What is color-blocking?

What comes to mind when you hear the term color-blocking?  Do you envision “mod” dresses from the sixties that are making a comeback, some sort of football move or something used in the boxing ring?  You are right if you think it has something to do with fashion but this wonderful method of using multiple colors  can also be used when decorating your home.  Take a look at these examples of color blocking  used to perfection:

photo courtesy of Quintessenceblog.com

photo courtesy of Quintessenceblog.com


This foyer designed by Andrew Suvalsky  is one of the rooms decorated for the Kips Bay Showhouse in New York.  One of the keys to effective color-blocking is the use of solid colors.  A solid color sofa and window treatments provide the backdrop for colorful pillows, accessories and even a single color piece of artwork, all in lovely jewel tones that compliment the gold table base.


Beautiful room photographed by Jane Beiles and decorated by Stirling Mills Design of New Canaan Connecticut

Beautiful room photographed by Jane Beiles and decorated by Stirling Mills Design of New Canaan Connecticut

Pops of hot pink, red and even a silver painted desk are masterfully color-blocked against an all white background for maximum impact.

design color blocked furniture from petticoat junktion

Hand-painted dresser from Petticoat Junktion.com


Red, white and blue are perfectly combined in this color-blocked store display.  Petticoat Junktion has turned a throw away dresser into a stylish one-of-a-kind piece with a nautical or Americana feel and added color-blocked accessories such as painted shutters, a vintage beverage cooler and a homespun banner.  The simple graphic stripe down the front of the dresser turns the ordinary white dresser into a unique conversation piece; and don’t you love those little blue knobs?

Now that you have seen how it looks you are probably wondering how you accomplish this look in your own home.  Just as the term implies, blocks of color are spread throughout a room in the form of throw pillows, furniture pieces, artwork, window treatments and accessories.  As with most interior design trends,  there are no hard and fast rules to achieve this look but there are  a few tips that might make it easier:

  • For the best color-blocked effect, choose a minimum of three colors.  They can be complimentary to each other or in sharp contrast–the decision is yours.  If you are unsure, refer back to your early art classes and review the good old color wheel for guidance.  While saturated and bright colors are most commonly used, a monochromatic color-blocked scheme can be just as exciting.  Use several shades of earth tones for a restful room or combine black and white for an eye-popping modern feel.
  • Avoid lots of pattern, solids are best.   The geometry of color blocking will add enough pattern and movement to your space and additional patterns could mute the effect you are looking for.  You will notice in all the rooms shown above that there is very little, if any pattern and I would not say any one of those rooms is boring!
  • A neutral background will allow your colors to really pop.   White, gray, beige, tan, black  or even a soft pastel will set the stage for your blocks of color to take center stage.

If you suffer from “color-phobia” and are hesitant to introduce large spots of color to your home, try something subtle like painting individual chairs in your breakfast room each a different color or switch out the plain white mats in a grouping of photos for colorful ones.  I am willing to bet you will begin to enjoy the energy color-blocking will bring to your home’s decor.


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