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Design Recipes: How to strike balance with black and white

by Tribune News Service | May 11, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

Black and white is a neutral color combination that can easily be dressed up or dressed down, while in many cases serving as the ideal foundation for nearly any color palette. The key, many designers argue, is striking the ideal balance for how and when to use combinations of the two colors in a space. Here are some top tips.


1. Do consider artwork to infuse black and white into a space.

2. Do incorporate black-and-white accents and accessories to infuse a black-and-white color scheme.

3. Do consider paint in the form of an accent wall to bring black and white into a space.

4. Do pair pops of color with a black-and-white color palette. Greens and yellows are colors that work well.

5. Do infuse large-scale elements of black and white into a space such as oversized artwork.


1. Don't oversaturate a space with too much black or too much white. A ratio of 50-50 or 70-30 is a good rule of thumb.

2. Don't incorporate overly dark elements in a room that doesn't get much light. In these cases, infuse tints, tones and shades of white, and use black as an accent.

3. Don't overlook opportunities to bring black and white into a space in big, bold ways such as larger furniture pieces and upholstery.

4. Don't ignore portable decor opportunities to bring in black and white such as toss pillows, throws and accessories.

5. Don't overdo it. Remember less is more. Use black and white as a foundation for your color story.

(Cathy Hobbs, based in New York City, is an Emmy Award-winning television host and a nationally known interior design and home staging expert with offices in New York City, Boston and Washington, D.C. Contact her at or visit her website at

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