The winter has been ushered in and the clouds have settled overhead in one big grey blanket in the sky that will more or less remain there until next March. The winter can be fun and cosy, but it can also suck on the spirit at times and so today we’re looking to places and ideas that feel cheering and enlivening. Very specifically, we’re bringing you ideas for colour blocking in a room. What is colour blocking? Colour blocking is supposedly about taking colours from opposites ends of the colour wheel and setting them together in interesting ways. We do it in fashion, we do it in art – see Piet Mondrian for more info – and we can do it in our homes too. Here’s The Site of Reversible Destiny, a building that opened in Japan’s Yoro Park (in Yoro, Gifu Prefecture) in 1995, to sum it up pictorially.
Increasingly we also apply the description to more subdued palettes – as long as it encompasses putting opposing colours on different planes within the same space, then it counts. Lets explore the ways of translating the idea into workable rooms…
Create harmony and clashes
Paint is one of the most effective ways to change and uplift a room and you don’t have to choose the brightest palette to achieve colour blocking. The above room features two complementing non-bright shades instead – burnt orange and deep blush pink – doing away with the absolute opposites rule.
Villa Cavrois in Croix, France (below) meanwhile, which is the 1930s work of modernist architect Robert Mallet-Stevens, goes further by using a different colour on almost every surface. Not brave enough to go this far? Steal just one aspect of the look by painting your shelf to match your door. Even in a white room this will look dramatic.
Little points of continuity help to tie different coloured walls together. In this multi-coloured room red on the wall lights, the bedhead, the ceiling rose and rug allows the eye travel around the composition bringing it all together.
Mark out colour zones in unusual ways
For the Hotel Saint Marc in Paris, Dimore Studio created quite large zones of colour that extend onto different planes, but changing colour at unexpected junctions. Yellow dominates the walls but also flows over onto the ceiling while purple skirting boards mark the beginning of the purple floor. In terms of amount of colours used, it’s a less-is-more approach, but the actual colours chosen are anything but safe.
In contrast, interior designer Sarah Lavoine picks out just one area to add a single block of colour. This also doubles as a pin board of sorts – ideal for giving prominence to art, mirrors, photographs etc.
In a similar way, try making a feature of your open staircase by marking it out in a contrasting colour to the rest of the house or room.
Farrow & Ball’s head of creative Charlie Cosby has previously encouraged decorators to commit to a single colour with confidence or “deliberately paint a piece of furniture as an accent to an otherwise neutral space. Anything in between will lack confidence and be far less impactful,” she says.
Using the furniture
One way to follow the furniture idea is to keep your blocks of colour to the carpentry – much like this Martino Gamper kitchen, which adds colour and life to an all-white room. Note how the yellow worktop folds down into the first drawer of the kitchen units below before meeting contrasting grey.
Picking out smaller details
This house in Yokohama designed and built by the Japanese architect Kazuo Shinohara in 1984 picks out the feature of a circular (Hobbiton-esq) door helping it to stand out from the rest of the striking black and white room.
You can also pick out slimmer details to make just as much impact – your skirtings and door frames or, as in the below room, the inside of an arch or opening.
In this room by furniture and interior designer Max Clendinning – a former minimalist, would you believe – the doors and windows both feature the same make up of blue, yellow and red. Together they make a very unexpected feature against the more trad wallpaper and gold picture rails also present in the room.
Using textiles and soft furnishings
Use your upholstery and soft furnishings to bring colour blocks to a room and you’ll barely notice the wall colour. Think sofas, chairs, curtains and carpets.
Or if you want to approach this in a more transient way then stick to things that can easily change in future – a bedspread, tablecloth and rug.