Close Give Feedback
Resene Paints - home page
Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Pinterest Follow us on Instagram Follow us on YouTube

Minimalism without austerity

From the Resene decorating blog

It is an easy task to adapt what you might think of as a classic minimalist style to meet your tastes and overcome a sense of austerity in the finish.

Minimalism is a perennially popular design ethos for many reasons.

A muted interior with a variety of shapes and textures

A variety of shapes and textures, as well as the abstract, pared back mural keep this muted space feeling warm and inviting. Rear wall painted in a basecoat of Resene Half Caraway with a topcoat of Resene Half Nomad mixed with Resene FX Paint Effects Medium for a tonal effect. Trees painted in Resene Craigieburn, side wall in Resene Half Breathless with an arch in Resene Half Caraway, floor in Resene French Grey, small table in Resene Half Caraway and large table is Resene Pearl Bush. Rug from The Ivy House. Project Kate by Alexander, image by Bryce Carleton.

For those of us unsure of our colour tastes it offers the safety of a pared-back, usually neutral, colour palette. For others it represents a model of simple living, unburdened by “stuff”.

However, for another group of us, classic minimalism can appear to be too ‘chilly’ or austere, opting for crisp, perfection instead of a more achievable, colourful reality.

In fact, it is an easy task to adapt what you might think of as a classic minimalist style to meet your tastes and overcome a sense of austerity in the finish.

One way to do it is to think of minimalism as a broad design approach, rather than a strictly neutral or white-on-white colour scheme.

Colour in

Resene Colour Expert Brooke Calvert says minimalism definitely does not have to be limited to a white, or monochrome colour palette.

An interior painted with soft pink and botanic green

Soft pinks work as a neutral in this living room while botanic greens offer a soothing yet bold accent. Rear wall painted in Resene Soothe with the side wall in Resene Spring Wood and floor colourwashed in Resene Colorwood Breathe Easy. Coffee table and shelves in Resene Soothe, DIY artwork canvases in Resene Tom Thumb with stamped leaves in Resene Burnt Crimson, Resene Spring Wood, Resene Rainee, large planters in Resene Burnt Crimson and small vases and pots in Resene Burnt Crimson, Resene Tom Thumb, Resene Rainee and Resene Palm Green. Sofa, throw and cushions from Nood. Project by Megan Harrison-Turner, image by Bryce Carleton.

“While white and monochrome palettes are commonly associated with minimalism for their clean and simple aesthetic, you can add colour into a minimalist scheme to add warmth and personality.’

Brooke says the key to incorporating colour into a minimalist design is to keep things simple and avoid overwhelming the space. “It doesn’t need to be all white but stick to a limited colour palette, use colour strategically to highlight certain elements, and maintain a sense of balance and harmony throughout the design.”

Here are some of Brooke’s suggested colour combinations that can work well for a minimalist finish that adds warmth and personality, while maintaining a sense of simplicity.


Neutrals are a classic choice for a minimalist look, but rather than chill whites look to warm neutrals, says Brooke, suggesting Resene Foundation, Resene Credence or Resene Open Sesame as a base colour palette. “These colours provide a cosy, inviting atmosphere while keeping the minimalist look intact.”

Soft pastels

Experiment with soft pastel shades like Resene Contented, Resene Duck Egg Blue or Resene Nirvana, Brooke says. “These gentler hues bring a touch of tranquillity and can add a subtle note of colour without dominating the space.”

Earthy tones

An earthy colour palette including shades like Resene Tuscany, Resene Tic Tac Toe or Resene Stepping Stone have a natural, organic feel that works well in a minimalist setting to add depth and warmth, Brooke says.

Contrasting accents

Choose a neutral colour scheme then give it a surprise punch of visual interest by adding a bold, contrasting accent colour, Brooke suggests. “For example, pair a predominantly white or light grey space with vibrant shades like deep red Resene Scoria, emerald green Resene Deep Teal or mustard yellow Resene Salted Caramel. The trick to this approach is only using your accent colour on one key piece or in a thoughtfully placed colour block, and maybe one or two other smaller pieces for a minimalist look with maximum impact.

Monochromatic palettes

When we talk about monochromatic colour schemes we typically think about all-white, or sometimes black and white palettes. In fact, monochromatic simply means one colour – any colour – not just white or black.

Mix up patterns and materials to warm your interior

Mix up patterns and materials to warm up a classic white-on-white look while keeping a minimalist aesthetic.

Walls painted in Resene Triple Black White with floor in Resene Colorwood Breathe Easy. Fireplace frame in Resene Half Black White, background in Resene Eighth Black White with stencilled pattern in Resene Triple Black White, side table in Resene Triple Black White, DIY artwork in Resene Eighth Black White and vases in Resene Eighth Black White. Sofa and coffee table from Soren Liv, lamp, candleholders and gold bowl from A&C Homestore, chair from David Shaw, cushions from Baya, rug from Yuva Rugs. Project by Melle van Sambeek, image by Bryce Carleton.

Layering the colours of nature

Layering the colours of nature through earthy neutrals and soothing botanic greens creates a simple, clean minimalism with an organic, warm finish.

Wall and floors painted in Resene Rice Cake, coffee table in Resene Eagle, sideboard in Resene Frontier and vase and bowl in Resene Moon Mist. Sofa from Nood, artwork and rug from Kmart, cushions from Bed Bath & Beyond, The Warehouse and Freedom, throw from H&M Home. Project by Vanessa Nouwens, image by Bryce Carleton.

Brooke suggests creating a monochromatic look with added depth and visual texture by actually layering in different shades, strengths and tones of a single colour. For example, if you want to stay neutral but add extra personality try a beige-toned neutral such as Resene Sisal which comes in eighth through to triple strengths allowing you to play with different tones, while keeping to the same colour. The effect will add depth to your finish space and help the eye pick up different features of the room while keeping the finish clean and simple.

This approach is by no means limited to neutrals. Theme your minimalist look around a simple colour like green. Then take three or four different iterations of green like Resene Ottoman, Resene Willow Brook, Resene Spring Rain and Resene Green House to build out the finished look. Use the bolder version of your chosen palette as an accent note.

Top tip:  Resene Multi-finish palette cards, available at your local Resene ColorShop, are arranged by colour palettes, which makes them useful to see how different intensities and undertones of different shades will work together to build up a layered look.


One way to add to a simple minimalist look without adding clutter is to add texture. It’s another way to make it easier for the eye to pick out detail in a more monochrome palette.

Adding texture can mean playing with different materials, like adding wood finishes washed in a pale shade like Resene Colorwood Breathe Easy that allow the wood grain to show through. It can mean adding other textured materials like wicker, rope or even concrete to contrast against your paint or stain finish.

It can also mean incorporating elements with a three-dimensional finish like a textured plaster artwork or even an anaglypta wallpaper like Resene Wallpaper Collection RD819. Alternatively opt for the illusion of a three-dimensional texture with wallpapers like Resene Wallpaper Collection 38098-7 that give the appearance of a fibrous texture in their pattern. You could also try a ragged or marbled paint effect using Resene FX Paint Effects Medium.

Add a small set of wood battens, running floor to ceiling against a plain wall, or bring in a large plant to add movement and layers.

Soft furnishing materials like curtains, cushions and rugs also add different visual layers that will add visual warmth to a minimalist look. Keep them to the same small colour palette as the rest of the room for that pared-back clean finish.

Texture is all about giving your eye something to grab onto against a plain or monochrome backdrop, so the space is interesting to look at without making it busy or cluttered.

Top tip:  Adding your own decor pieces to a space is another way to add visual texture and interest to a minimalist space. Lots of decorators approach minimalism from the view that there must be little to no decorative items around the room. Instead, just take a more considered, curated approach to what you want to put where. Think about how things work with your colour palette; or use your treasured items as the base for your colour palette to keep things simple and clean.

Resene Stepping Stone

Resene Breathe Easy

Resene Contented

Resene Foundation

Resene Credence

Resene Open Sesame

Resene Tic Tac Toe

Resene Salted Caramel

August 09, 2023

Need help layering your hues together for a minimalist inspired space? Visit your local Resene ColorShop and the staff can show you the in-store colour library that has A4 swatches of Resene paint colours. This will help you see how your colour palette will look on a larger scale. If you need extra help, use the free Ask a Resene Colour Expert service or book in a Resene Colour Consultation – virtually, in-store or at home.

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

Resene's decorating blog

Paint your home beautiful! Discover the latest decorating trends, tips and colour news.

Previous article
Previous «
Why does my room look wrong?

Return to the blog home page
Blog home

View the latest trends, tips and news

Next article
» Next

Battens and slats


Order online now:
Testpots | Paints | Primers and Sealers | Stains | Clears | Accessories

Get inspired Get inspired ! Subscribe      Get saving Get saving ! Apply for a DIY card

Resene Paints Ltd

Can't find what you're looking for? Ask us!

Resene Paints (Australia) Limited   –

Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Pinterest Follow us on Instagram Follow us on YouTube
Videos on how to paint and stain your house

Welcome to our World of Colour!™
Colours shown on this website are a representation only. Please refer to the actual paint or product sample. Resene colour charts, testpots and samples are available for ordering online.   See measurements/conversions for more details on how electronic colour values are achieved.

What's new | Specifiers | Painters | DIYers | Artists | Kids | Sitemap | Home | TOP ⇧