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Cronulla House


The aim of the colour in this project was to dispel the feeling that the house was 'full of shadows' rather than full of light.

This interior residential project was a collaboration between colour consultant Sonia van de Haar (Lymesmith) and interior designer Yasmine Ghoniem (Amber Road).


An existing weatherboard house in a beautiful waterside location in Cronulla (south of Sydney) had been renovated and extended some years before, however, the interiors felt gloomy and uninviting, and the bright natural light available at each end of the house did not penetrate the deep floor plan, resulting in a cold grey ambiance.

Existing cool toned Carrara marble floors throughout the house, meant that 'warming up' the white walls was not an option. In addition, the clients were self-confessed colour phobics, and did not think they could live with anything other than white walls. However, the clients’ existing strategy of painting everything white had only accentuated the shadows, because all the whites appeared grey and the corners of the room seemed to where the eyes rested.


Lymesmith devised a dramatic but neutral palette of charcoal, white and grey to complement the existing marble floors, new joinery, artwork and furniture selections by Amber Road.

The aim of the colour in this project was to dispel the feeling that the house was 'full of shadows' rather than full of light. Lymesmith devised a way to dictate areas of shadow and light, rather than let the 'flaws' in the architecture have the upper hand. The flaws included significant spatial problems, for example; the low ceilings, a deep plan creating dark spaces in the centre, and the narrow hallway.


To create a more interesting spatial play in the simple open plan living/kitchen/dining space, areas of a custom mixed charcoal, Resene Taupe Grey and bright Resene Quarter Bianca were applied in such a way that the white areas became very vibrant, the charcoal (‘KMK Gravel’) frames and accentuates special areas such as the entry and staircase, and the Resene Taupe Grey gives depth and warmth to the living zone, and frames the views of the water.

The joinery designed by Amber Road consisting of American Oak sliding timber panel and cast concrete bench added to this interplay and designation of spaces. In addition, furniture, lighting, artworks and textiles were selected to bring a casually elegant palette of textures and objects together. Natural linen, denim, leather and timber and aged brass all contribute to the sophisticated result. Black Serge Mouille lamp shades, and other black furniture details throughout the house reinforce the harmony and playfulness of the colour scheme.

Lounge, Deck, Bathroom

Downstairs, floating Birch ply panelling juxtaposed with bright Resene Quarter Bianca walls creates warmth and vibrancy in the previously dark master bedroom. The custom charcoal colour ('KMK Gravel') was introduced into the all-white master bathroom. This made a dramatic feature of the sculptural white bathtub and hand basin.

Inspiration came quite slowly with this project. For a while there seemed to more obstacles than inspiration. Once it was realised that the clients’ 'colour problem' could be resolved by using black and grey to accentuate the whiteness of the whites, inspiration flowed. Working with Yasmine from Amber Road reinforced this strategy, she was very excited and supportive. Together they came to understand that the desired 'warmth' would be created through the combination of materials – the timber panelling and textiles, for example, and the beautifully crafted furniture selection were central.


The paint finishes were understood as necessary to create spatial dynamism and 'brightness' rather than for introducing colour 'warmth' per se.

Conventional wisdom holds that a small room will appear smaller if painted black, or a low ceiling will appear lower. Actually, the converse is true, because black recedes away from the eye, creating an impression of space. As Le Corbusier well knew, it is only when juxtaposed with very dark tones that white architecture can glow and express its full radiance. Understanding how colours interact with each other, and how the proper use of colour can engage constructively with the architecture to alter and address spatial deficiencies is the key to the success of this project.

Bedroom Lounge

The existing Carrara marble floors were a special feature of the house, and all colour decisions had to harmonise with the floor. Three colours were selected: Resene Quarter Bianca, Resene Taupe Grey and a custom Resene mix now named KMK Gravel, because it was made from a base of Resene Gravel, with a lot of black added.

The paint used throughout was Resene SpaceCote Flat. Flat walls complement the polished marble floors, are elegant and it allows the walls to 'be quiet' and puts the emphasis on the people, artworks and special objects in a room.

To use three different colours in the living room posed the question of where does one colour begin and another colour end. Using colour to affect space means engaging directly with the architecture and working to alter how the space is perceived.

The charcoal KMK Gravel coloured entry wall turns a corner down to the stairs. To avoid the charcoal and white colours meeting on this corner, as it would have made the wall look paper thin at the edge, the charcoal paint stopped 450mm in from the corner, and also stopped short of the ceiling by 150mm. The top corner was given a radius.

Another interesting strategy was to paint one wall of the narrow hall Resene Quarter Bianca and the opposite wall KMK Gravel. It completely transformed the impression of space, making the hall feel much wider and far more interesting to move through.

Winner of the Resene Total Colour Residential Interior Award 2015.

Architectural specifier: Yasmine Ghoniem, Amber Road
Colour selection: Sonia van de Haar, Lymesmith
Joinery: Evostyle
Painting contractor: Perfect Touch Painters
Other key supplier – concrete bench: Promena Projects
Photographer: Prue Ruscoe
Winner: Resene Total Colour Residential Interior Award 2015
Project: Resene Total Colour Awards 2015

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