Using colour

A room by room guide to selecting colours.

Bathrooms are one of the smallest rooms in the house and are generally cluttered with towel rails, basins and showers/baths. While this can make them a decorator's nightmare, it also means you can afford to be a little more courageous with colour. If your original colour choice doesn't work, you can repaint a small bathroom quickly.


Avoid using too many colours if your bathroom feels small. Instead, paint a dado on the bottom third of each wall in your chosen colour and paint the remaining two-thirds in white. Blues and greens being tranquil and clean are popular choices for bathrooms. Being cool colours, they can also make a small bathroom appear more spacious.

When selecting colours for bedrooms it is important to choose colours that are conducive to sleeping. You are also likely to spend more time looking at the ceiling than you would in other rooms. As a general rule you should avoid using very bright colours and save them for other parts of your home. Most light and pastel shades are ideal for bedrooms. Blue is a popular colour choice for bedrooms because of its soothing qualities. However, if you have trouble getting up in the morning, you may wish to add an invigorating accent to get you out of bed.

Dining rooms

Dining rooms
Separate dining rooms tend to be reserved for special occasions so they are a good opportunity to experiment with colour that you might not be brave enough to use elsewhere. Red stimulates the appetite and is a good choice for dining rooms. Combined with gold cutlery, a dramatic air of formality will result. Midnight blue or aubergine and gold are also dramatic colour schemes for night-time dining. Remember, in any dining room the table will be the focal point.

Family rooms
Family rooms call for a tough durable finish that can take the inevitable wear and tear. Families tend to spend a lot of time in this part of the home, so a bright uplifting colour scheme is recommended. Use one or two dominant colours and add accents for interest.

Choose mid tone colours that will minimise the appearance of finger marks, animal fur and general light scuffing. Avoid using very dark or very light colours. Use patterned curtains and furnishing fabric in place of plain fabrics.

Hallways and entrances
First impressions count! As hallways and entrances are transition areas and you spend only a short amount of time in them, you can usually afford to be a little more adventurous. Ideally hallways should be treated as linking spaces to help give continuity to your interior colour scheme.

Hallways and entrances

To make a long hall look shorter, paint the end wall a vibrant warm shade. To make a hallway look longer, paint the end wall a light cool colour. Colour can provide a bridge between adjoining areas. It can be difficult to change colour when adjoining spaces are viewed together, so a feature area of colour may be a good way to create a natural colour break. When visualising a hallway or entrance colour scheme, leave the doors of adjoining rooms open so that you can see how the hallway will work as the focal point.

The kitchen is where you will tend to spend a lot of time, especially if you are the main chef in your household. Make sure you are comfortable with your chosen colour scheme. Bright, invigorating colour schemes can boost energy levels when you have a lot of cooking and cleaning to get through. As kitchens are dominated by cabinetry, benches and the floor, treat these elements as the starting point for your colour scheme. The appearance of colours in the kitchen will depend on the properties and textures of each of the surfaces. Glossy surfaces, such as laminated cabinetry, will reflect more light and look different to low sheen painted walls, so it is important to be careful when trying to match colours in different materials. Sometimes it is better to select a tone lighter or darker rather than trying to create an exact colour match.

LivingroomsLiving rooms
Today's living rooms are often open spaces that link through to dining and kitchen areas. Knowing where to start and finish the colour scheme between each part of an open plan space can be very difficult. There are two techniques that you can use:

  • Paint a feature area in an area between the two adjoining rooms or spaces to create a natural colour break.
  • Use a progression of colours, then paint a unifying colour throughout the spaces and accent with the other progressional colours.

Living rooms are the ideal place to create focal points or feature areas. Traditionally fireplaces acted as the focal point of most living rooms. If you don’t have a fireplace, select a focal point for your room and decorate around that. The focal point may be a feature area, lounge suite or similar.

As living rooms are usually subject to less wear and tear than family rooms, you can choose light and dark colours if desired.

Remember no matter what room you are painting, artificial lighting can be used very successfully to complement your colour scheme and it is worth reviewing your lighting plan prior to painting.

Inject colour with a feature area
Redecorating an entire room can be time-consuming, so if all you want is a quick way of changing the mood of a room without redoing the entire colour scheme, designate yourself a feature area and start painting! A feature area is simply one wall or area picked out as an accent by painting it in a different manner to the rest of the space.

If you have a predominantly neutral colour scheme, a feature area is the perfect opportunity to add a splash of colour without overpowering the rest of the room scheme that you have worked hard to achieve. While feature areas are most commonly used as a highlight in a neutral schemed room, they can also be used to define space in open plan areas rather than having expanses of the same colour for the entire area.

There are no hard and fast rules to selecting the right area for your feature - after all, you are the one who has to live with it. An easy way to select a feature area is to stand in the middle of the room and choose a dominant wall, preferably one with interesting angles, curves, a fireplace or lighting. It is generally best to avoid walls with windows and doors, as these will distract attention from the feature you are creating.

Feature areas may be created by simply overcoating the space with an accent colour

Feature areas may be created by simply overcoating the space with an accent colour in a low sheen or flat finish. You can select a favourite colour or use existing furnishings as inspiration and select a feature colour from room curtains, furniture, artworks or floor rugs.

If you are looking for something a little more unique, be a bit more adventurous and experiment with a sparkling Resene metallic finish, a light Mediterranean style finish such as Resene Sandtex or a completely personalised Resene Paint effects finish.

A feature area will have a dramatic effect on the whole space - a metallic feature can add sizzle, a deep red feature area depth and warmth, and a Resene Sandtex feature area can add a natural textured earthy touch.

Remember, a dark colour will make the feature area advance and appear closer, while a lighter shade will make the wall recede and appear further away. If you want to make a long room appear squarer, paint the far wall in a dark colour to draw the wall into the room.

A feature area will have a dramatic effect

You can 'see' your feature area before you start painting with Resene EzyPaint virtual painting software. Download Resene EzyPaint free, scan in a photo of your room, path the area you wish to paint and virtually paint your new feature area using your choice of over 3000 Resene colours. Resene EzyPaint is the ideal way to see the effect different colours will have on the entire room scheme, helping you to narrow down your colour choices.

As colours are influenced by other room colours and lighting, it is always best to trial your chosen colour using a Resene testpot on the actual area you are planning to paint. View the painted area at different times of day to ensure that you like the colour as it changes from day to night.

It only takes a few litres to create a feature area, which means it can be easily changed to suit your mood, the season or a change in decorating plans. Don't be afraid to allocate one wall or area as a permanent feature area and change it regularly as your tastes and colour trends develop. Feature areas are designed for you to experiment with colours, so make the most of the blank canvas - after all you can always repaint if you don't like the first colour you choose.

Paint effects
If you want something a little out of the ordinary, different paint techniques may be used to create a wonderful variety of textured effects and they offer an exciting alternative to plain, painted walls or wallpaper.

Colourwashing, sponging, limewash effect and rag rolling

There are four basic techniques:

Colourwashing produces a soft, dappled effect, which is achieved by a two-step process. A coloured basecoat is washed (brushed) over with a premixed coat of diluted colour. The end result can provide striking contrasts depending on the combination of colours you choose.

Sponging creates a gentle, mottled or cloud-like effect with multi-colour finishes, either stimulating or restful, depending on your colours. The number of effects you can achieve depends on the type of sponge, the way you use it and your choice of colours, making this technique ideal for co-ordinating furnishings and fabrics.

Limewash effect
The washed out fresco and the soft patina look associated with Mediterranean and adobe architecture can be reproduced by using the Resene Limewash effect. The limewash effect is achieved by using a twostep process similar to colourwashing. The mood and image created lends itself particularly well to slightly textured surfaces where an aged or traditional look is desired.

Rag rolling
Rag rolling can replicate the appearance of suede or crushed velvet, creating the subtle or rich finishes normally associated with the most expensive wallcoverings. Distinctive effects can be obtained by rag rolling with successive colours. These may be either ragged on or ragged off. The effect is obtained by using a bunched rag, which is rolled or dabbed over the surface.

Added sparkle
If paint effects sounds like too much work, you may prefer to select a shimmering metallic finish from the Resene Metallics and special effects range. Pick up a colour chart from your local Resene ColorShop or Reseller or order online from the Resene website.

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