Not-So-Basic Black

Colors located at opposite ends of the spectrum bring elegance to this bedroom.
Julia Hamilton
Not-So-Basic Black
Framed engravings above the sleigh bed accentuate the room'sclassic color scheme.

Place smart black details against light-colored walls, and you're assured an airy and elegant room, even in a tiny space. Designer Randy Powers saw the prototype of this 10- x 10-foot guestroom on a trip to England a few years ago. "I am very influenced by hotel-type decorating," he explains. "I stayed at Blakes Hotel in London, and it changed the way I think about decorating. Blakes is quite theatrical, yet it has a purity and doesn't seem contrived. Its owner, British designer Anouska Hempel, did every room differently, using antiques."

Randy's room at the hotel was dark and dramatic. "I stayed in number 11, the Biedermeier, where walls are painted black and covered in engravings," he says. "And I thought, 'Why can't home be like this?' It's so charming, with marvelous, luxurious little spaces where there's attention to detail and emphasis on comfort and warmth."


Souvenir Style
After returning from the trip, Randy created a version of the room for his mother, Laura Henson, in her Houston home. As he planned the design, he considered every detail of the compact space. "After seeing the engravings at Blakes, I went on a mission to find as many as I could. These are old, all from the same series," he says.

The remaining furnishings are a mix of family pieces, antiques, and lucky finds. Randy admired some luxurious linens at a local specialty shop, and a few months later, he happened upon an identical set at the store's clearance center. Edged in a Greek key motif, they are the perfect complement to Laura's antique Empire sleigh bed. Acrylic-plastic lamps from a thrift store balance the timeless appeal of framed intaglios (oval and round carved seals), as well as a French terra-cotta bust of Apollo.


With the room almost complete, Randy imagined how a fine black line drawn below the crown molding would add height and definition, so he applied 1-inch-wide black grosgrain ribbon at this level using a glue gun. He liked the effect so well that he continued the ribbon around doors, windows, and baseboards. In the bath, striped wallpaper and landscape prints repeat some of the bedroom's decorative elements.

Designs on Decorating
Randy finds the seeds of his distinctive style everywhere, but he always decides on the overall look of a room before selecting objects for it. "Look for inspiration, and adapt it to your budget, to availability, and to what you can get away with," he advises.