A Classic Design Duet

As you can see from this blog, I have a passion for black and white. (My partner calls it an obsession but let's not go that far.) I think it stems from working in magazines for 20 years. Being saturated by colour all day and making decisions about mastheads based on minute variations in shades can make a girl long for the simplicity, clarity and minimalist glamour of monochromatics. But it's also because I think black and white represent sophistication at its best, elegance at its most alluring. Think of a black parquetry floor in the grand, white salon of a period Parisian apartment. A Robert Doisneau photo on a white gallery wall. A smartly striped marquee at a country wedding in the Cotswolds. Any of Anouska Hempel's hotels. A great many of Cecil Beaton's design. It's daring and yet quietly understated, refined and yet highly stylized, and always, always impeccably, memorably glamorous. It brings to mind Dorothy Draper and William Haines, the tailored soigné-ness of Ralph Lauren's home collections, the movie-star-inspired sets of old Hollywood. Black and white spaces are the design equivalent of a well-tailored tuxedo with a crisp white dress shirt, or a little black dress with a perfect string of pearls. (Very Grace Kelly.) It reminds us that there can be beauty in simplicity, and grace in understatement.

Here are some of my favourite black-and-white spaces.

The Raleigh Hotel, Miami. One of my all-time favourite places. An architectural ode to the elegance of black and white. Very 'old Hollywood'. Karl Lagerfeld staged a Cruise Collection here recently, sending the models out around the iconic Baroque pool. See? Even Karl knows a good thing when he stumbles upon it in his dark sunglasses.

The Mondrian hotel, Miami. Designed by that crazy, extraordinarily talented enfant terrible of interior design, Marcel Wanders, this place is a little –how can I put it politely? – "out there" (a very fitting phrase for the cheekily camp Miami), but I couldn't help but like it. It was like falling through a rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland. Only a very stylish hole. Where the 'Queen' was a well-dressed concierge who calls you "honey". (Notice the white carnations in the receptionist's black vase? They've even elevated the old carnies to art.)

The Maya Ubud, Bali. This bath was so beautiful I have could lived in it. I could have moved my books, iPhone and laptop onto that ottoman and never left.

A private residence on Sydney harbour. A former ballroom, this was converted to an astonishing home by an amazing Russian designer. It's a preview of one of the chapters in my forthcoming book, Design in Black and White II. (Notice the ornate ceiling? Glorious.)

The work of New York design firm Schappacher White. The brilliance of Steve Schappacher and Rhea White is evident in their Shelter Island beach house, which is a poem to monochromes. (Love the rustic garden chairs as dining furniture.) One of the prettiest homes I've ever seen. (More on this enchanting hideaway in a later post.)

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