Even more unusual, then, is a room (not to mention an entire house) designed using only black and white at its purest values. However, that’s exactly what interior designers Chelsea Reale and Diana Rice of SISSY + MARLEY Interiors did for this modern Connecticut cottage.
“We love monochromatic spaces, especially in smaller ones because it gives your eyes the opportunity to flow through the space without interruption,” Chelsea tells us. The resulting cottage, which sits next to a 6,700-square-foot main house on a hilltop overlooking the city, is not only bright and welcoming, but feels like a modern home with a cool graphic edge.
We asked designers to talk to us about how they used this limited color palette to achieve this effect.
1. Paint the floor white
With its crisp white walls and towering double-height space, it’s hard to imagine this cottage as anything but this bright and airy space. “The hut needed some cosmetic changes when the owners bought it,” Chelsea explains. The place was dark, dated and sad. It’s hard to imagine now, but the transformation is impressive. It’s amazing what some white paint will do to a space.
However, it wasn’t just the walls that were painted white. “We painted the walls and wood floors too, which made the space come alive,” says Chelsea. While this white floor paint idea might not be the most enduring option for a busy family home, it’s something that changed this guesthouse space. “The white painted floors completely changed the look and feel of this space.”
Perhaps the most striking element of the space is the stark contrast between the pure white walls and the windows and doors. “Defining the window frames with a black beauty was the key to giving this space a Scandinavian feel,” Chelsea tells us.
2. Black Layers
While the instinct when using a limited color palette may be to create as much contrast and interest as possible in any one space, many elements of this home look modern and relevant just by layering black on black.
The key, says Chelsea, is making interesting choices. While the color palette is monochrome. The pieces throughout this cottage are well coordinated and feel very special.
The black and white living room has a large rug with casual seating and a large coffee table – the sofa bed, which is the only interesting non-monochrome element in the whole house.
3. Skillfully use texture
Another assumption might be that a purely black and white scheme would need a significant increase in texture to make it work, yet the cottage is largely filled with modern, matte finishes. Texture is applied more subtly than creating a bold contrast between rough and smooth surfaces.
In the living room, cushioned chairs and a jute rug keep the space from feeling chic, while the old kitchen has been removed and replaced with a modern all-black kitchen from IKEA. ‘For texture, we added shiplap to the walls,’ says Chelsea.
A small dining area is adjacent to the kitchen, with a bar-style breakfast table with seating, providing casual seating for guests who are more likely to dine in the main house. All lighting fixtures in the house are in black and white.
4. Be strict with the color scheme
Sticking to a strong, monochromatic aesthetic, the cottage design feels special and purposeful. It also plays well with this completely open-plan concept, where the master bedroom and bathroom are located on a mezzanine.
“The key to unlocking the floor plans is to really focus on keeping the flow throughout so that there are no visual interruptions in the overall experience,” says Chelsea. “It’s all about creating little special moments all the time that compliment each other.”
The powder room, with its sink attached to the wall, is one such moment. ‘The powder room has been updated to feel like a modern farmhouse,’ says Chelsea. “Although the budget was constrained, the result exceeded all our expectations.”