I think the successful application of black has to do with the design's commitment to drama, the availability of light (natural or electric), and/or a homeowner's willingness to live with the almost Victorian formality that the color can imbue into a space.
These first two photos (designs by Tom Scheerer) display that formality I referred to above. The intensity is heightened in the library by pairing the wall color with dark furnishings, while the the intensity is lessened in the living room by painting the area below the chair rail a crisp white.
The bedroom of modern furnishings expert, Troy Halterman (which was featured in Elle Decor's "best of" book, Style and Substance - a must-read for inspiration on chic and fearless interiors), illustrates this color's ability to offset artwork beautifully, creating a masculine and, almost, museum-like quality.
In this lovely bedroom by Paolo Moschino for Nicholas Haslam, the texture of the wall covering and the pale, cool tones of the furnishings provide a soothing counterpoint to the black.
While furnishings and light may help to dilute the severe effect of this color, one may prefer to limit its use to only one wall, or panel, as shown below in a bedroom by Eric Cohler. (I just love the contrasts here: the white linens against the black panel, and the plush headboard against the sharp lines of the panel squares and Greek key pattern on the linens.)
In the bedroom above, designed by Thad Hayes, the black and white contrast perfectly to provide a clean crispness to the room. (Hayes' book, Thad Hayes: The Tailored Interior, is on my wishlist of design books.)
In another Style and Substance room, this one created by Matthew Patrick Smyth, black has been used to showcase the daybed area nestled among the wall of built-ins in this office. Again, black does a dutiful job highlighting the abstract art lit by matching swing-arm sconces. (See Smyth's website for more views of this room and all his fantastic projects!)
These incredible interiors have definitely opened my eyes to the intensity and, yet, remarkable quiet that this inky hue can create, and, I hope, will inspire you to keep an open mind even to the most dramatic of design concepts!