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Do’s and Dont’s for Decorating with Black Outside; Before & After

By 07/21/2017August 2nd, 202135 Comments

Thinking of decorating with black outdoors? Just make sure you don’t choose black as your default, trendy neutral for EVERYTHING. A little black goes a long way! Take a look at how I incorporated black on my patio.

House Beautiful

Lately I am crushing on black outside. When I see it against all the green it reminds me of how good black, white and kelly green palettes look in interiors.

Image via Style at Home

But you have to be careful when introducing black, there’s a tipping point where suddenly the interior OR exterior is just TOO black.

So here are my do’s and dont’s for decorating with black:


When you have a colour decision to make, DO NOT choose black, or charcoal, or brown as a default.

Some of us still remember all the black leather sofas and entertainment units from the 80s. We don’t want to make that mistake again.

There’s a reason why you may have heard this expression before “Every room needs a hit of black”. That’s because black is the darkest colour in the spectrum, so a little black goes a long way! There’s a fine line between using black as an accent colour and when you’ve gone too far and it totally overpowers the room.

You can literally FEEL when a room is too black, it immediately becomes too heavy and masculine.

When I decorated my living room in my last townhouse, I chose a black and white (but primarily) black fabric for a chair and ottoman. When it arrived, I hated it immediately.

With my black and white rug, the black and white outdoor set I had immediately outside my patio doors, black suddenly became the main colour in the room instead of an accent colour.

That chair and ottoman arrived Friday, on Monday, I shipped it right back to the upholster and ordered new green fabric.

I know I’ve said all this before. But I’ll keep saying it in future posts, because no matter how many times I say it, most people ignore me anyway. Not because they particularly want to ignore me, they just don’t know what other choice to make, so they go with the default, trendy neutral of the moment.


This is an example of too much black (above). You look at this room and it just feels heavy and dark. To my eye anyway.

Okay, so earlier this week, you saw some updates of my garden from the last 4 years when it was installed.

Since I was posting new photos of my garden, I decided to do a little refresh on my outdoor patio as well.

The only colour that is new on my deck is some small hits of black.

I have never been interested in adding a colour like orange or pink or yellow out here because I love that the soft greens and medium brown tones of the sectional and dining table and chairs simply blend into the rest of my garden.

I like that my garden is the focal point of my backyard.


One of my readers asked if I’d post about how my outdoor furniture has held up in the last 3 years since I bought it.

Well, it looks exactly the same.

However, my furniture is entirely covered all year round so I can’t tell you how it would look if it just sat outside in the rain and snow. And obviously the cushions go into storage for the winter.


This was my deck before I decided to add some hits of black.


Last weekend, I bought some pinstriped cushions (and they are indoor cushions because, as I mentioned, my furniture is totally covered). They are actually navy and white but if you blink twice they become black and white.

I brought my black and white bird lumbar cushion out from my family room and added a black pot with a white Kalanchoe.

My white hydrangeas are simply breathtaking this year.

My decorative silver grass (Miscanthus) is seriously amazing, I love the way it sparkles in the sun when the wind waves it around. I leave it up usually until February or March and then you cut it right down to about 3″ and it grows this tall each season!

Architectural Digest


Here’s a black and white striped patio (above), when I showed this photo to Terreeia, she said “We should drape our skinny little posts in curtains too!! Our patio cover was existing when we bought the house and we need a new deck before we can beef up the posts.

Anyway, I thought that was totally inspired, I am going to look into this for next year! I’ll keep you posted.

I picked up some diamond stamped black pots with some prolifically blooming white geraniums for the dining table from a local nursery. And the cone shells came from the Pottery Barn.

Photography by Maria Killam

Some of you might remember the pencil cactus in my Fall post on my family room, I saw it outside in Palm Springs this January when we were there for a month, so I decided it might like my deck in the summer.

The large coral on my console table is one of my favourite accessories.




Okay, see how my siding is a pinky taupe and notice that I have a natural fiber cushion in a more orange beige tone that relates to the teak coffee table and outdoor area rug?

Well,  I have chosen to totally ignore the siding, and the reason I can get away with that is because my sectional is not sitting in a corner with the exterior siding on both sides. Mostly when you look at this corner of my deck, your eye is completely distracted with the tablescape and pillows and especially the garden.

So, if all else fails, and you have done the best you can, and your colours still aren’t perfect? Start styling to distract the eye, a good tablescape or pillowscape can hide a lot of colour dilemmas.

Are you inspired to add some black to your decor?

PS. My set of 25 Sherwin Williams large sample boards are back in stock! I have been getting a lot of requests to stock them again and you can buy them here on my shop page! 

Related posts:

How Black is Your House?

10 Ways to Save Money NOW By Creating a Focal Point

10 Ways to Get a Fresh Look with a Black Sofa











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  • Diana McLean says:

    Hi Maria Always enjoy your blog as you add special humor, love and gratitude.
    Concerning black. I think of having a black coat and everyone wants to pick the lint off of it. Black loves lint and dust and dirt. For outside living, I don’t use in large areas as it won’t be black very long without power washing.
    Had two black great danes and before I would let company in, I would run and get the vacuum cleaner. Maybe a little OCD but not for me.

  • Love black in the yard ! My back fence is black I use lime green hostas as my yard is shady which is a struggle in the SW desert climate still have tons of work to do my deck cushions black and beige striped and mixed patterns so easy to change bright accent colors .
    Your yard and patio popped with the addition of black ! Beautiful I love black fencing

  • Bridgett says:

    Hi Maria! I love some of the black outdoor pieces I’m currently seeing, but TOTALLY agree with you that it becomes too much, too quickly! Plus I have a secret worry: will large, black, outdoor furniture become too hot in the sun to be useable? Or am I just sweltering here in the 90+ degree (F) weather in Virginia, being paranoid about scorching my clients/myself?? ? Does anyone have any experience with this?

  • Kim says:

    Maria, I really LOVE the hits of black you’ve done outside on your deck. Particularly that birds on a wire lumbar pillow and the planters. The black just sets off the beautiful greens and whites.

  • Fran W. says:

    I love your hit of black! It picks up your pretty outdoor lighting. I like to add a touch of black in every room. Seems to make the other colors pop!

  • Sandy says:

    I love your deck with all the green and the grasses. My siding is the same as your siding. I have lots of summer blues and greens in my decorating with black framed furniture, (beige fabric seats) in my back. So it looks like I’m on the right track.

    I have a question about getting awnings across my front window. The house has a bay window, front door with one side window and then the garage which comes out past the house to the driveway. I would love awnings to give sun screening and some presence to the house. I haven’t seen you discuss this issue or maybe I missed it.
    Fabric awnings but I’m not sure about the color

    • Maria Killam says:

      I think it’s a totally custom situation and I would need to see your house in order to know what colour or what type! Thanks for your comment Sandy! Maria

  • Ange says:

    As always another Great post today. ❤️The black accents on your patio. I’ve had touches of black in our back yard for years and love the look. I’ve used black on the garden shed shutters, on accent pillows and the wrought iron dining set is black.

  • Lucy HAINES says:

    The pops of black on your patio is perfect! It gives more depth and distracts from your “pinky beige” siding. I too love pops of black in almost all of my rooms however I switched to a navy blue in my family room but did add a couple black accessories in my bookcases just to add continuity. Your back yard is so beautiful and I just love hydrangeas. The styling on your coffee table is perfect and I just love it!! You now have just the right amount of black so I don’t think you should add black stripe curtains. I could be just a little too much! Good post as always!

  • Rebecca Gonzalez says:

    This post was EXTREMELY instructional. The black hits really introduced a level of sophistication that wasn’t quite there before. I want to try this! I love your blog, read every post and comment infrequently. So, just wanted to say…thank you!

  • Connie Lawson says:

    Wonderful post! I absolutely LOVE a bit of black in every room, including my outdoor space. I absolutely
    love your hydrangeas.

  • Linda says:

    I love the black too. Am wondering though, is that what it always needed, or when you first showed your before, was that neutral look just the current style and we wouldn’t have liked the black as much?

    • Maria Killam says:

      Hi Linda, that’s such a good question, if I had not added black, I would simply have taken a more attractive photo which would have made the ‘before’ picture look better. Or perhaps added some white. . . the would have created a crisper look as well.
      Either would work in my opinion, I was just feeling black so that’s why I added it!

  • Nancy says:

    Love your added black ,
    You say don’t use black , charcoal r brown as your default color what colors then do u recommend ?

    • Maria Killam says:

      Hi Nancy,
      Sorry for not being clear. . . what I’m saying is, that instead of choosing grey hardwood floors (because that’s the neutral trendy colour of the moment) or a grey sofa or a grey painted kitchen, choose classic colours and finishes for your hard finishes so that means, light or medium brown flooring, a white kitchen or a COLOUR. . and a sofa in your favourite colour. My yellow sofa is 7 years old and no where close to being considered a dated colour, however, if I had bought a brown or grey one 7 years ago it would start feeling old right now. Hope that helps, Maria

  • Mary-Illinois says:

    Oh Maria, every time you show your patio I heave a heavy sigh of jealousy. If that was my space, I’d be out there all the time.
    What is it about a little bit of black that takes a room up to the next level? Amazing!

    • Maria Killam says:

      I am out there all the time. . . that corner is my favourite spot in the summer for reading, working and naps 🙂 Thanks for your comment Mary! x Maria

  • Lorri says:

    Those striped pillows add something extra! Love that black and white awning idea too.

    Your garden has added so much dimension to your yard. It’s very inspiring.

  • Debra Van Dyke says:

    There was a condo for sale in Venice Florida several years ago that I was gaga over. It was a retirees home and she was selling to move closer to her kids. The ENTIRE condo top to bottom, front to back was done in black white and green. When I say this I mean nothing else. Not a table, not an accessory, even the chain from the lamps had a fabric cover ( would love to hear what you would say about that!)
    I didnt buy the condo at the time, but still remember exactly the way it looked. Super sharp. All this time when I listen to you say “be careful with the black” I feel guilty, because secretly I love the black. A LOT.
    I wish I had pictures to show you over her place, but they were on a old computer that crashed years ago.
    Love your patio, with or without the black.
    Honestly I’d like to see more black on your patio..haa haa okay I’ll stop now. Good Nite!

    • Maria Killam says:

      Haha, thanks Debra. I bought black solid pillows too, but on the sectional they looked way too strong, dark and heavy. . . right away you’re like “Where’s the black and white rug to go with it?”. . . Then if I did that, it would have started competing with the brown sectional. Loved your comment thanks! Maria

  • Susan says:

    Hi Maria,
    This is amazing how a little black can change a whole room! I never knew that! It makes the room look very sophisticated and polished!
    Every time I learn something from your blog, I’m shocked! 🙂 and excited!
    It’s pretty cool to learn about colors. The hydrangeas are gorgeous and your house looks like it’s in New England. Beautiful.
    There is a place called Heritage Gardens in Cape Cod that has one of the most amazing displays of hydrangeas I’ve ever seen. You’d love it. It is the home of The North American Hydrangea Test Garden.
    I’m going to try out the black tomorrow!

  • mrsben says:

    Love your additions of ‘black’ to the scheme of things, Maria. The only black that I have in my backyard are two iron gates and fencing which virtually disappear to the eye when viewing from a distance and reason why it was chosen. -Brenda-
    P.S.: My landscaping is best described as commercial (both in appearance and maintenance) since it consists of an in-ground pool with added features of large boulders, lots of river rock and an assortment of greenery (namely shrubs; so needless to say my patio furniture is very neutral in order to blend in and not compete.

  • Tanya says:

    Great post and your pie h looks great too! I agree with the advice about black. Every room needs a little black, especially given the light and bright decorating trends. It grounds things and makes a light room just a bit cozier. I have my own saying…every room needs yin and yang. Opposites balance each other and add interest to rooms.

    On that note, I did paint the walls above the subway tile in my bathroom sw Tricorn Black and I could not love it more! We needed one room like that and it’s a small room we don’t spend a lot of time in, but I find myself drawn to it anyway.

  • Linda says:

    I love decorating with black and do so in my house, but not too much. 🙂 I have sage green walls in my living room, hall, and front porch (dark red and sage green with white curtains and trim) along with dark red walled kitchen, white cabinets, black countertops (the house came that way in the kitchen 🙂 ). I have a black victorian tufted sofa that was pink. I recovered it myself in black microfiber some years ago. It’s awesome! But my dining room is a medium yellow. I like doing black with yellow (but not a bright yellow). I live in an American Four-Square.

    Thanks for your post and photos! Looks great!

  • Claudia says:

    Just those little hits of black you added transform your space. Amazing! Makes it look very chic. Your landscaping has developed beautifully. Brava!

  • Shari says:

    Such a cheerful and welcoming patio area. I love your thought – filled comment Maria, “I like that my garden is the focal point of my backyard.”
    After reading your post, I decided to add my kelly green pots with white flowering plants to an area of too much “default” black — a simple and perfect solution inspired by your post.Thanks.

  • JoAnn says:

    Do you know how easy it is to paint aluminum siding? I once had it done to sell a house. After protecting plants, shrubs, windows, etc., they spray painted it no time at all. If I’d know how quick, easy, and inexpensive it was, I would have done it long ago.

    • Maria Killam says:

      Hi JoAnn, Unfortunately my siding is vinyl, and since the colour is pale enough, it’s lower on the list of things to replace in my house. . . Maria

  • Judy says:

    I felt that your post was very timely for me. I’ve been toying with the idea of painting my front oak door black. I felt that the front needed some spice. The difference with your patio with just a few black accents is absolutely amazing! I already have black aluminum windows and the lighting fixtures are black, so the door should pull it all together like your pillows, pots and rug.
    I’ve learned so much from following over the years and enjoy every new post.

  • barbara says:

    perfect timing! We recently used cc points for a home depot gift card with which i purchased an outdoor wicker “chat set” my friend has 3 of around her pool. They are very comfortable and fit me ( NOT deep seating!) however we would be looking at the BACKS of them…. they are dark brown almost black. I want something more airy and see thru and HAPPY! like your lime green string chair ( where did you get it? how is it holding up?). We JUST made our final decision….back they go!

  • Kris C. says:

    I realize this comment is quite late, but I’m hoping you can tell me where you bought your patio sectional from. It’s really beautiful and just about the right size. I’m in the market now for comfortable and durable outdoor seating (I’m in FL) and am having trouble finding wicker in medium brown. Thanks!

  • SSN says:

    Seriously!!!!! Let’s start with siding and new windows..get the basics Right!!

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