Hand drawn bugs in silver on black wallpaper
Expert advice: Decorating with black wallpaper
Elizabeth Ockford

Meet Elizabeth Ockford

Elizabeth’s creative talent and passion for colour, pattern, and form saw her study textile design at the Chelsea School of Art before beginning her career, creating fabrics and wallpapers for the fashion and interiors industries.
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How to decorate with black wallpaper? | Elizabeth Ockford offers her expert advice

“I talk so often about colour and my love of it, that somehow black wallpaper gets overlooked. A teacher of mine at school used to argue that black and white were not actually colours- but I disagree. These days there are so many variations and tones of black, that it’s got its own colour palette all to itself – just think of various paint shades, for example Rainy Slate (Conran Paints), Basalt (Little Greene) and Off Black (Farrow and Ball) to name but a few.”

a kitchen with black wallpaper
Rainy Slate, by Conran Paints.
Image credit: Dear Designer
A bedside table with black wallpaper
Basalt, by Little Greene.
Image credit: Little Greene
a fireplace with black wallpaper
Off Black No. 57, by Farrow & Ball.
Image credit: Farrow & Ball

Using Black as an accent colour with black wallpaper

“I find Black is so very useful as a foil to colour. When it is rich it creates a luminescence in the colours that sit within it – seen here in my Aruba wallpaper. The vibrant lobsters radiate from the textured black ground – they almost appear to be neon.”

Wallpaper pictured: W-01043 Aruba, Black

Beryl black wallpaper with flowers in a textured style

“In this floral Beryl paper, it can create atmosphere, mood and style whilst also adding a touch of masculinity to a female floral design. The traditional English Garden flowers have been fragmented in the pattern and seem to come and go out of the dark ground.”

Wallpaper pictured: Beryl from The Garden collection, coming soon

“These designs along with Pearl River, are all very easy to use and decorate with – as they offer such a diverse range of colours within the black background, that can be used to accent the décor of the rest of the room. I feel it often works best when paired with rich reds and greens to create a warm and intimate feel to the interior – but equally a striking blue and silver colour palette would work well with them.”

Wallpaper pictured: W-01082 Pearl River, Black

Soft and delicate wallpapers using black and white

Using black in your scheme doesn’t have to be about creating dramatic impact. A muted or perhaps sophisticated colour palette of blacks, greys, neutrals and whites leads to a very calm atmosphere. 

Butia, in black and white, adds a touch of glamour to a room, being a complex geometric pattern that resembles a woven silk, or even a Paul Klee abstract painting. It certainly has tones of Art Deco and the 1930s too. The colours softly blend and blur into each other, creating a pattern that is at once both sharp edged and softly focussed. Add into this interior a sofa in a tan tone of suede or leather and you have a very inviting and calm room. 

More delicately patterned are Montserrat and Faroe, both designs from The Islands range. Although their subject matter is sea based, they work really well in calm neutral tones that include black accents, making them very versatile for colour schemes.

Be brave and bold with black

“Sometimes though, it’s all about creating a dramatic impact- whether that is through scale, pattern or colour. I would say that using black as your main colour of choice on a wall is not something for the cautious decorator- it’s definitely a bold choice.

One personal favourite is Martinique in white on black. The oversize shells sit on a black ground that has the appearance of seagrass and a pearlescent finish. It’s so chic!

From my new collection, The Garden, are these two designs Marianne and Cleo. Cleo is a firm studio favourite – we loved sketching all the bugs and butterflies, and they work so well in soft white tones on a black ground.

While Marianne has this ghostly appearance of leaf and plant skeletons, appearing out of the black ground, alongside almost polarised botanical florals. It’s a classic design that has been given an Urban and modern twist with the use of colour.

So, I say- go for it with black! Find a room where you want to make dramatic effect, choose a stunning black wallpaper and accessorise away.

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