The black and white trend is becoming so ubiquitous, that I’m afraid many homeowners will be filled with regret in the years to come. Not only do I want to make colour easy for you, I want to save you from falling too hard for a trend that’s becoming overused very quickly.
**Warning: This post is NOT for you if you have just built a home or painted one in black and white.
Just go ahead and skip this post because you can’t unsee what you’re about to see and I don’t want anyone to feel bad. We all make the same mistakes until we learn, so this post is for those of you who can still make a change to your colours because you’ll want to after you read this.
We are officially only about 4 years into this trend so it will get much, much worse all over the country before it gets better. Trends last about 10 years (or much less for those in-the-know). It’s like the grey trend which started in 2009. It’s 2022 and those who don’t know are still installing grey floors.
For the record I’m sad to see what’s happening. I too thought this look seemed so fresh and new after decades of beige and then grey. But black and white are both so stark and quickly look so wrong when they are used in the extreme.
There are so many who still don’t realize that there is more than one shade of white and who also don’t know that the expression ‘Every room needs a hit of black’ is a REAL thing.
Let me repeat –just a hit– not an overdose of black. Because too much black immediately feels so incredibly heavy after it goes up or gets installed. Usually that’s when you instantly realize you’ve made a mistake. But then you look at more inspiration photos of influencers raving about their newly painted all-black homes so you feel a little better.
What’s wrong with the black and white trend?
You might be reading this right now thinking, “Wow I totally disagree with her. I love white/black. I’ve always loved it. She is so wrong.” And I wish I was. But since I’m in this business, I’m going to notice the trend going bad way before you do. And, I feel I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t tell you about it.
As I said recently when I announced I added an update to my Masterclass for Exterior Colour Selection, at this point in the trend (and I didn’t feel this way in the beginning) it’s become so widespread and overused, I would tread very carefully when buying or specifying most items in black and stark white.
Someone just sent me this photo of new townhouses that have just gone up in her neighbourhood.
Help me understand how anyone could ever think that this was a good idea? Have we landed on another planet?
This is the look and feel the black and white trend is leaving in its wake.
When a trend comes along that everyone embraces this hard, it seems so easy at first.
Like you don’t need to think at all.
Can’t go wrong with white right? Goes with everything. Looks so fresh and new.
And black? Well, same idea right?
I mean you just point. Black, white, black, white… when you’re making colour decisions and then you’re done right?
Black becomes all of the above so fast, you will instantly regret that you took no time at all to make more considerate colour decisions as soon as everything starts getting installed.
Not to mention, you may REGRET that you had time to make all the right decisions BEFORE your renovation or new build commenced, but you just relaxed thinking black and white would always be the correct answer.
Ugly costs the same as pretty, don’t forget.
And stark white looks just as wrong when overused and applied in earthy environments where it has no business ever being in the first place (see the new build below).
Another reader just sent me a video driving down the street where every single complex (nine in total) went black and white. (I took a few screenshots).
And since the architecture of these buildings was unremarkable to begin with, now that they are all a monochromatic shade of white and black they look kind of like a row of detention centers. Notice how your eye is immediately drawn to the small black windows.
A lot of lamps would be needed in these buildings.
Read more: 5 Lamps Everyone Should Have in Their Home
Sad because even though the stone they added at some point was not an improvement, these buildings could have been a lot more interesting had a colour designer been engaged to come up with a thoughtful colour palette.
Let’s look at the Saguaro hotels for a moment shall we?
Now this kind of colour scheme takes a lot more effort, foresight, planning, and most definitely a colour professional to pull off correctly.
And so worth it. It’s one of the most instagrammed hotels out there. And for good reason.
In the 80s when black was last trending, we saw a lot of black, masculine leather sofas and black millwork . We also saw a lot of powder rooms decorated with black sinks and toilets.
This time around, it’s much, much worse.
We learned how to make black plumbing fixtures and black hardware, ergo, even if someone has no black in their kitchen or bathroom, black lighting, hardware and plumbing still reign, instantly placing your otherwise timeless home, squarely inside this trend.
On Instagram where my “5 Ways to Ruin your Black and White Exterior’ videos have just begun, followers are sending me photos on where the black trend is going next:
Have you seen the all-black metal fence?
Black does work on fencing in a custom situation because greenery pops beautifully against it. But most people will slap this fence up and paint everything else black too. This will start going up around already stark black and white or grey homes (as shown here) adding even more darkness and bleakness to an already trendy home.
And it will mostly sit there alone, with no plant material to bring it to life (like in the image below).
Read more: Dos & Don’ts for Choosing the Right Fence Colour
What about black concrete?
Here’s another image a reader sent. Black concrete. It looks slightly better than black asphalt but why add such a large swath of black to your already black, grey and white home? It’s like you’re paying more just to have a driveway that looks slightly better than the cheaper black asphalt alternative.
Not to mention your driveway will now stick out on the street if your neighbours are not doing the same thing.
Black swimming pools?
I suppose a turquoise or blue pool sticks out in the black and white world of most new builds?
A few people messaged me and said they remembered black pools from the 80s. Since I wasn’t a designer then, this is the first time I’ve seen black in a pool.
Commercial exteriors are turning up black and white too
Last week I spent a few days in Vernon. I was so dismayed at how many strip malls had been painted the exact same bleak shade of charcoal. Over and over and over again.
Grey comes in warmer shades kids. Get the curated list of all the best neutrals listed from light to dark by undertone in either of my ebooks here.
And now Starbucks and even McDonalds is embracing this trend. Along with the same bleak shade of charcoal I might add.
On a side note, notice how the stone here has a violet grey undertone.
Violet grey and taupe is MOST often found in stone, as you would have learned in video lesson #4 of my Exterior Masterclass here.
I would have AT LEAST chosen the correct neutral here and it would have lost the bleakness that now prevails.
Here’s another commercial building in *SURPRISE* black and grey with a little tiny hit of white trim.
Did you know there is only ONE style of home that works in black. You can also find those details in my Exterior masterclass. This style of home is not one of them.
When I was driving home from Vernon, I even saw a church painted black:
Read more: My 3 Favourite Colours for a Pretty Church Exterior
After I posted the black church on my Instagram stories, a follower sent me this:
This time we have a red door? How is this a better colour scheme? The addition of the red makes me cringe because of that association.
Adding eyeliner to a white building to help the heritage features (below) pop is no better.
My Mom sent me this photo she snapped on her way home from our trip.
How lovely. Such a nice reprieve from the black and white world.
More black and white houses we can’t ignore
Moving on to another photo sent to me by a follower. This homeowner (below) added brown window coverings inside to coordinate with the warmer wood stained elements they added to their black exterior but it was too late to make a difference. Plus in order to get the full effect of the colour inside the windows, you have to have your blinds closed at all times.
Also, this just in:
Where we were using stone on our stark white homes in the last few years to try and differentiate our stark white house from our neighbours stark white homes, now (as an alternative to stone) we’re slapping up BLACK accent walls ON EXTERIORS!??!?!?!
We’ve moved from simply painting the garage door black (still a bad idea), to random areas elsewhere.
And I’m here to tell you, this is not a good look.
Notice, AGAIN, this black and white exterior in no way relates to the much warmer, earthy stone (below). Not to mention we painted the gables in black?
Another accent wall moment I suppose.
I think there’s enough going on here, we did not need to go there. I talk at length in my masterclass how worried so many people are about their exterior being BORING and the BEST SOLUTION to address this.
Because this accent-walls-on-exteriors trend is happening on black and white homes, it’s now moving to colour as well. And, it doesn’t look any better. Thanks to another reader who sent me these homes last week.
So, please. Take advice from a colour expert.
Take the time to create a mood board if you are building or renovating. You should have one for each room minimum including your exterior. Everything should be in front of you visually BEFORE the house is painted so you can see the end result. I talked about this here when I helped my Mom with her front porch addition last year.
Learn the easiest way to create a mood board here.
Read more: Even Minor Alterations Need Drawings; Before & After
If you’re choosing exteriors colours, take the time to watch all 17 modules of my Exterior masterclass and please, do us all a favour and choose ANYTHING other than stark white and black or the SAME bleak shade of charcoal that is hitting every commercial exterior strip mall as we speak.
PS. Let’s just take one last look at a world where colour still reigns and that is Europe.
This is a photo I snapped when I was in Burano, Italy a few years ago. This colourful town is a short boat ride from Venice. Would tourists flock to this little town if it was black and white?
I’m saying NO.
I just received a message from an eDesign Classic Kitchen client who said she recently built an outbuilding that was white with black trim because they were going to make some minor updates to their heritage black and white exterior after the fact. But now that the trend has gone completely viral on every exterior, she doesn’t want to keep going with that scheme.
As I said in the beginning of this post, I too thought white with black was so fresh in the beginning, but now that it’s being done soooo badly and en masse EVERYWHERE, it’s time for those in the know to do better.
My prediction is that the next colour trend will in fact be COLOUR itself. And this means colour consultants will be more in demand than ever. If that’s you, register into one of the three Virtual Specify Colour with Confidence events happening this fall here.
So please, if you haven’t painted your home yet but it’s due, don’t paint it white or black even if it works. We need to save North America from this trend one home at a time.
Here’s a couple comments from Instagram:
Check out my 2022 update to this trend (and what to do instead) inside my Exterior masterclass here.
If you need help with a timeless exterior colour palette, see my eDesign packages here.
The House with a Hug; Before & After
6 Best Exterior Colours for a Lakehouse or Beach House
7 Exterior Colour Lessons from Cape Cod Architecture