Back in Black

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  • This bar area incorporates black in the cabinetry and backsplash to bring in a soft black look that doesn’t feel too harsh with the backsplash, quartz countertops or white elements. Image courtesy Ryan Garvin.

  • A casual game room kitchen that incorporates black into the cabinetry and is balanced with warn reclaimed wood shelves, and a Calcutta Gold marble backsplash. Image courtesy Ryan Garvin.

By Erik J. Martin

There’s a reason why Darth Vader is the most visually memorable character in the Star Wars universe: Yes, the dark side of the Force is alluring, but it’s Vader’s dark costume design that catches the eye and captures the imagination.

Your kitchen may be in a galaxy far, far away from Darth’s domain, but the same tenet holds true—black can make a powerful and stylish statement in this most important of rooms, and it’s a tone that’s trending, say the experts.

“For some, using black in the kitchen is a backlash against the all-white kitchen movement that has dominated kitchen design for so long. For others, it’s an opportunity to go bold, adding drama to an otherwise utilitarian space,” says Susan Serra, certified kitchen designer and president of Susan Serra Associates. “Black in design, fashion and the arts has always been used as an element to evoke strength or elegance. It’s an attention getter and can upgrade common objects if used effectively.”

Jason Pickens, HGTV digital host of “Talkin’ Shop,” seconds the sentiment that black is the new white in kitchen design.

“Eventually, a too-white kitchen can start to feel sterile. When used appropriately, black is wonderfully modern, withstands use well, and never goes out of style,” says Pickens.

On the plus side, black contrasts nicely with other hues and metal finishes, including copper, brass and nickel, notes Lauren Jacobsen, an interior designer.

“Black also conceals smudges and fingerprints, promotes a feeling of protection, and feels minimalistic and classic,” Jacobsen adds.

However, too much black can make a kitchen look dark and depressing.

“Integrating black into the design without a plan for the entire room can upset the balance of color in the kitchen,” cautions Serra. Done willy-nilly, “it can make the room look visually busy and segmented rather than looking like a cohesive design.”

For these and other reasons, Serra recommends dabbling delicately with black—preferably as an accent color in her world.

“I would use the color sparingly in a new kitchen design. Perhaps an island can be black, or lower base cabinets might look nice in black,” says Serra. “Black looks fantastic against soft, warm colors like warm whites and pastels and against medium to light wood stains.”

Tracy Lynn, owner of Tracy Lynn Studio, on the other hand, suggests that black can comprise the kitchen’s dominant color scheme if planned carefully.

“You can go with all black cabinets and balance it with lighter tones in the countertops, fixtures and wall colors,” says Lynn. “This option gives a dramatic and elegant look that provides contrast and depth.”

Another option is to add only a small dose of ebony, “such as using merely a matte finish black in cabinetry and plumbing hardware and light fixtures to create a contrasting pop of the room’s tone,” Lynn adds.

Remember: Even a little black goes a long way.

“It’s a heavy, dense and powerful color, so you must apply the appropriate balance, especially when combining with other colors or materials,” recommends Jacobsen.

A different twist on this formula is to employ slightly lighter blacks, “such as deep charcoal colors that offer a bit of a softer but still dramatic look,” says Serra, who advises using black swatches next to other chosen colors to see if they harmonize.

Concerned about “jet” lag or black quickly falling out of fashion? Relax, say the pros; black, when used appropriately, has solid staying power.

“Black isn’t going out of style, although how we use it will certainly continue to change,” Pickens says.

Still, if you want to prevent color remorse, ask an expert.

“It’s best to consult with a design professional who can take a big-picture look at your space and offer quality advice,” Serra says. “Every kitchen is different in size, light and design.”

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