Film Noir: The elegance of high contrast.

A great new look we are seeing from high end designers is the Film Noir look inspired by classic movie making. Think high contrast black and white, smoky cocktail bars, steel and luxury finishes. This is a look that complements industrial chic very well and is perfect for lovers of cocktails, Manhattan and Mad Men. Nigel shows us how to do it.

The Film Noir look

Film Noir has always been a slippery term to define. It has split film enthusiasts into two camps. Where one party classifies it as a historically situated genre, the other observes it as a loose set of themes, an overall look still active in modern filmmaking. Nevertheless, the images conjured by old Noir films are nothing short of iconic. Shot at a very high contrast, where deep black tones violently clashed with pristine whites, filmmakers were able to develop a sense of drama in the way they composed their shots. In the Noir tradition, angular use of light both illuminated and concealed the faces of tortured and morally ambiguous heroes, cities were transformed into dimly lit mazes where the wispy trails of cigar smoke danced against the abyss-like blacks of bars and evenings alike. The films grappled with human nature’s darker underbelly, both seductive and dangerous in what it exposed. We draw inspiration from this tradition, looking to the hat and trench coat clad world of bad-cop investigators, private eyes and femmes fatales to inject a notably Hollywood sophistication into your home.

Setting the Stage at Home

With the old films shot at high contrast, we similarly aim to evoke an air of drama by playing off-whites against musky taupe notes and jet-blacks. Deep blue and purple hues, while evoking the night, also develop sense of tonal complexity to the space. Like the cityscapes of these films, big and brash statement pieces make for a great way to provide your home with that in-your-face edge typical of the Noir films. Nevertheless, working muted colours means that these pieces will never be overbearing but rather match the room’s broody and sober ambience.

This Film Noir look works brilliantly with any dressed-down living space, pairing wonderfully with neutral, open-planned spaces with dark wooden floors. Economy is vital when reimagining your home in this style. These pieces are large and very vocal in the statements they make. Therefore, opt for fewer, dynamic pieces that can bind the room together and carry that nonchalant, Noir grittiness and energy.

Silhouette: developing depth with black notes

Black tones were instrumental in developing depth in the old Noir films. Darkness was evocative of the unknown, with the colour heightening a tension of countless and possible dangers lurking in the shadows. Fortunately for us, the colour can lose that sinister undertone and its capacity to silhouette and form space can be hugely beneficial in providing a depth and complexity to your home.

The Harlequin Demi Paste Wallpaper from John Lewis delivers this depth and complexity in spades. Featuring a gold, scalloped motif that is foiled by its onyx base tone, the wallpaper inspires a striking feature wall. The fine nature of the design guarantees to certainly captivate the eye, but also ensures that the print will not overpower the room. £80 per section.

The Alembert Black Metal Clock from Maisons Du Monde elegantly exudes the sentiment of the silhouette. The reductionist style carries a strong industrial air through the design of its hands and typeface used to form its numerals. Its all-metal composition, finished in a brilliant matt black, nonchalantly carries a Noir air. Naturally, to provide balance, mounting against a pale, plain wall, away from any feature wallpaper would yield the best balance for your room. £120.

Similarly, the Sonata Black Arch Window Mirror from Artisanti carries the clean lines and reductionist design of the Alembert Clock. Featuring a half moon top and overlaid with a black metal frame, the mirror carries a very Noir contrast of light and dark. We see this resting in a corner of the room to introduce new dimensions and depth to your space. After all, what’s more Noir than those moments of intense contemplation with one’s own face staring back at them? £224.

Darker shades of the Golden Age

While Noir was a global film phenomenon, it’s impossible to ignore Film Noir’s Hollywood connection.  Playing to the muted sense of nostalgia conveyed by it makes for a fantastic way of further developing a sense of character in your home.

The Conquérant Floor Lamp by Maisons Du Monde is sure to inject a faded Hollywood glamour to your home. Complete with barn-door shutters, the lamp is reminiscent of the studio lights and projectors of yesteryear. Its antiqued copper finish marries it with other golden-hued elements in the room. With its capacity for angular lighting, we see this as a gorgeously Noir addition to your home. £330.

The Set of 2 Studio Trunks also from Maisons Du Monde, makes for a particularly potent pairing with the Conquérant Floor Lamp. Finished in black vinyl with metal and white vinyl accents, its look is similarly evocative of the studio floors of bygone times. We love how functional these trunks can be. Stacked, they can form a side table while also being able to fulfil their storage purpose. £184.

New York, New York

We’d be doing something wrong if we didn’t, at least, pay some sort of homage to one of the great backdrops of legendary Noir films –the Big Apple. Using pieces infused with the city’s metropolitan flavour makes for a great way to accentuate upon a city-slicker, Noir feel with your home.

We particularly love the Hambleton Arm Chair from John Lewis. Its bold, classic look conjures the image of many a Noir heroes, strewn across it with whiskey in hand, tormented by a case, rival or one’s own demons. It’s buttoned back and classical form retains an archaic elegance, while its deep, smoky brown upholstery and dark wooden legs allude to the play observed in a silhouette-like, modern and metropolitan colour palette. £1,199.

Pair with one of these amazing very limited edition  Jayson Lilley’s ‘Chrysler Building’ art prints and you’re onto a winner. The print depicts the iconic peak of the namesake 1920’s New York skyscraper. Finished in 22ct gold leaf with a purple accent at the centre, Lilley’s work exudes a notion of luxury and opulence. The colours are also consistent with other elements in the room, working with the overall ambience of your home. £470.

If the Film Noir theme carries one take-home message, it’s that, like in jazz, black notes should be amply embraced. Unlike most colours, its strength means that it can shrink a room when misused. However, with time and thought, and as shown through the Film Noir theme, black notes make for masterful contrasts that not only open up a space, but also administer a healthy dose of depth and complexity to any home.


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