Black magic enchants décor

My friends know that when I'm in a black mood, it means I'm ready to add sophisticated style and a splash of panache to a room by practicing a little black magic. I adore black and use touches of it to add depth, interest and contrast to every room in my home. If you haven't yet dabbled with the dark side, here are a few reasons to give black a second look when you're decorating.

Safe and sensational

When my sister Judy wanted to redo her bedroom, she experienced a classic case of color-palette paralysis. She painted her walls a lovely shade of green called Gooseberry, then froze up when it came to picking accent colors. Green and white? Green and blue? Pink and green? Pink and red? The more she pondered, the more overwhelmed she became.

Finally, I came to her rescue. As I began to pull out a medley of fabulous black-and-cream fabrics for her bedding -- toile, fleur-de-lis, oversized checks -- she began to get excited. At last, the decision was made.

If you're ever in a similar predicament when designing a room -- bogged down by too many color choices -- consider calling on black to save the day. Because black is such a timeless and safe accent color, it will remain stylish for years to come.

The perfect pairing

Black looks great with just about any color. One of my all-time favorite combinations is black and cream because these classic colors provide high contrast but aren't overwhelming.

My friend Ann's entire home is designed in black and cream, from the front door to the master bedroom. So when she decided to add a sunroom, she knew she needed to continue her black-and-cream theme. But this time, she wanted to add a vibrant apple green.

I fell in love with Ann's new room the minute I laid eyes on it. First, she painted her walls a soothing cream. Then she upholstered her furnishings in a large hound's-tooth plaid, adding in a black leather ottoman. But the show-stealer was a set of apple-green wicker chairs grouped around a table. The combination of crisp black and lively green made for a fresh and clean room you didn't want to leave.

I also adore black paired with yellow. And, for rooms with a decidedly masculine feel, nothing beats black and a deep, rich brown.

Easy to add

It's easy to infuse your room with depth and drama simply by adding classic or modern black accents. Want to break up a boring wall? Hang a grid of artwork framed in black. Need mood lighting in a conversation area? Pick out a lamp with a black shade.

If you're in the market for furniture, consider a piece that's painted black. A classic black piece will never go out of style and will look great anywhere you place it. That's what I've found with the black table my husband, Dan, picked up for me in Belgium. Thanks to its neutral color, I can pair it with any of my upholstered pieces. Right now, it's holding court in my foyer, flanked by two oversized chairs.

In my living room, I use a black Oriental box as one of my coffee tables in a smaller seating area. The dark case embellished with unique hand-painted designs provides much-needed contrast with my neutral furniture and walls.

Another great place to add black accents is in the bathroom. When my friend Cynthia decided to decorate her neutral white bathroom, she gave it instant personality with the simple addition of a black-and-white fabric skirt affixed to the bottom of the pedestal sink. She added a black bookcase to hold towels, supplies and a few well-chosen accents, and her bathroom went from dated to dazzling.

Mary Carol Garrity owns three home furnishings stores in Atchison, Kan., and wrote several books on home decorating. Write to Mary Carol at Her column is syndicated by Scripps Howard News Service.