Style it dark for summer

Sizzling summer style

Dark interiors aren’t just for hybernating in winter months – honest! The inky tentacles of dark interiors are reaching far and wide into the world of interiors this summer. Like the *LBD in fashion, accessorising with black in an interior decorating scheme – often acts as an anchor and adds more than just a little understated chic. No longer associated with ’80s black ash furniture – from achingly stylish terraces of Juan les Pins to patios in Pinner – dark decorating is creating a summer scene.

*Little Black Dress

Midsummer monochrome

The ‘Dark decorating’ trend usually means, painting with dark colours on walls, ceilings, paintwork and skirts to create a cocooning interior.  However, there are ways of using dark colours within a scheme so that they work all year round. For example, teaming dark with a contrasting white or cream immediately allows a more summery monochrome look.

Outdoor furniture

Black garden furniture, textiles and accessories create a fantastically smart contrast to garden plants and to blue sea views.

Although most things are going to look fab in front of this view, Ralph Lauren‘s trademark style shows how to create a monochrome wow. It’s the details such as the proportion of the umbrella, the piping on cushions and daybed mattress, and the use of a broad striped fabric that make this work.

Ralph Lauren

Monochrome mood board

Fabrics in sharp graphic stripes and plains look really great in the garden and by the pool.  They are rather striking for interiors too but I might be inclined to soften the look by adding some warmer taupes or greys with plenty of texture. Black works with many bright colourways too – even if it is just in a small way on trimmings and accessories.

Monochrome fabric moodboard. Left: Suzdal ivan/Charcoal print A9EPHA02, Volga Linen; plain Campbell Union Black, organic Ticking Night, both Ian Mankin; right: Encanto Weave Cream, FRL5025/01, Ralph Lauren Home; Bottom: Blake Border Black, Bert & May. Styling and photo: Charis White

Ian Mankin stock a very affordable range of plains and stripes. Not to be forgotten are IKEA’s Aina plain linen fabrics which are a must for quality and price at £8/m. As with any cushion styling scenario, a small or boudoir cushion in an eye catching print adds a sweet finishing touch.

My top three summer ’17 monochrome designer prints are Volga Linen’s Ivan/Charcoal Ref. A91EPHA02 (above), Bert and May’s Black Blade Border (above) and this extremely sweet print ‘Anya’ in Charcoal by Kate Forman Designs (below) which was beautifully made by Amanda McAvoy at Millie & Bell.

Dark print cushions

‘Anya’ in Charcoal by Kate Forman Designs. Image courtesy of Millie and Bell

Bathroom ideas

Tasselled towels just exude the height of spa luxury. La Redoute are selling ‘Gamacha’ luxury bath towel (£39) as part of their Summer ’17 collection. Perfect perhaps for teaming with a seamless teak and inky black wood bathroom such as this one in ‘Plywood House II’ designed by Australian architects Andrew Burges.

Dark coloured baths

If you have the space, I don’t think you ever regret putting in a free-standing bath as they create a visual focal point. In our last house I managed to squeeze one in to a very small space and even though it touched both walls, it strangely managed to make the bathroom look bigger. Opting for a black bath (available from £500 to £10,000) in a white space, means you can experience the luxury of black without being overwhelmed by a totally dark interior. Even if it takes a little more maintenance in the cleaning department …

Image courtesy of Pinterest/

Ceramic wall art

Since I wrote about Vanessa Hogge’s incredible work a year ago, her work has gone from strength to strength. Vanessa’s output has been formidable in that time – as has the well-deserved recognition she has received. Vanessa’s collection now includes jewellery, gigantic vases and tiles as well as her wall art. Vanessa has moved her kiln and business from home to the Cockpit Arts Studios in London. I am so pleased for her and can’t wait to see what the next year brings!


Telephone wire bowls

Black and White telephone wire bowls, Designers Guild, Kings Road. Photo: Charis White

Diamond window display

This Ralph Lauren window display (at Designers Guild, Kings Road, London) did its job and caught my eye as I walked past! It’s never easy to take photos through windows but this summery take on ‘dark’ is just so seductive and I had to capture it somehow … With every piece carefully chosen from the light coloured linen curtain to the crackle glaze plant pot, sitting on textured woven rug, it is a lesson in composition. The star of the show of course is the Ebony Bambara fabric FRL5020/01 by Ralph Lauren, available from Designers Guild.


Ebony drawers

This vintage chest of drawers from The Old Cinema is painted with an ebony/charcoal coloured paint.

The Old Cinema. Photo: Charis White

Sparkling silver service

Silver plate trays are being used a lot by stylists and interior designers right now as they add the right amount of sparkle and class to dark or ebony coloured furniture. The other great thing is that along with hotel silver, it is really rather inexpensive. This tray (£35) and vintage glasses are from The Old Cinema in London. Crowman Antiques in Devizes, Wiltshire have a good collection of silver plate as well as some rather fab Georgian solid silver. Fanny’s Antiques in Reading often sell silver plate trays for as little as £22.

Silver plate tray at The Old Cinema. Photo: Charis White
Silver plated tray for sale in my online shop White Vintage, £30 plus £5 p&p.

Keep it light and bright

Whether it is a winter room or a summer room you are designing, ‘dark’ definitely needs a little reflection, refraction and sparkle. I love the wire mesh pendent lights and foxed dark painted vintage mirror from Ines Cole’s concession at The Old Cinema.

Ines Cole at The Old Cinema. Photo: Charis White

Dark = smart

Black isn’t the first colour that might spring to mind when serving an alfresco summer’s eve supper but bright coloured food and drink is set off very nicely by a dark background. This range of mustard and black earthenware was revived from a dormant 19th Century factory on the canals of Digoin in Bourgogne by Corinne Jourdain in 2014.  The updated range with its demi-gloss/matt glaze is seriously on the button! Available from Designers Guild Kings Road showroom in London.

Ceramics at Designers Guild, Kings Road, London. Photo: Charis White

More marvellous monochrome

You can never have enough monochrome ideas and if you would like to see it in a beautiful location house please check out my latest monochrome blog post.

Charis White, interior stylist
Charis White – interior stylist/blogger

Thank you so much for reading! In the meantime, if you would like to receive email alerts for future posts, then please press the large blue ‘Follow’ button either at the beginning or end of this post. Don’t forget too that I regularly post additional ideas on Instagram @chariswhite.stylist! With many thanks, Charis x

9 thoughts on “Style it dark for summer

  1. Hi Charis

    I loved your inky black post – really interesting and clearly it is a trend!

    Also I thought I would just let you know that Adam’s Eden Ebony is also going to be coming out as a fabric too in the autumn so looks as though Lewis & Wood are going in the right direction.

    V best wishes



    1. Thank you Sally, I am so glad you enjoyed it. I meant to say but felt the blog was too long already (as usual!) that if you get Black and white in the right proportions, you can end up with a very successful outcome. Nearly 100 years of Chanel packaging and more recently The White Company and Jo Malone have proved this. I am SO excited to see Lewis & Wood’s ‘Adam’s Eden Ebony’ as a fabric. That will be very gorgeous. With best wishes, Charis.


  2. Well, what fabulous photos and mix of stunning black and white fabrics. Love Vanessa Hogge and Ralph Lauren. Particularly like the mirror with photographer!


  3. The easiest colors to match are black and white, and these hues are always appropriate for the fashion and interior decorating scheme. I like the first photo you post, it’s really charming.


    1. Thank you and yes I agree. With black and white it is also down to the proportion of each colour you use that makes a harmonious scheme. Chanel, The White Co and Jo Malone seem to have that about right.


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