Back in Black

Published by Catherine Nguyen

“When I fell in love with black, it contained all colors. It wasn’t a negation of color. It was an acceptance. Because black encompasses all colors. Black is the most aristocratic color of all. … You can be quiet and it contains the whole thing.”– Louise Nevelson 

The weeks leading up to the closing of our home were filled with overwhelming emotions that became compounded by my father’s ailing health. As a family we are navigating uncharted waters together, making tough decisions related to his care and managing through this period of uncertainty. It has been a season of reconciling relationships, as we define what peace means to each of us in this moment. Negotiating these waves of complex emotions has led to my own physical and mental health challenges, and as I weather the storms, I am grateful for moments of clarity that provide me with space to find healing.  

My father helped us review our closing documents– a welcome distraction for us all. I had been so physically and emotionally bogged down by the weight of these events, I did not realize I was walking around in a fog, viewing the world through a cloudy prism. We commemorated the closing by taking a family picture together and in that moment the gray clouds lifted. I saw and felt color again. For me it was a powerful reminder of how emotion and color are so closely tied together.  

As we begin the process of designing our home, the colors we choose have become emblematic of this moment of transformation. Our color story begins with a choice that may appear antithetical to joy.  


To understand how this color plays such a significant role in the re-design is to understand the home as we bought it. It is white. Blindingly white. While some find clarity, openness, and lightness in the color, which makes it an excellent color choice for selling a home, however living with a blank palette is another story. It reminded me of the Agreeable Gray by Sherwin Williams we originally used in our first home. As I brainstormed our remodel with interior designer Lauren Burns, one of our first goals was to resolve the white. The color certainly has its place in some areas of the home, so we chose to keep the exterior white, except for an accent wall that we will paint black to create more dramatic contrast at the entrance. This sets the tone for other black features we plan to sprinkle throughout the house.  

In our open kitchen, we will be parting ways with white subway tile and white shiplap wall which will undergo a darker transformation to give the space more of a rich, moody feel. The original source of inspiration dates back to a 2014 shoot I photographed for my dear friend Caroline Lizarraga featuring a supple crocodile wall design using black Venetian plaster. I immediately fell in love with the way the light bounced off the patterns she created using a series of shaded rectangular scales aligned on a vertical axis– its height gave the design a lush, textured appearance that evoked quiet drama. I have been waiting for years to find the right space to recreate this design in a fresh, new way and I’m excited to collaborate with her once again.  


From there other black accents will ground the white kitchen: a wave patterned tile will replace the white subway tile backsplash, we will swap the range hood for something darker, and will update many of the lighting fixtures. 

“I love black because it affirms, designs, and styles. A woman in a black dress is a pencil stroke.” – Yves Saint Laurent 

When it comes to style, one accessory can inspire an entire look–and in a home, art is a defining accessory that takes a home from polished to distinguished. Over the last few months, retail therapy has become a welcome respite from life’s chaos. This charcoal print of a Gibson girl that I found at the Sleepy Poet Antique Mall in Charlotte will accompany a pair of vintage mirrors, a gallery wall vignette of ceramic flowers, and a painting from one of my dear cousins that will add personality throughout the new space. Art is fluid, so I will be adding and re-arranging items from our treasured collection with these new pieces, allowing them to spark entirely new artistic conversations on the walls.  

One valuable lesson that I have already learned this year is that one lifted weight creates space for the imagination. In this case I’ve made room for optimism– I will take this with me into the design of my home, work, and relationships. As you prioritize the goals that you set this year, please consider what you might be able to let go of to make room for your imagination to soar. 

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