Design Discussion : Color Blocking

Design Discussion : Color Blocking - It this month’s Design Discussion post, I wanted to talk about color blocking. It doesn’t seem super controversial, but believe me when I say- the most messages I’ve ever received about a makeover (both positive and negative) was in regards to our previous hallway. I decided to color block the entire hall in an effort to make it more interesting and chic. I used neutral colors (nothing too crazy), and after the reveal, the messages began flooding in. Some people LOVED it. Some people HATED it. Haha! That comes with the territory and is kind of the fun thing about design… thinking outside the box, presenting new ideas, challenging design rules, creating a home that feels unique, and making an interesting statement that feels like you. Anyway, I’m diving into all things color blocking today and I’d love for you to weigh in! Click through for inspiration, my personal opinion, and my thoughts on whether this is a trend or lasting paint technique that is here to stay. 

Design Discussion : Color Blocking - roomfortuesday.comThe hallway in our previous home was one of the easiest, low budget makeovers we’ve ever tackled… yet it was super impactful and yielded more feedback than any other makeover. Isn’t that interesting?! I received re-shares from designers I’ve admired for years commending me for the project, and on the contrary- I also read lots of messages from people saying it looked like I didn’t clean up hurricane flood waters in our house. Ha! That’s one that still makes me laugh, BTW. I can totally see where they’re coming from and I know the look is not for everyone. So that brings me to my next questions… when and where is color blocking appropriate? Why is color blocking so controversial in design? Is it a fad that is fading? Would you ever try it?

Design Discussion : Color Blocking - roomfortuesday.comFirst, I think color blocking is an amazing way to get an interesting, designerly, creative look without breaking the bank. Paint is an inexpensive material, capable of impacting a space in a BIG way. If your home is lacking architectural interest or you’d like to emphasize a vignette or piece of furniture… color blocking is an awesome way to make a space less boring. Our hallway would’ve looked very plain, had I not color blocked it. I really loved the end result… and I didn’t have to install or invest in wainscoting or intricate millwork. I got the same illusion or look, but with much less time and money.

image via brady tolbert

I think the key to color blocking is knowing when, where, and how to apply this wall treatment. Some tips to keep it classic and less trendy, if I may?

  • If you have a piece of furniture you expect to keep and love longterm, color block the wall behind it to frame the vignette.
  • Use color blocking like millwork… run it around the perimeter of a room where millwork would normally live (as base, crown, wainscoting, framed panel moulding, etc).
  • Stick to timeless paint colors. When I see crazy, colorful color blocking- it’s easy to read the space as a kid’s room or juvenile. Because color blocking is essentially a giant shape, saturated colors can easily read “young”. Choose a paint color that feels more classic to keep it looking sophisticated.
  • Avoid diagonal lines (it feels more trendy and won’t have the same longevity).
  • If you’re doubting it, make it subtle (tone on tone or low contrast).
Design Discussion : Color Blocking -
image via the scott resort

Color blocking can look really elegant and hip when done correctly. Use it as a tool to emphasize, frame, and enhance a vignette, architectural lines, or in place of finishing work.

Design Discussion : Color Blocking -
image via india hicks

I think color blocking gets a bad rep because there are a bunch of not-so-awesome examples out there. For every excellent example of color blocking, there might be 10 bad examples floating around Pinterest. I honestly think it can look timeless and cool, when done correctly! I’ve found examples from 10+ years ago that still feel relevant and amazing today. Therefore, I don’t think this “fad” is going anywhere anytime soon (especially given the price and accessibility of paint and its ability to transform), but I would caution you to use color blocking in an intentional way. It’s not as easy to nail as it looks, from a design point-of-view.

Design Discussion : Color Blocking -
image via the scott resort

Ok, poll time! Tell me what you think… do you like and appreciate color blocking, or do you feel like it looks young and trendy? I’m excited to see the results in the anonymous poll below!

[Total_Soft_Poll id=”7″]

Design Discussion : Color Blocking - roomfortuesday.comIf you missed any of the previous Design Discussion posts, I’ll link them below. We chat about all sorts of controversial design topics around here! It’s pretty fun hearing everyone’s unique perspectives.

Design Discussion : Color Blocking - roomfortuesday.comI hope you’re all having a good week so far! Things have been busy over here, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m working on some upcoming giveaways for you guys and something very special! I’ll share more soon. I’m also wondering what I can go color block now. Ha! But really.

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  1. Hurricane flood waters?! Ha. I love color-blocking! I thought your hallway looked fab. Your point to “use it like millwork” was a headsmack moment. It really does provide a similar service for your eye…no mitering required! I’m thinking of it as almost a modern trompe l’oile. That Brady Tolbert bedroom is smashing. And the subtle chic of the India Hicks entry is undeniable. All of these examples seem to demonstrate the importance of sophisticated paint choices. Using all of your tips would certainly yield a timeless look. Honestly though, I’m not opposed to a little experimentation; it’s only paint after all!
    Thanks for another thought-provoking topic!💜

    1. Lol! Thank you! I still love the space, and the current homeowners told us it is one of their favorite things about the house- which makes me happy. Isn’t it interesting how it really can be an awesome cost-effective alternative to millwork? It definitely gives that effect! I’m also for experimenting… paint is a quick, easy, and budget-friendly material to play with. I loved checking out Marie’s art last night… this pillow is realllllly tempting me. It might have to go in my cart this weekend :) Thanks for the introduction! xo

  2. I LOVE all the examples you pulled and just like anything in the design/fashion world it’s all in the execution. Subtle is always better- in my opinion. I’ve always been a fan of your hallway, but wish I could “erase” that hurricane comment because now I can’t “unsee” it 😆. I’m from Louisiana so I know exactly what they’re talking about.

    1. Thanks Melissa! It’s definitely all about execution. I’m team subtle when it comes to color blocking, too. Having never lived in a hurricane climate, I can’t relate to the flood waters and cleanup afterwards, but I can totally see where someone would make that comparison given the beige color palette. Haha! Definitely makes me laugh :)

  3. The haters will probably hate my living room then! Lol. I love color blocking for all the reasons you posted above. I don’t really see it as controversial though; at the end of the day, even if it does look trendy, it doesn’t take a ton of time or money to change it. Awhile back I decided to color block one wall in my living room. The space is relatively small, lacking interest and depth, and void of amazing architectural touches…unless you consider the outdated, underwhelming fireplace one of those. Hint: I do not. In the absence of funds to redo the fireplace and have the ability to properly frame out its flanked windows, I wanted a piece of visual interest that felt more like us, offered a bit of personality and also would make that space feel less boxed in. I broke all the “rules” you mentioned above. The upper half of the wall is diagonally split into three triangles, the center of which is a beautiful deep teal, flanked by the prettiest griege I’ve ever seen, while the lower half is grounded with the same lighter more airy color in the rest of the room. I don’t regret a minute of it, and it still makes me smile when I walk into the room. I finished it out with marble inlaid shelves above our sofa, and they are still my favorite in the room. One day I’m sure we’ll tackle the fireplace and completely change the architectural footprint. When we do, we’ll frame those windows the way they should have been done originally. And when you give a mouse a cookie…it’ll probably lead to me completely changing that wall. For right now, it’s the homiest space in our home, and the room that gets the most compliments. Would I do it the same way again…maybe not if I had stumbled across this post first, Haha!! Yes, I think I still would break the rules and use a “color”, and I still would pick that beautifully geometric focal point. I love an eclectic look, I love bold, bright, deep and moody all equally. Having a home without any of it, for me, is torture. I like a lot of different, unexpected vibes; for right now, this wall serves that purpose. Those pics you shared above are definitely giving me allll the ideas!! I might change the wall sooner now! Hahaha! Still having super cool weather out here since our thunderstorms the other night, and I’m loving it! It’s feeling more like fall than summer, and I just want it to be October already. This crisp cool air is giving me motivation, along with your posts this week, and I’m making slow and steady progress on the bathroom. Today will be a fun day for some contrast trim! That might be your next design controversy!🤣😂 Have a happy Tuesday!!!

    1. Haha! You’re totally right- at the end of the day, it’s just paint… and that’s the fun in experimenting. AND you know what I say about design rules- sometimes they’re meant to be broken, if it means creating a home you love. The best ideas usually come from coloring outside the lines. I love that your living room wall makes you smile each day, Lauren! That’s what home is all about. I also like that you aren’t afraid of playing with color in your house and went bold. I’m definitely not against bold, saturated colors… I just think it’s easier if people are nervous about color blocking to begin with, or afraid to commit, to go with something more tonal. Sometimes contrast can be jarring and uncomfortable if you’re not used to it. Yay for cooler weather! Yesterday it was in the 40s and 50s here. Today is chilly too… back to sweater weather (in July?!), I suppose. Ha! Great job on your bathroom progress. I can’t wait to see the contrast trim- you’ll have to share a photo! Also a great idea for our next design discussion :) Thank you for that! xo

  4. I loved your hallway but just out of curiosity do you happen to know if the new owners kept it?

    1. To my knowledge, they did! They told us it might be their favorite thing about the house when moving in. I know it’s not for everyone, but it really worked for that particular home… so happy they loved it :)

  5. I voted “dislike” on the poll, but 1) I don’t think it’s a trend and hence, on it’s way out and 2) I’m actually 50/50 on it. In some instances, like where it’s used as millwork or frames a headboard, piece of art, etc., I think it can look pretty cool, but when I see it cutting walls in half, I’m not a fan. Sorry, Sarah! To me, it did make your hallway more interesting, but also smaller, darker and narrower. :-\ I DID love how you did the ceiling and those lights are 😍. However, I’m a fan of doing what YOU love in YOUR house, so even if it’s generally not for me, I love that others have used it and loved it. SO cool the new owners did, too! I’m clearly in the minority here. 😆 Love these discussions!!

    1. Haha! No hard feelings at all. The fact that we all have our preferences and aesthetic is what makes design (and the world) so interesting! No justification needed, Anne :) What design discussion should we talk about next?! I need some fresh ideas! xo

  6. Can you share the paint color used for the hallway?