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Small colour, big impact

From the Resene decorating blog

Adding colour to interiors can be confronting.

A lot of home renovators and decorators lack some confidence when it comes to adding colourful flair to their spaces, opting for the comfort and safety of monochrome or neutral palettes.

An aqua home exterior

An aqua combination adds bright summery notes against this home’s exterior panted in Resene Carefree.

Deck stained in Resene Woodsman Uluru, chairs and coat rack in Resene Calypso, table in Resene Blue Chill, sisal rug in Resene Coast, planters in Resene Big Chill (small) and Resene Tarawera and light in Resene Alabaster. Mug from Le Creuset. Project by Megan Harrison-Turner, image by Bryce Carleton.

Greens, lilacs and yellow elevate this neutral bedroom

An unusual combination of greens, lilacs and yellow elevate this neutral bedroom.

Walls painted in Resene Urbane with floor in Resene Colorwood Breathe Easy. Table and mirror in Resene Boundless, lightshade and vase in Resene Green Acres and rattan rug in Resene Moonbeam. Mug from Freedom, yellow quilt and pillowcases from Adairs, throw and cushions from H&M home. Project by Vanessa Nouwens, image by Bryce Carleton.

It’s worth remembering, though, that using colour isn’t an all or nothing proposition. You don’t have to switch from soothing tonal neutrals, to a riot of bold reds and oranges. In fact, if you have a neutral or monochrome interior, small ‘pops’ of colour can have a huge impact. The right shade against Resene whites and neutrals can completely transform a space or help draw your eye to a standout piece of furniture or decor.

Here’s how.

Surprise and delight

Unexpected colour can add a real sense of fun and creativity to your space. It doesn’t have to be in large amounts. Colour that pops up in surprising parts of a room can make you and your guests smile every time they see it.

As Resene Colour Expert Jackie Nicholls says, while furniture is an easy and obvious place to start adding notes of colour, there are lots of other options as well.

“A great example is a sliding barn door, which can become a stunning feature in an accent colour.

Ceilings are often overlooked but in the right place, they can look stunning in a contrasting colour. In older homes or commercial spaces, this can work really well as the walls are often taller,” Jackie says.

Those with an ornate ceiling rose or coving could choose to keep those features in a white like Resene Alabaster or Resene Spanish White to really show off the detailing, she says.

Resene SpaceCote Flat is a perfect product for coloured ceilings as it is wipeable and won’t show any imperfections. Look at colours like Resene Boris, Resene Yogi or Resene Time Traveller.”

Freeform shapes painted in soothing blues

Colour bursts can be any size or shape you want. These freeform shapes in soothing blues add freshness to what was a plain room.

Wall background painted in Resene Aoraki with shapes in Resene Baring Head, Resene Wayfarer, Resene Comfortably Numb and Resene Carpe Noctem, floor in Resene Half Tea, planter in Resene Baring Head, side table in Resene Duck Egg Blue, short vase in Resene Wayfarer, larger vase in Resene Half Tea and bubble vase in Resene Carpe Noctem. Chair from Danske Møbler, rug from The Ivy House, lamp from Lighting Direct. Project by Kate Alexander, image by Bryce Carleton.

A lavender bedroom with playful painted shapes

Colour-drenched lavender and playful shapes combine to add visual interest.

Wall painted in Resene Snow Drift with colour blocked shape and shelf in Resene Hawkes Blue, floor in Resene Half Milk Punch with pattern in Resene Tuft Bush, bedside table in Resene Half Alabaster, desk in Resene Eighth Black White, large vase in Resene Half Milk Punch with details in Resene Egg Sour and shelf vases in, from left, Resene Quarter Moonbeam, Resene Hawkes Blue and Resene Blue Chalk. Project by Kate Alexander, image by Bryce Carleton.

Other small spaces like powder rooms, study nooks and library corners are good candidates for adding a surprise burst of colour. This works particularly well if they adjoin a room that is a plainer neutral. The contrast of these small spaces makes them exciting and appealing to go into.

Jackie also suggests adding a colourful shade like pastel green Resene Transcend or dusky pink Resene Awaken to the inside of drawers, cupboards and wardrobes.

Go bolder in kids rooms with primary colours like Resene Roadster, Resene Wet N Wild or Resene Happy on these small ‘surprise’ areas, or add a haphazard collection of chunky wooden hooks to the walls in vivid shades like Resene Adrenalin, Resene Boundless or Resene Drop Dead Gorgeous against walls in a greyed white like Resene Sea Fog.

For chic colour surprise, wallpaper the outer sides of drawers so that pattern is only seen when the drawers are pulled out. For smaller areas like drawer sides, try a smaller scale wallpaper design like Resene Wallpaper Collection DGN102294045 so you can still get the full effect of the pattern.

Colour combos to try

The colours you chose to add as highlights in your space need really only be guided by your personal taste and imagination. If you are a bit colour-shy it is also worth remembering that adding notes of colour to a neutral space doesn’t mean you have to blow people’s socks off with super bright colours.

For a restful look, Jackie suggests taking inspiration from nature. “The shades of gum leaves and olive trees are so beautiful. They’ll add instant calm as well as interest to any neutral colour schemes. Try Resene Eau De Nil and Resene Vantage Point against greyed whites like Resene Half Black White.

For coastal inspiration, look at calming shades like Resene Baring Head and Resene Awaroa Bay against off-whites like Resene Merino.

‘If you’re thinking of something warmer, consider sunset-inspired hues like Resene Soul Searcher and Resene Awaken,” Jackie suggests. These would work well with black edged whites like Resene Alabaster.

“And don’t forget some of the darker smoky colours as they will bring a modern edge to a gentle colour palette. Try Resene Thunderstorm, Resene Gravel and Resene Kia Kaha. All of these colours have a complexity that allows them to mix and match effortlessly,” Jackie says.

One place a bolder colour can work beautifully is against a classic black and white palette. Try walls in Resene Double Merino with dark trim in Resene Blackout, contrasted with a burst of dark red Resene Salsa. Use the contrast in a colour block on part of a wall or a small furniture piece like a coffee table for maximum impact. This classic colour combination can evoke aspects of Art Deco style, particularly if you use a high-gloss finish like Resene Enamacryl tinted to your chosen black.

A complex teal like Resene Boost can also work nicely as a bolt of contrast against blacks and whites or try it with greyed Resene Ted for a softer edge.

Feel the fear and do it anyway

Jackie’s advice for those feeling a little afraid of colour is to start small. “Try a block of colour, rather than a whole wall. With masking tape and a good roller, you can easily create small accents in any shape.”

She also suggests painting a band of colour around the lower wall, about one metre from the skirting board. “It can really ground a desk or other piece of furniture you put in front of it, without overpowering the room.

“Don’t forget doors either, they can be a fun accent in any room, and wardrobe doors are perfect for a splash of colour.”

Once you start experimenting with bursts of colour in your neutral spaces, you’ll see how a small amount of the right shade can have a big impact on the whole room.

Resene Breathe Easy

Resene Aoraki

Resene Comfortably Numb

Resene Ted

Resene Eau De Nil

Resene Baring Head

Resene Transcend

Resene Awaroa Bay

Resene Soul Searcher

Resene Awaken

Resene Vantage Point

Resene Green Acres

Resene Wayfarer

Resene Time Traveller

Resene Boost

Resene Boris

Resene Yogi

Resene Boundless

Resene Kia Kaha

Resene Thunderstorm

Resene Carpe Noctem

July 11, 2023

If you need help getting started with colour or wallpaper, ask your local Resene ColorShop staff for help or use the free online Ask a Resene Colour Expert Service. Or book a colour consultation virtually, instore or at home (selected areas) with a Resene Colour Expert.

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

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