The Journey Back to Black: The Nuances of Dark Walls

There is something undeniably glamorous about a minimalist stance — the balancing act of reduction; the idea of “less is more”. But to eclipse color and blanket everything with black holds a magic of its own.   Currently, I am experiencing a great sense of relief and freedom with this intentional choice and, for the first time, refusing to get caught up in the drama and complexity that comes with layering color and forming harmonious, complimentary color palettes. As much as I love, adore and appreciate color — and its walk before me every minute of my day — there is something  currently refreshing and appealing in the choice to remove it all and surround myself with black, and the many discovering shades thereof. I see that I have always underestimated the value of black as an exclusive choice, perhaps fearing that this strikingly dramatic solo player might possibly overplay its hand.
Playing with black paint

Experimenting with varying shades of black

For me, black has always played the supporting role in a production. Though a valued and highly regarded team player in my cast of colour, it was never center stage. However, while walking this path of new discovery (also partly inspired by the purchase of my new home that begs for the unusual), I realise that black needs no partners; it has a mysterious and secretive world all of its own. It contains and absorbs all colour.

This black gloss powder room delivers the drama.

Many of you stand alone in the darkness, with the self-bravery and courage to venture out into this world.  For me, I am faced with my memory and fear of dark lake waters and being told to ‘jump in’. They say the dark waters represent the unconscious mind and your fullest potential, which especially at a young age are unknown and intimidating.
I’m inspired by the “dark side” of my friend, London-based stylist, retailer and designer Abigail Ahern  a who embraces the dark colors and adventurous interiors.
Elizabeth Ahern

Ahern’s signature colour palette is an array of intoxicating, dark, inky “bottom of the lake” hues.

As I open myself up to black in its quiet, reflective solitude, I am learning to focus on its nurturing qualities – the richness of good soil, the lone flight of a raven across a grey misted winter sky, the surface of a long road that supports me each day in travel.  
In my design, black supports and almost demands a lack of clutter and the introduction of furnishings and art that allows these pieces to shine bright like stars in the darkness.
And, I confess to going to personal extremes in my new-found respect of black by eliminating the flavoured creamers in my coffee that lined the refrigerator door. I am now a coffee-drinking purist with no ten word order for my morning java.
Back paint is like the color of my coffee

Taking my new affinity toward black personally by removing the creamer from my coffee!

Today, there are so many variations of the standard black-black that instead of feeling mired in the darkness, they highlight the subtle undertones: bruised blue-black, deep amazon green-blacks, black with a warm red or umber influence that looks like dark roasted coffee beans — all rich and intoxicating. 
C2’s line of “near blacks” represents a full range of the dark side with colors like Aperture, Stout and Baritone. The saturation of C2’s finely ground pigments provides a “black” with undertones of dark greens and blues that have much higher resolution and an intense depth.
black paint with white is a classic combination

The eternal classic pairing of black and white (featured: C2’s Aperture + Architectural White)

Embracing black is a process that I welcome and embrace, even knowing the challenges it poses. On a recent design collaboration for a public Buffalo Showhouse event, I used my new ally partnered simply with white. The classic combination was chic, classic and sophisticated. I partnered with Traci Ackerman of Red Disk Design and created a schematic around her Burchfield Penney wallpaper launch with the ‘Flowers at Night’ wallpaper.
wallpaper painted with black paint

With the historic 1921 design by Burchfield Penney we selected a contemporary C2 color palette of esoteric midnight black – Aperture, with a calibrated measure of Seraph – a soft blue grey tucked into window niches and the hallway.

The black and white schematic navigated me into a more minimalist aesthetic, which, given that I have moved home four times in the past 19 months, definitely has its pluses. Everything becomes so punctuated against a dark background — and needs careful curation. It is a more definite and orchestrated production in furnishing the space with a need to view and understand all the nuances and subtleties of light, texture and the combinations of finishes.  The identity of the space becomes a place for self reflection and peace for me.
How long this will last? I have no idea. The beauty of our homes is that they allow us to create a refuge that represents that particular chapter of our lives, and can change just as easily with the ebb and flow of time.
For now, I’m enjoying and embracing “the dark side” for now, and all the teachings that came with this new direction.
Philippa Radon

About Philippa Radon

Philippa Radon cultivated her signature colour-based design philosophy through many years of developing her professionally trained eye in the industry. Working with high profile British and U.S. designers, her work as a colour consultant led her to establishing her own full service design firm servicing national and international clientele alike. She established paint lines for Pottery Barn, developed her own organic paint line, and worked on projects for the Victoria and Albert Museum, British National Trust and St. James Palace. Her commercial clients have included Guess Clothing, Ralph Lauren clothing stores, the Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles, Steven Ehrlich, St. John's Hospital in Los Angeles, William Morris Agency and Maxxam Enterprises. Her residential clients are a diverse group including Warner Brothers VIP John Richards, Benenson Capital in New York, and the artist formerly known as Prince. Radon’s work immerses her into the world of colour and design. She recently relocated from Los Angeles to Western NY, where her husband was born and raised. Her design firm services the Western NY region and Buffalo areas. A devoted advocate of supporting local, USA-based business, she has worked with and favoured C2 Paint and their colour palette for many years. Always inspired by the beauty of her own home and its surroundings, she brings her attunement to nature back to the energetic pulse of city life, claiming that "the chickens keep her honest." Learn more about Philippa and her aesthetic at http://philipparadondesign.com


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