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Black walls come out of the dark

If you've been flipping through new decorating books or magazines lately, you may have noticed a dark, dark trend: black walls.

No, it doesn't have anything to do with Halloween.

Domino magazine's new book, "The Book of Decorating" (Melcher Media, $32) shows a bathroom with black walls and a black window shade.

The exterior of the claw-foot tub is black (the tub's interior is white.)

The towels are white; the fittings, brass; the accessories, minimal. The herringbone-patterned wood floor has a slightly worn look.

"Deep, sumptuous blacks give this bathroom its edge," write the editors, who describe the style as Rustic Zen.

That's not all. A den in this month's issue of Country Living is painted -- in the designer's words -- "an inky almost-black blue." The wall-mounted TV practically disappears into it.

Ralph Lauren has a paint color called Ebony. Benjamin Moore offers Midnight Oil.

I called up local interior designer Mark Taylor, catching him on his cell phone at the dry cleaner.

"So what's going on here?" I asked, describing the black walls I've been observing the last few days.

His first thought: Maybe all those 16-year-olds who wanted to paint their bedrooms black were really onto something.

Truth be told, he says, "I've really, really been wanting to do a black-and-white room. The closest I've come is a very, very dark navy. The client was scared, but it came out beautifully and the client loved it. It didn't make the room look small; it made it look cozy and warm and beautiful," he said, noting that the dark color was juxtaposed with a gold ceiling.

As for black walls: "I could see them in a powder room or in any room. Dark colors, if they are used in the right way, are spectacular," he said.

All this talk of black made me think about something else, and it involves my mother.

Another phone call -- and a trip back to the 1950s.

"When your father and I were first married, I painted the living room walls black -- an almost-black, really," my mother recalled.

"There wasn't a lot of wall space. There were two big arches -- one went to the dining room; the other to the bedrooms. The third wall had big double windows, and the fourth had double windows and a door," she said.

"I went out and bought white sheets and made draperies. Then I bought fabric in a big black-and-white check and made a cover for the sofa. We had two black butterfly chairs and a TV -- which was black," she continued.

And on the floor: a bright turquoise rug.

A shag, no less.

"Want me to tell you about the rest of the house?" she asked.

Nope, sorry, running out of space. Besides, we have to point out that this lights-out look isn't for everybody.

"I sell a lot of black background wallpaper; it's very dramatic. But black paint is a little too much drama for me," said Barbara Rykse, president of Setel Wallpaper on Hertel Avenue.

As for Mark Taylor, the verdict on black walls is still out, he said.

But it's something he may just try in the future.


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