Fabulous Front Entrance:: Why Black Works...

468 mount macedon road mount macedon

A black front door...it instantly conjures up an image of elegance, of sophistication...but why? Is it because black is associated with drama, with confidence?  Is it because it is the darkest of the dark colours, so therefore the moodiest of the moody? Or is it simply because it creates a maximised contrast against its paler surrounds?

lbd oscar de la renta for balmain 1997 via oscar pr girl

Think of the Little Black Dress and its enduring sophisticated, elegant appeal...and the answer to why a black front door works may just lie therein....

This is Oscar de la Renta, circa 1997...yes, 16 years ago....and yet it looks as if it could be worn today...the simplicity and drama of black transcends fashions, styles and eras in the fashion world just as much as it does in the architectural world, it seems.

Black is never particularly in nor out of fashion. (Of course, wearing black as an everyday colour only came into public acceptance at the beginning of the 20th century...prior to that it was worn as a mourning colour...so I am talking about fashion post 1900....but then as that gives us a 113 year span, there does seem to be a pattern going on....)

art deco home melbourne yellowtrace_Middle-Park-House_CJA-KPDO_Melbourne
yellowtrace_Middle-Park-House_CJA-KPDO_Melbourne_black front door

Black is not technically a colour...it is actually the absence of all colour....it is the absorption of all light (and therefore of all colours perceived to exist by our eyes)...so if it is powerful enough to absorb all colour, it is powerful enough to absorb our gaze, you could say...

Which is exactly what it does, when contrasted against actual colours....or even against white....which (being the opposite of black), is the appearance of light with no absorption...where no hue is visible because the entire colour spectrum is present in quantities which we perceive as equal...

So mixing black with white is yin + yang: perfect opposites...it's illustrated beautifully in this Art Deco house in Melbourne, renovated by CJA and KPDO...which uses the classic black and white colour scheme of the Art Deco style to highlight the graphic lines of the building...you can see more of this amazing house here.

But black works as that contrast against actual colours just as well as white, because colour is, obviously, the opposite of no-colour. It is stunning if the colours are pale, like this palest faintest pink sash and grey-veined marble, contrasted against the black dress...

pale pink sash against black dress via park and cube

and striking if the surrounding colour is rich...like this turquoise blue on the door frame ...(itself surrounded by a sea of dark green plantings)....

black front door turquoise blue surround

It works, because the no-colour of black contrasts with the colour of the surround. And the human eye is naturally drawn to contrast.

(Think of the mood created in dark theatre sets, through dimming the lights to create pools of light on the stage...the contrast of standing out in the dark shadows.)

black door versus white door receding and advancing colours

But I think perhaps the most fascinating reason why black works so well as a Fabulous Front Entrance is because of its ability to trick the eye in depth of perception...a trick which I use endlessly in my projects because one can completely change the way the eye "reads" a building...

We perceive that black recedes, while white advances...so if you want an element to  appear further away, paint it black. In this illustration, imagine the small rectangle in the centre of each box represents a front door. You can easily see how the black door (in the white surround) appears to be further away than the white door (in the black surround).

So painting a front door in black will give it a depth against the contrast of the "advancing" wall surrounds...and the depth gets our attention...we want to explore....

taqueria_canalla by manifiesto futura

In reverse, having a surround of black makes the door appear to be closer to us than its surrounding wall...In this example, the door is yelling out to us..."come hither" it says "come inside, I want your attention".

richardson dondoe black glossy double doors

And attention, when it all boils down to the basics, is really what a successfully designed front entrance is all about...attracting the eye of the visitor...."here I am" the front doors should say....making it clear and visible...so it's no wonder that black works so well in creating a Fabulous Front Entrance....and not just for the bold and the daring....

black door with corkscrew pine pots // lbd oscar de la renta // art deco house middle park, melbourne front elevation + entry hall // lbd with pink sash // black door with turquoise surround // black + white graphic blue fruit // timber door in black facade san pedro // glossy black double doors