Color-blocking creates bold interior spaces


Color is a major tenet of interior design, the palettes and specific shades often forming the base for all other decisions in the home.

While most interiors use a vast variety of hues, selecting just two or three for one of the rooms makes that space really stand out.

“Color-blocking within a room gives a strong and modern point of view,” said Sarah Storms, principal designer of Styled by Storms in Maplewood, New Jersey. “Typically, one, or both, of the colors are bold and give energy to the space.”

Color code

A minimal range of stand-out hues gives an artistic flare to a room while remaining somewhat streamlined and easy on the eyes.

“I use this in spaces where I want to dial down the visual clutter,” said Andrea May, a La Jolla, California-based interior designer. “Color-blocking is a perfect tactic if you want to simplify a space.”

The trick can be especially effective in smaller areas, such as entryways, hallways and powder rooms. However, it can have an especially big impact in larger dining or living rooms, too.

The key lies in the colors chosen and how they fit into the interior as a whole.

Design by Styled by Storms, photo by Raquel Langworthy

“I’m all about creating a well-balanced flow to a home,” said Tiffani Baumgart, interior designer at the eponymous San Diego firm. “I look at the home as a whole, both inside and out.

“A moment with a color-blocked area also must be considered amongst the flow,” she said. “Choose your two to three colors from your well-established pallet that will create contrast.”

All three designers advise on a color scheme that has this variation, such as a warm-and-cool combo of terra cotta and denim blue favored by Ms. May – opposite, yet complimentary.

“If the colors to too close in value, they appear muddy and look like a mistake instead of an intentional choice,” Ms. Storms said. “Select a neutral color like navy, black or camel to help ground the bright, bold color you are pairing it with. The use of a ‘pop’ color with saturation is critical in color matching.”

Of course, there are some exceptions to every rule, per Ms. Storms. This includes the similarly toned navy and black, and some “quirky” pairings, such as cherry-red and hot-pink or teal and lime-green.

Perfectly blended

The designers also agree that a room with just two major colors should not give an even half to each hue. Instead, one should be at least a bit more dominant.

“I like to have a strong base color that is the foundation for the room and them ‘pop’ it with the accent,” Ms. Storms said. “Some fun ways to add the color-block accent is through contrast piping on upholstery, drapery, a painted ceiling or bold built-ins.

Design by Andrea May, photo by Karyn Millet

“I [also] like popping in color with a change of material: painted walls with a velvet upholstery, flat-weave pillow with a textured cord,” she said. “The change in material texture allows the light to bounce off the surface differently and add richness and depth to the room.”

Adding a variety of textures can be a way to seamlessly blend two disparate shades and add interest so that the space doesn’t end up one-note.

“It’s effective and fun to tie them together through the use of blending textures,” Ms. Baumgart said. “A single color in a different texture can almost appear to be a different color altogether.

“Mix a matte with a high-gloss or a soft linen with a luxe velvet for a touch of surprise without the overwhelm,” she said.

Texture and thoughtful materials can also help to ease the marked contrast between two bold colors.

“If you want a warm and livable aesthetic in a color-blocked space, add organic textures in your textiles and accessories,” Ms. May said. “Try warm woods, soft botanicals, natural woven fabrics and handcrafted objects to soften a color-blocked space.”

No matter the shade or surface, spaces swathed in blocks of color are simple, yet visually striking.

“Color-blocking is a minimal approach to color quantity and a maximal approach to color impact,” Ms. May said.