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Contemporary or classic, black kitchens serve up style

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Polished or antiqued brass and black is a hot finish option right now for contemporary and traditional looks.
Polished or antiqued brass and black is a hot finish option right now for contemporary and traditional looks.AP

The kitchen's often a room in which to experiment — with decor, as well as food and drink. Over the years we've seen yellow, turquoise, avocado green, greige, and white take their turn as favored hues.

But right now, black is back.

''It makes perfect sense, style-wise,'' says New York City designer Elaine Griffin. ''We began seeing the rise of black appliances as sleek and stylish nonwhite alternatives to pricier stainless options at the new millennium, and black as the 'new neutral' wall color has been gaining popularity over the past decade.''

You can go ultramodern or traditional when bringing black into the kitchen.

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High-end Euro-style lacquered cabinetry from companies like Boffi, Poliform, and Bulthaup is sleek and sexy. Marble countertops and geometric fixtures can create a glamorous, jewel-box kitchen that's great for entertaining.

Put the hue on Shaker-style cabinets, add rustic French tile, smooth quartz counters, and hand-rubbed brass fittings, and you've got a sophisticated space. Or add a walnut or maple slab island and saddle leather stools for an industrial look.

A few things to remember if you're going to get a black kitchen right:

Contrast is key. Going overboard with black will get you a kitchen that resembles a bad mall hair salon, Griffin says. Use black on the cabinets and a paler hue on counters and floors, or vice versa.

Maria Killam, a color expert and designer in Vancouver, British Columbia, agrees.

''Make sure your floors and countertops are very light to balance and contrast the super-dark cabinets. Working with black is a balancing act and requires some skill,'' she advises. ''Simple white tile with black grout is a great way to get some light in the space and give a nod to classic kitchens.''

Killam suggests including wood elements like a butcher-block island countertop. "Wood lower cabinets would work with black countertops and upper shelving, for example. I would keep the wood finishes as natural as possible . . . and relatively pale so the overall effect isn't too heavy,'' she says.

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IKEA offers the Sektion kitchen cabinets in black, and there is a range of coordinating black kitchen fittings there, too, including drawer pulls, storage items, and trash cans. (www.ikea.com )

You can repaint existing cabinetry if you're budget-conscious. Consider Benjamin Moore's Midsummer Night, Sherwin-Williams' Black Fox, Valspar's Raven Black, or Behr's Black Suede. Many shades of black pick up other hues in an interesting way — midnight blues, chocolates, and sooty grays, for example. Choose the right finish: Save the glossy paint for trim or you'll be swabbing fingerprints forever.

''Like a little black dress, accessories make a statement in a black kitchen, so choose your hardware and fixtures with care,'' advises Griffin. ''Polished or antiqued brass and black is a white-hot finish option right now for both contemporary and traditional looks.''

Embossed or painted concrete, sculpted limestone, pressed tin, or wallpaper would be striking complements to black cabinetry and fittings.

Add an Art Deco touch to a black kitchen with Giorbello's Water Jet glass tiles. Daltile's Bamboo Forest faux wood tile would be a durable, style-savvy backsplash or floor. Italian ceramic tile maker Fap has a matte-black subway tile in its new Boston collection. (www.wayfair.com; www.italytile.com )

The right lighting is important in a black kitchen. Killam likes skylights and large windows to take advantage of natural light.

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To avoid what Griffin calls ''black hole syndrome,'' install lights at multiple heights: ceiling, pendant, under the cabinet, and even on the countertop.

Lamps Plus has forged-iron and rubbed-bronze chandeliers and pendants. Hudson Valley Lighting's Lydney polished-black-nickel pendant would work well in any style of kitchen. (www.lampsplus.com; www.hudsonvalleylighting.com)

Those who like the idea of black but are tentative might consider introducing one or two elements. Chicago design studio KitchenLab has used black accents like islands, lighting, kitchen ladders, and window treatments. (www.kitchenlabdesign.com)

Artwork and textiles incorporating black with brights, whites, or subtle neutrals like sage, putty and cream add drama.

Complete the look, Wayfair stocks a broad range of black faucets by Moen, Delta and Kohler in matte or satin finishes. (www.wayfair.com )