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What’s new in whites and neutrals

From the Resene decorating blog

Whites and neutrals often provide the foundations for most colour schemes, whether they’re used simply as a backdrop for vibrant colours, or sit at the heart of a minimalist masterpiece.

Layers of texture make a neutral colour scheme interesting

Layers of texture and subtle accent colours can help a neutral colour scheme become more visually interesting. These walls are painted in Resene Triple Black White, with floor stained in Resene Colorwood Breathe Easy. Fireplace in Resene Lustacryl tinted to Resene Half Black White with stencilled inner in Resene Triple Black White against Resene Eighth Black White, round table in Resene Summer Rose, mushroom table in Resene Awaken, two small vases on table in Resene Sour Dough, wooden arches in Resene Awaken and Resene Summer Rose, large floor vase in Resene Eighth Black White and DIY artwork with plaster shapes painted in Resene Eighth Black White. Sofa from Soren Liv, chair from David Shaw, ball cushion from Adairs, other cushions from Baya, decor pieces from A&C Homestore, lamp from Sailor and Scout. Project by Melle Van Sambeek, image by Bryce Carleton.

But, as we talk about often at Resene, not all whites and neutrals are created equal, and they are subject to our subtly evolving collective taste and trends, much like any other colours.

Let’s look at what is new in neutrals.

Top twenty

Resene’s top 20 selling colours is always a good place to start looking to find subtle changes in the colours we’re all loving. Neutrals tend to dominate the Resene top 20 paint colour each year, because they are such a foundation tool for every colour palette in both interiors and exteriors.

The versatility of Resene Black White has kept it in the number one spot in the Resene Top 20 for some time, often followed by the always popular Resene Alabaster. The subtle grey undertone of these two colours keeps them crisp without being glary. Other popular colours with this greyed edge are Resene Sea Fog and Resene White Pointer.

These tones work particularly well with our current fondness for muted botanical greens like Resene Wabi Sabi and warm mustard tones like Resene Liquid Gold.

One of the other interesting evolutions in the top 20 has been the rise of more dark charcoal neutrals. Resene Bokara Grey has been a popular colour for several years. This year it has been joined in the top 20 by Resene Grey Friars, Resene Shadow Match wood stain and Resene Ironsand.

These charcoal tones have been growing in popularity as an exterior colour can add immediate street appeal and visual impact, particularly when paired with in the very subtly off-white Resene Double Alabaster. Try them with a front door in brick-toned Resene Pioneer Red and accent notes on planters in yellow-green Resene Nirvana.

Warmth on the horizon

Resene colour consultant Jackie Nicholls says while Resene Alabaster and Resene Black White are still popular in new-build properties, there is a move toward warmer tones among renovators.

“Rather than the buttery creams of the ’80s and ’90s, we are starting to see natural, stony whites taking centre stage, adding a bit more soul and a welcoming vibe.

An interior with complex mid-toned neutrals

More complex, mid-toned neutrals are making a comeback for rooms with an inviting, comfortable finish.

Lower wall painted in Resene Double Thorndon Cream, with the upper wall in Resene Half Thorndon Cream, floor in Resene Dusty Road and coffee table in Resene Domino. On the table the vases are Resene Dusty Road and Resene Half Thorndon Cream with bowl in Resene Half Doeskin. DIY landscape painting in Resene Periglacial Blue, Resene Half Thorndon Cream, Resene Lemon Ginger, Resene Middle Earth, Resene Half Doeskin, Resene Domino, Resene Midnight Moss, Resene Soothe and Resene Digeridoo with frame in Resene Domino. Sofa from Danske Møbler, throw and cushions from Città. Project by Laura Lynn Johnston, image by Bryce Carleton.

An interior painted with muted creams and blueish-greys

Muted creams and blueish-greys add subtle warmth and colour while keeping an overall neutral look.

Wall and floor painted in Resene Rice Cake with door in Resene Duck Egg Blue, table in Resene Half Innocence, basket in Resene Sorrento, DIY artwork wall canvases in Resene Duck Egg Blue, Resene Conch and Resene Sorrento, clam shell bowl in Resene White, spiked ball in Resene Rice Cake, small tealight holder in Resene Sorrento and vase in Resene Duck Egg Blue. Rug from Mocka. Project by Vanessa Nouwens, image by Wendy Fenwick.

“These are colours like Resene Rice Cake, Resene Quarter Ecru White and Resene Bianca along with more complex colours such as Resene White Pointer, Resene Quarter Cloud and Resene Quarter Bison Hide.”

For a tonal, layered neutral look, Jackie suggests trying Resene White Pointer with Resene Quarter White Pointer then adding smoky colours like Resene Quarter Ironsand, Resene Courtyard and Resene Eau De Nil.

For green-toned warmth Jackie suggests neutrals like Resene Quarter Parchment and Resene Eighth Parchment with muted greens like Resene Vantage Point and Resene Field Day, anchored by dark grey Resene Gravel.

The other trend in whites and neutrals is a shift toward mist-toned complex neutrals in sandy, biscuity beige shades or even notes of blush.

Resene colour consultant Brooke Calvert suggests looking at shades like Resene Cobblestone, Resene Solitaire and Resene Cargo which are deeper and richer in colour while still being versatile enough to match with a range of other shades.

“They make a great base for those who like to change up their accent decor regularly,” she says.

Adding subtle colour to skirting and door frames

Flip the script and add subtle colour where you’d typically expect neutrals such as on skirtings and door frames. This skirting and frame are painted in Resene Half Dusted Blue against a wall in Resene Quarter Sea Fog. Floor painted in Resene Double Sea Fog, console table in Resene Triple Sea Fog, side table in Resene Quarter Sea Fog and DIY artwork in Resene Nomad and Resene Double Sea Fog. On the sideboard the vases are Resene Double Sea Fog and Resene Quarter Sea Fog. Chair from Kiosk, small artwork from endemic world. Project by Kate Alexander, image by Bryce Carleton.

Our approach to grey is also getting more sophisticated and daring. Where greys might previously have been kept to outdoors and deemed too chilly for interiors, there’s a rise in deeper, pewter greys like Resene Silver Chalice that work well with on-trend muted teals like Resene Time Traveller and verdant greens like Resene Kombi.

For a deeper approach try organic-feeling charcoal shades like Resene Armadillo or Resene Night Magic, which skew almost brown-toned in some light. Give them a lift with a starchy off-white like Resene Arrowroot or vivid pink Resene Temptation.

Top tip:  Pick whites and neutrals that pair well with more permanent features in your home. Pick tiles, appliances and carpet first and then find a warm or cool neutral that works. It’s much easier than trying to find carpet to suit your paint when there are only limited carpet options to choose from.

Revive your current scheme

If your interior hasn’t been painted for some time and you want to refresh it with on-trend neutrals that will keep your room looking modern for some time, Jackie suggests going slightly brighter in tone. If you have an older classic creamy for example, maybe try brightening it to Resene Solitaire or Resene Meringue.

If you’re not revamping the whole room, keep to a similarly warm or cool toned cream so your existing decor will fit in and look fresh.

“Accent colours still have a place but use them with restraint. An area such as a dining a corner or a TV wall can look stunning in a colour that is quite dark, as it won’t close the room in but rather give it a modern edge and showcase anything you put in front of it.

“In a bedroom or even an office, colours are transitioning from clear bright tones to muted natural colours, creating a timeless finish.”

Choosing your neutrals

“Always look at the larger colour swatches available at Resene in the in-store colour library or try a Resene testpot to make sure the colours work in the context of your home,” Jackie says. “There are colour experts in Resene ColorShops that can help you find a look that speaks to you and, if needed, consultants can visit your home to create a colour schedule or provide advice over email or virtually.

“Never underestimate the difference a change of colour can make. Don’t worry too much about trends. Use them as inspiration but always go with what speaks to you and create a home that makes you feel good every day.”

Top tip:  If you go for layers of similarly toned neutrals as your colour scheme, work with different texture and finishes, such as the low sheen of Resene SpaceCote Low Sheen for walls, the semi-gloss of Resene Lustacryl for trims or even a textured effect using Resene Sandtex to break up the monochrome design.


Resene Quarter Sea Fog

Resene Meringue

Resene Breathe Easy

Resene Courtyard

Resene Eau De Nil

Resene Vantage Point

Resene Wabi Sabi

Resene Field Day

Resene Awaken

Resene Summer Rose

Resene Time Traveller

Resene Liquid Gold

Resene Temptation

Resene Night Magic

March 25, 2023

For help choosing colours to suit your projects, visit your local Resene ColorShop, ask a Resene Colour Expert online or book a Resene Colour Consultation.

Book a colour consult | Ask a Colour Expert | Ask a Paint Expert


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