Monochrome Mania: More than a Century of Style

Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square, completed in 1915, is believed to be the first monochrome in art history. However, there are some arguments that the origin of the monochrome can be found much earlier, and prior to the twentieth-century. Regardless, in 2019 monochrome as a definitive feature of a body of work has transcended its roots in painting, and later modernist and postmodern architecture, to infiltrate popular culture’s most-photographed art form: fashion.

Left: Topfloor’s Garbo rug, from the Jazz Age collection.                                Right: Topfloor’s Marlene rug, from the Jazz Age collection.

While the 1960s saw traditional black and white monochromatic looks aligned with a sartorial revolution for women—think Twiggy, mini-skirts and bold stripes—more than five decades later the use of monochrome has evolved into something more vibrant, but equally as striking. In some contrast to the traditional black and white spotted in suprematist painting and mid-century style, fashion house du jour Balenciaga chose to harness the power of immersing an audience in a single colour. Meanwhile, for their Spring 2020 collections shown in London, Paris, Milan and New York last month, industry giants including Chanel, Carolina Herrera, Tory Burch, Jonathan Simkhai and Prabal Gurung demonstrated their commitment to the original black and white combination, but have added new dimensions with flawless tailoring and power-suits replacing mini-skirts and party dresses. For Chanel in particular, the relationship with monochrome is longstanding and has become a defining feature of the brand. A global fascination with houndstooth, and its synonymity with high-class luxury, can be attributed to Chanel’s ownership and heavy use of the pattern. 


Topfloor’s Fire rug, from the Script collection.

Topfloor’s Harlow rug, from the Jazz Age collection.

Uniformity has long been a statement made by architects and interior designers. While architectural and interior design are intrinsically linked, monochromania was long reserved for exterior and communal spaces, and rarely spotted in more intimate, residential rooms. What was initially avoided by interior designers, for fear of creating overbearing and unliveable spaces, is now embraced by some as they take themes of oppression, uniformity and intensity from the world’s current socio-economic climate and channel them into interior work. Although you may not have a desire to live with such stark reminders of extremity and immersion, there are many ways to include monochromatic style in your interiors with the careful curation of rugs and carpets, where the use of monochrome colouration highlights the superior craftsmanship required to produce them.

Topfloor’s Envelope rug, from the 2D collection.

While minimalism makes its way into the archives of interior design history, maximalism has dominated, but what happens when you want to avoid clashing patterns and eye-popping colour? To add another dimension to your interiors, without muddying the scheme with extra colour, we recommend choosing geometric designs like our own Marlene rug, patterned pieces such as the Garbo rug, and even three-dimensional designs like Harlow. Alternatively, the use of a simple gradient can inject bold monochrome style into a space without the harsh contrast of sharp lines and shapes. Envelope is a beautifully simple gradient design and a real favourite among designers. Whatever your signature style, and however minimal it may initially feel, remember that it can always be made bolder and brighter with the addition of the right textures and textiles.