Once upon a time, the world was black and white. Television, movies, newspapers and magazines showed real life reflected through a monochrome mirror – a colour-free context for colourful lives.

Now that colour saturates our world, it can be easy to overlook the classic simplicity of a monochrome interior. With just a few blacks, whites and shades of grey, even modest spaces can achieve an atmosphere of easy glamour and style, with crisp edges and gleaming surfaces all helping to bring the look together.

The obvious place to start is with some smoothly plastered walls and a big can of brilliant white emulsion, but once the gallery-like setting is established, where do you go from there?

A great place to begin is with a collection of neatly-framed graphic prints – perhaps including black and white photographs, typography or drawings. Choose a range of scales and sizes, and cluster them to create irregular patterns that break up those forbidding white walls.

As for the floor, if you can stretch to some good quality tiles – it’s possible to create spectacular patterns with an op art feel. But don’t worry if that breaks your budget. If money is tight, take a look at plain floors – even sanded, painted floorboards if they’re in good condition – topped with patterned, monochrome rugs.

Other textured fabrics can also play an important role, softening the hard-edged feel and creating a welcome cosiness. The chunkiest knits and layered bedding can make the space feel wonderfully inviting, helping to stop the space becoming too stark or sterile.

Then it’s time to get to work with your personal items and accessories – those ornaments and extras that will add hints of your personality and passions. A large mirror over a fireplace can create a stunning focus for the room, adding a sense of scale to even modestly sized spaces. Oversized artwork can draw the eye equally well. 

Remember to make room for some fresh green plant life too, creating space for  big palms, cacti, succulents and fig trees. The luscious green shades will work wonderfully well against a monochrome background.

And finally, the key to making monochrome work is to get the lighting right. Avoid creating an over-bright interior by mixing different levels of lighting, with small lamps for subdued moods, brighter lights for when there’s work to be done, and other carefully-placed illumination to fill out the darkest corners.

See the new Appletree Collection for amazing monochrome prints in designs such as Eton or Dari (bedding and curtains available).