How Black Became the Kitchen’s It Color

For decades, the American dream kitchen has been covered in gleaming white surfaces, from subway tile to countertops to cabinets. Save for a few historic blips—think pink and turquoise in the post–World War II years, and avocado green and harvest gold in the ’60s and ’70s—white has remained the default choice for kitchen design, most recently embodied by the Pinterest-approved trend of light and bright cooking and dining spaces.

But lately, a new It color has been gaining ground in America’s kitchens, and it’s not one that we associate strongly with a bygone era. Indeed, that may be part of its appeal: Since about 2015, all-black kitchens have become increasingly popular. Sophisticated homeowners are exploring shiny black cabinets, black marble countertops with striking white veins, black floors, and even black appliances. Design manufacturers have taken notice, and sleek black ranges, refrigerators, and more have been a fixture at the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show in recent years. But is the mainstream ready for the all-black look? Or will this trend, like so many before it, be another flash in the pan?

Alexa Hampton chose dark tones for her New York City kitchen, where cabinetry by S. Donadic is painted a Benjamin Moore black.

Photo: Scott Frances

“We are starting to see black being used in a much bigger way,” says Laurie Pressman, vice president of the Pantone Color Institute. “This is different than just larger black appliances or maybe a black countertop. This is about the move to black cabinetry, black paint, black flooring, and different black shades for countertop appliances.”

Alison Levasseur, AD’s interiors and garden director, sees the movement as a pendulum swing toward something with greater depth and sophistication, noting that black and other dark colors work surprisingly well in compact spaces. “Recently we’ve seen a trend of black kitchens designed by leading AD100 designers,” she says. “It may have something to do with designing smaller New York City kitchens.”

One of those firms is New York–based Ashe Leandro, which has mastered the look. “It looks like a Dutch Old Master painting,” Reinaldo Leandro told AD last year of the kitchen he designed with partner Ariel Ashe for the home of her sister Alexi and brother-in-law, Seth Meyers. “Everything pops out; everything feels more vibrant.” For this project, they chose the velvety Off-Black by Farrow & Ball and black stone countertops. Meanwhile, for the kitchen in Liev Schreiber’s NoHo loft, the firm juxtaposed shiny black lacquer cabinets and black countertops with light-colored wood cabinets.

Lauren Buxbaum Gordon, partner at Nate Berkus Associates and proud owner of a black kitchen herself, sees a connection between an inky palette and the possibility of personalization. “In my opinion, black symbolizes someone who is passionate about design and who isn’t afraid to take risks,” she says. “Aesthetically speaking, black tends to feel more sophisticated and formal depending on how it’s styled, but for me, that versatility is what’s most appealing. In my black kitchen, I mixed in rope chairs, crackled subway tiles, and old French pottery to take it down a notch.”

Richard Shapiro’s beachfront retreat in Malibu, California, boasts an island made of basalt and black lacquer cabinets.

Photo: Miguel Flores-Vianna 

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