Colour Blocking and Interior Design
Colour Blocking and Interior Design

Colour blocking is a fascinating intersection between art, fashion, and design. A practice that finds its roots in early 20th-century modernist art, it has grown to become a cornerstone in both fashion and interior design. The exploration involves taking contrasting or complementary colours, often from opposite sides of the colour wheel, and placing them together to create dynamic visual effects.

Mondrian’s Neo-Plasticism

Piet Mondrian, a Dutch artist from the early 1900s, is often credited with inspiring the modern trend of colour blocking. His approach to art was minimalistic, reducing natural forms to their most basic geometric shapes and primary colours. This style was later dubbed Neo-Plasticism. It had a profound influence not just on the art world but also on fashion, home décor, and even culinary aesthetics.

Grande composizione A con nero, rosso, grigio, giallo e bluPiet Mondrian1919 - 1920
Grande composizione A con nero, rosso, grigio, giallo e blu
Piet Mondrian 1919 – 1920

Alternative Theories and Pop Art’s Influence

However, other experts argue that artists like Georges Seurat and Claude Monet had initiated this dialogue between contrasting colours much earlier. Further complicating the origins is the influence of Pop Art, which emerged in the 1950s in America, utilizing clean lines and solid colours that were similar to Mondrian’s aesthetics.

The Evolution Through the 1960s

Whatever its origins, by the 1960s, the trend had fully crystallized in the fashion world, thanks to designers like Yves Saint Laurent. Mod fashion, popular among London’s youth, bore strong resemblances to Mondrian’s aesthetic. Over time, the style has included synthetic colours and more rigid structures, mirroring the evolution of modern art.

Fashion Statements with Blocks of Colour

In fashion, colour blocking represents a deviation from the norm, involving the pairing of bold and often clashing colours. Unlike typical outfits, which often involve matching or coordinated hues, colour-blocking delights in the unexpected, offering a fresh approach to personal style.

Yves Saint Laurent's Mondrian dressYves Saint Laurent
Yves Saint Laurent’s Mondrian dress
Yves Saint Laurent

The Golden Rules

Though seemingly random, there are guidelines that dictate successful colour blocking. Central to this is colour theory, which advocates for a balanced approach, such as offsetting vibrant colours with neutrals like grey.

The Versatility and Benefits of Colour Blocking

The abstract nature of colour blocking lends itself to a variety of applications. In fashion, it can be used to create illusions that accentuate body shapes or make people appear taller or slimmer. This versatility gives it a unique edge over other fashion trends, allowing for a greater range of personal expression.

Interior Design: A Recent Revival

The 2010s saw a resurgence of colour blocking in interior design. Just as in fashion, the goal is to create vibrant and dynamic spaces by juxtaposing different colours. Walls, furniture, and even smaller decor items can be incorporated into a colour-blocked scheme.

Design for Atmosphere

One of the most compelling aspects of colour blocking in interior design is its ability to set the mood or atmosphere of a room. While some might find clashing colours jarring, others see it as a fresh, modern take on home design.

The Future and Cultural Influences

Interestingly, elements of colour blocking can be seen in traditional Native American Hopi designs, specifically in their Kachina rituals and dolls. It’s a reminder that while trends may come and go, the power of colour and shape to create compelling visuals is universal.

Despite critics who view colour blocking as a passing fad, it remains an enduring practice, largely thanks to a new generation of designers and enthusiasts who keep reinventing it for contemporary tastes.


Colour blocking has a complex history, heavily influenced by modern art movements and evolving over time to adapt to the trends of the day. Its transformative potential in both fashion and interior design cannot be ignored, making it a timeless element in the realms of aesthetics and visual design.

Whether you’re a fashion aficionado, an interior design enthusiast, or simply someone interested in the artistic aspects of everyday life, colour blocking offers a vivid and endlessly versatile palette for self-expression.


Colour-blocking. (2023, September 6). In Wikipedia.

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