORS
WARM METALS WITH MONOCHROME
To cater to the client’s preference for simple aesthetics and unique patterns, The Scientist used textured laminates for a natural, understated look. The black textured laminates in the kitchen are balanced with white walls, marble flooring and white countertops to retain an open, airy feel. To amp up the combination, the design team inserted rose gold trim for the cabinets and walls, creating a playful and sophisticated ambience. The hanging lights echo the warm metal trims.
“Introduce interesting details by using a variety of surfaces, even though they are black and white. Give attention to functional accents like brass handles, art pieces, pendant lights and greenery. You can experiment with these elements to elevate black and white kitchens and inject your personality,” says Alvin Ling.
PHOTO THE SCIENTIST
“INTRODUCE INTERESTING DETAILS BY USING A VARIETY OF SURFACES, EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE BLACK AND WHITE.”
ALVIN LING, PRINCIPAL DESIGNER OF THE SCIENTIST
GET STREAMLINED WITH BLACK AND WHITE
Fans of minimalism often turn to black and white for the stark contrast they form. In such interiors, every detail matters. When doing up a black and white interior, consider other elements in the space to make a cohesive whole. Aside from being mindful of the furniture and custom storage wall in the living area, The Merry Men Interiors flanked the dining area of this home with blackframed glass doors. The design firm also created balance by contrasting bold lines with the slim frame of the chairs and dining table.
“Homeowners can try viewing black and white as a spectrum of neutrals, before exploring how they might want to inject accent colours into the space. From this spectrum of neutrals, they can also make a leap into exploring how metals and wood tones can help build the character of a space,” says Clarence Lee.
PHOTO THE MERRY MEN INTERIORS
“TRY VIEWING BLACK AND WHITE AS A SPECTRUM OF NEUTRALS, BEFORE EXPLORING HOW TO INJECT ACCENT COLOURS INTO THE SPACE.”
– CLARENCE LEE, PRINCIPAL DESIGNER OF THE MERRY MEN INTERIORS
TEXT ROSSARA JAMIL