Opposites Attract: the use of black and white in design

Ken Fulk’s Living Room Design . Anchored in Black and White.

Balance in life is something we are ever in pursuit of. One side of the seesaw is tipped too far, and too long, on the side of drama, chaos, endless checklists that can feel as if they add up to nothing of significance, even when the boxes display that emphatic red slash or definitive x. Then it bumps gently down on the side of calm composure, perhaps brought on by a vacation that you never want to leave.

We need both, we need equilibrium, we need that special mental calmness, composure, and even temper when we are faced with the most vexing situations. You know the kind, the ones a design and construction project are always throwing your way. I can hear the yogi Baron Baptiste whispering in his flat affect…”equanimity”, the even tide of his utterance lulling me into a hypnotic state. No time for that now. We must discuss contrast.

Kelly Wearstler’s San Francisco . The Proper Hotel

Contrast – the good and evil, the dark and the light, the total absorption of one, ironically brings about expansiveness. Paint your walls black or install kitchen cabinets of the same color and they seem to recede into the distance making your 100sf feel like two or three. White wash your walls and get ready to reflect the sunlight that pours in through your windows, tricking you once again into thinking the space is larger than it is.

Suzanne Kasler . Just a touch of black inside the fireplace to ground the white room.

Black and white is timeless and chic. It can draw your attention to the one color or object in a room that you want the visitor to appreciate most. It goes with any color combination or design style, making it the single most versatile combo you can choose to use. You never need to be afraid of the dark if you don’t forget to leave the white on.

QUIN.tessential Design: getting social in Boston

The Algonquin Club is getting a face-lift. Known as the finest, and most perfectly appointed clubhouse in American, when it was designed by McKim, Mead & White in 1886, ideals change. No offense to Charles McKim, who designed this limestone jewel on Commonwealth Ave. in Boston’s Back Bay. You were cutting edge at the time, and I still wander the BPL in wonder over the vaulted ceilings, grand marble stairs, courtyard seemingly plucked from a fine Italian estate (if you haven’t been to the Boston Public Library of late, do not let the skate punks deter you from your mission. March right up those granite steps, past the wrought iron lanterns that could slay a dragon, and take a tour – admission is free). The Algonquin had remained, in this gal’s humble opinion, decidedly stuck in another era, where social club’s were the exclusive right of upper crust male businessman, heavy velvet curtains cloaked dark brooding windows, and cigar smoke hung heavy in the air. Cough, cough, um hum, excuse me, could a waiter please bring me a sip of fresh air.

The Swan and Bar Bevy. Design: Ken Fulk

That fresh air, as it turns out, was blown in from the West Coast, SF to be specific, at the bequest of Sandy Edgerley and her husband Paul, who purchased the old gal in 2018, and began renovations in preparation for her unveiling in June of this year. I wonder if McKim and Fulk – Ken Fulk that is, would have become fast friends. They shared a love of Paris, Charles having studied at Ecole des Beaux-Arts, bringing that lavish and grandiose architectural style to “the club”, and Ken having absorbed, perhaps through osmosis, the very essence of Parisienne culture, custom, and design. While McKim was all balustrades and balconies, columns and cornices, symmetry and the sublime, Fulk is classically tailored and fearlessly modern, and it must be said, nothing short of a magician.

Carbone . Las Vegas : Design Ken Fulk

A modern mood was in order. The shrugging off of the Algon – coat of armor has left The Quin’s essential elegance in tact, thrown her windows open to welcome in the light, invite a sense of pretty playfulness – introducing us to what is at once delightfully surprising, and as familiar as a friend you plan to have, when only you make their acquaintance. What better place to do it than within these scrubbed marble walls. Dine in one of the seven restaurants, tap a button and champagne will appear, get well and ready after a work-out with a championship winning, Boston Celtics ring wearing, personal trainer. Follow it with a steam, a spa service, and a blow-out, when you ascend the stairs, you’ll have level after level from which to choose. Will you work, learn, congregate, sip, simply soak up the beauty of her interior? A comfortable home away from home for some, for me, more comfortable than any home I’ve called home before.

Fulk’s essential talent lies in the details. It’s the bones of the building, the color selection, the matte surfaces paired with polished, glazed, and mirrored. It’s the unexpected combinations, the acids and pastels, the cocktail napkin, the floral arrangement, the uniformed servers, the bed linen, the art work, nothing that can have an impact on your sensory experience is likely to be missed by this mystery of a man. Go ahead and keep me in suspense – you have my heart . total adoration . and I must say … reverence this Valentine’s Day.

The Hirst Bar . Design Ken Fulk