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How to incorporate the color-blocking trend into your home

Back again, this bold trend is better than ever

color-blocking is a rising interior design trend of 2020 Credit: Getty Images / vicnt

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Color-blocking is a design trend that seems to keep finding its moment. With a nod to the '80s and a wink at the '60s, this graphic décor technique has been easing in and out of style since Piet Mondrian first brought it to popularity in the 1930s.

In fall 2019, it returned to the fashion runways, and now, this multi-hued, vibrant color tactic is having—yet another—moment as a modern-meets-boho design technique. The appeal of this 2020 design trend is that the visual complexity it gives to a room belies the relative ease it takes to achieve. Just pair a few solid hues to create a bold look to inject your room with dimension and playful personality.

Color-blocking doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, Ruth Storc of Storc Design in Los Angeles says that one of the reasons she thinks this trend is seeing a comeback is because of how easy it is to achieve. “It’s a trend that looks complex, but it’s simple to pull off and instantly adds dimension to your space,” Storc says.

What is color-blocking?

colorblock BWY
Credit: Getty Images / KatarzynaBialasiewicz

Color-blocking pairs colors together to make high-impact combinations. As long as one of the shades matches an existing element, like the walls, the rug, or a sofa, it'll look intentional, as opposed to overwhelming.

Color-blocking revolves around a palette of two or more colors, usually bold and bright shades. The result is a marriage of minimalist design with maximalist color. Prints and patterns are typically eschewed to make way for the “blocked” visual.

Traditionally, color-blocking takes colors at the opposite ends of the color wheel, pairing them together to make high-impact combinations. As with any trend that experiences a revival, with each incarnation, color-blocking has become more and more refined.

These days, it’s less about merging bold opposites. You can frequently find monochromatic or analogous shades that either use the same color in different shades or neighbor each other on the color wheel—making for a more Rothko than Mondrian approach to color-blocking.

Why we are seeing a revival

Storc says that color-blocking is all about infusing joy into a space.

Both clean and dynamic, this is a cross-trend design technique that lends itself to both boho and mid-century modern design that are so popular right now.

In part, Storc also attributes the immediate traction of this trend to the pandemic and people being home-bound. She says that people are looking at their walls a whole lot more these days, and are realizing just how boring plain white can be.

“After months of staring at one-toned walls, we are ready to break out and do something bold,” says Storc. “People are itching for something to change things up and color-blocking is an easy and fun way to give your space more life.”

How to make color-blocking work

colorblock bedroom
Credit: Getty Images / JZhuk

Try a new spin on an accent wall by painting your wall halfway up or over with a bold color. It is a fresh way to brighten up a room and give it dimension.

Add one or two bold colors to a neutral room and suddenly everything seems more daring.

If you're looking to reinvigorate a mostly neutral space, use a multi-hued statement detail—like a painting or an area rug, as a jumping off point. Then integrate accents by pulling from that statement piece, resulting in setup that looks elegant and cohesive.

When it comes to color-blocking, a little bit goes a long way. For example, a vibrant rug, a bold set of curtains with banded-color, a lamp as a statement piece, or a simple set of throw pillows in different hues are a great way to sprinkle a spectrum of color into a room.

According to Storc, as long as one of the shades matches an existing element, like the walls, the rug, or a sofa, it'll look intentional, as opposed to overwhelming.

Go big and go bold

If you’re ready to break out a can of paint, Storc recommends a new spin on an accent wall by creating a look of “faux wainscoting." This technique is done by painting a wall halfway up or more with a bold color. It is a fresh way to brighten up a room and give it dimension. It’s also incredibly easy to pull off. It takes almost no technical acumen—just a roll of painter's tape and fresh color.

"It's really clever, because it draws the eye upward, and makes small areas feel more airy," says Storc, whereas a typical accent wall can sometimes make a space feel more confined.

For those with a bit more of a steady hand, Storc encourages you to try painting overlapping geometric shapes in complementary colors. A surefire way to get a color combination that works is to grab a paint chip and choose a dark and a light a variation of the same color. Choosing different levels of the same color can be a calm way to add restrained dynamism to your space.

“I love tone on tone. It’s dynamic in its movement and overlay, but your eye doesn’t go crazy from seeing two bold colors next to each other,” says Storc.

If you want to go brave and bold, try an unexpected combo with shades that have been trending on their own—like a deep, moody green and blushing, playful pink—for a fresh fall look.

Or, if you want to tiptoe into the trend with a dramatic yet subdued color combo, try some of the favorite, not-quite neutral hues that are currently popular, like a lavender-leaning “greige” with a muted sage—taking two subdued colors and making a strong statement by bringing them together.

If you're still unsure, Storc says you can’t go wrong with one intense color on white. “If you are scared of clashing, using a color against white or black is always safe and can work really well.”

In the end though, Storc says that working with color-blocking is a low-commitment way to infuse fun into a space that could use a little lift.

"There are no hard and fast rules, color wise. There isn’t a formula you need to follow," she says. "In the end, it's just a can or two of paint. If it doesn't work, you can always paint over it and try again."

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