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Sand – the new neutral

From the Resene decorating blog

If you’re looking for a neutral colour that offers something new and modern, instead of the often-favoured traditional whites and creams, let’s talk about sand.

A sandy toned outdoor area

Sandy toned Resene Half Canterbury Clay is layered with Resene Eighth Canterbury Clay and Resene Double Spanish White used with Resene FX Paint Effects Medium to create the illusion of limestone walls. The shutters and windowsill are Resene Kangaroo and the faux cobbled patio is painted in Resene Half Canterbury Clay, Resene Eighth Canterbury Clay, Resene Double Spanish White, Resene Blanc and Resene Half Spanish White. The large amphora in Resene FX Faux Rust Effect. Table and chair from Jardin. Project by Annick Larkin, image by Bryce Carleton.

These earthy shades are making their presence felt as a new range of neutrals thanks to their range and versatility. They come in everything from hints of grey and charcoal (think wild west coast or volcanic sands) through delicate greiges and even subtle pinks to creamy yellows and subtle beiges and browns.

Resene’s sandy neutrals can fill a similar neutral role to greys, offering contrasting highlights or even monochrome palettes that are warm, luxurious and a little unexpected.

The versatile choice

Though the obvious connection is to use sand hues in beachy or bach-like spaces with teal blues and flaxy greens, their roots in the natural environment mean sandy shades work well with a large spectrum of colour combinations to create all kinds of looks.

Some things to keep in mind are that yellow-toned sandy shades will look greener in rooms that lose the sun, or even go slightly pink in certain lights. The versatility and range of sandy shades does mean they will all look slightly different in different rooms, and possibly at different times of the day. Resene testpots will help you here, so you can narrow down to the exact shade that works best, and then build out your colour palette to suit.

Sandy style ideas

Keep your palette bold but simple with a muted or smudgy sand like Resene Half Napa on walls with ceilings and trim in milky Resene Quarter Thorndon Cream. Add other layers of cream and a brown like Resene Wood Bark and accents in wrought iron and subway tiles for a semi-industrial, or a sleek 70s office building vibe.

Embrace the natural environment with layers of wood and forest shades against a sandy base. Try a deeper sandy tone like Resene Bronco with fresh green Resene Envy and moody brown Resene Barista. Fill the space with greenery and natural fibres such as wood, wicker and rope, and anchor it all with a wood floor stained in Resene Colorwood Walnut wood stain to resemble a forest floor.

For a dreamy, zen like escape, layer pale sandy shades such as Resene Westar and Resene Silver Sand with pastel Resene Duck Egg Blue and Resene Soothe. Add layers of different textures with cushions or throws and finish with notes of a deeper teal blue such as Resene San Juan or brassy gold accessories, to catch the eye.

A sandy toned bedroom with a wall mural

A neutral bedroom with a painted headboard

Bedroom with wall mural: Resene White Pointer on the rear wall makes a perfect background for a dramatic wall design with stripes and arch in Resene Cumin. The skirting board is also Resene White Pointer. The pedestal side table is Resene Indian Ink. The floor is Resene Half Raven and the plant pot is Resene Cloud. The large jug vase is Resene Cumin, the bud vase is Resene Half Raven and the dish is Resene Coast. Project by Laura Lynn Johnston, image by Melanie Jenkins.  Bedroom with circle headboard: The walls of this neutral haven are in Resene Eighth Tana, circle headboard in Resene Prairie Sand, floor in Resene Colorwood Whitewash, side tables in Resene Tana and vases and accessories in Resene Prairie Sand and Resene Pearl Bush. Lamp, bedlinen and cushions from Città. Project by Laura Lynn Johnston, image by Bryce Carleton.

Use sandy neutrals for a dramatic, modern finish by going for high contrast by pairing bold, near-black walls in Resene Bokara Grey with highlights in the pale sandy tones of Resene Quarter Truffle. Finish with impact pieces in a bold burnt orange such as Resene Christine or mustard in Resene Marigold.

For that perfect beachy vibe we associate with sandy feet and relaxation go for a classic tropical beach of Resene Island Sand with crisp azure tones in Resene Kumutoto and paler Resene Escape. Add plenty of dark rustic wood stained in Resene Colorwood Deep Oak or go a bit more Scandi and sandy with Resene Colorwood Rock Salt. Splashes of fresh yellow in Resene Putty or Resene Lemon will make the space feel sunny and uplifting as well as beachy and relaxing.

Play with shades

Because they are a little more varied in tone than traditional white or cream neutrals, sandy shades can be used very effectively to build up a layered look. The effect can be quite dramatic, giving the appearance of being quite monochrome but with plenty of interest from using multiple, similar shades. You can also think about adding one bold contrast colour in just one or two pieces.

Some sandy shades, with different levels of saturation and intensity to try are paler colours like Resene Quarter Wan, Resene Bison Hide, with mid-intensity colours like Resene Parchment and Resene Sandspit Brown, with deeper tones such as Resene Oilskin or Resene Felix. For a dramatic, unexpected attention-grabber add impact notes in a fuchsia pink like Resene Lip Service or a vivid green like Resene Bilbao.

For a different all-neutral spin that will make a larger room feel cosy, try a warm sand like Resene Settlement on the ceiling, with crisp white walls in Resene Alabaster.

An outdoor living area using sandy neutrals

Sandy neutrals are a perfect fit for outdoor living areas, keeping things cool and connected to the natural environment. The trellis panelled wall is painted in Resene Woodsman Whitewash. The side wall is Resene Half Friar Greystone with Resene FX Paint Effects Medium coloured with Resene Quarter Friar Greystone. The floor is Resene Triple White Pointer and the large plant pot is Resene All Black. Sofa from Early Settler, cheetah cushions and day bed from Bed Bath & Beyond, Yangon Lantern Natural, large palm (in plant pot) and throw from Adairs, rectangle cushion, Mulberi cushion, planter (on coffee table) with succulent from Shut the Front Door, silk blend cushion and tumblers from Città, plates and bowl from Kmart. Project by Vanessa Nouwens, image by Wendy Fenwick.

Finishing touches

Complement the sandy touches of your space with finishing touches in cane, wicker, twine or other natural fibres in other furnishings like cushions, light fittings, rugs and throws. Animal prints can also work well in sandy-hued spaces.

As a neutral, sand shades make a great base or blank canvas from which to launch your design experiments. Layer the room with a mix of textiles and patterns in bold brights or dreamy pastels to create the feel you want. Luxe fabrics such as velvet, wool and leather and jewel coloured accessories, will take your sandy base into an opulent, lush direction.

To spice things up further add glamour with touches of metallics but keep them almost neutral to amplify your sandy tones. Try Resene FX Metallic in Resene Bedrock or Resene Goldmine.

How to test a testpot – Stuck trying to choose colours and have little patches of colour everywhere? Try this handy tip for a quick and easy way to test your colours without ending up with patchwork walls!

Timber finishes and whites with your sand tones will make everything feel very fresh and Scandinavian. Just add notes of forest green like Resene Permanent Green for a layer of comforting warmth. If your timber has started to look washed out, rejuvenate the colour with Resene Colorwood inside or Resene Woodsman outside.

Textured or high gloss tiles and other high shine surfaces or light fittings, will take your sandy shades to a more functional space, perfect in bathrooms as a warm, inviting alternative to white. Add large leafy plants and splashes of cornflower blues Resene Wedgewood, and muted cream Resene Putty to finish.

Resene Quarter Friar Greystone

Resene Half Friar Greystone

October 31, 2021

Visit your local Resene ColorShop for more colour ideas and all the expert advice and products you need for a superb finish on all your decorating projects.

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