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Hot tips for clashing colours and patterns

From the Resene decorating blog

Remember when you’d dress yourself as a kid, putting on all your favourite things at once with no thought for ‘rules’ about mixing stripes with spots, or bright pinks with bright oranges and kermit greens. How much fun was that?

It is possible to bring that spirit of clever clashing based on what you love, with only a smidgen more restraint than you applied to childhood outfits.

Here’s some quick tips from Resene for turning clashes into design triumphs.

A monochrome home interior

A monochrome palette means the mix of geometric and organic shapes actually brings cohesion and interest to this room.

Right side of the rear wall painted in Resene Eighth Black White with the left side in Resene Double Concrete, floor in Resene Half Concrete, timber frame screen stained in Resene Colorwood Pitch Black, while the desk/bar is in Resene Eighth Black White with a grid in Resene Blackjack, pendant lamps in Resene Eighth Black White with designs in Resene Blackjack, shelf in Resene Blackjack and basil pot in Resene Double Concrete. Rug from The Ivy House, bar stool from Cintesi, cabinet from IKEA, artwork from endemicworld. Project by Kate Alexander; image by Bryce Carleton.

A charming striped bedroom

A pared back use of colour means this mix of patterns is charming rather than clashing.

Wall stripes painted in Resene Merino, Resene Ebb and Resene Truffle and floor in Resene Quarter Truffle. Exterior of drawers in Resene Merino with drawers painted in (top to bottom) Resene Brown Sugar, Resene Ebb and Resene Apache. Toy box in Resene Apache, table in Resene Soothe, stools in Resene Apache and Resene Brown Sugar, stacked rainbow in Resene Merino, Resene Ebb, Resene Truffle, Resene Apache and Resene Brown Sugar and pencil pot in Resene Brown Sugar. Duvet cover and linen throw from Adairs, gingham pillowcase and cushion from Homebody, pink cushion cover from H&M Home, heart cushion, pom-pom blanket and floral pillowcase from Little Whimsy. Project by Vanessa Nouwens, image by Bryce Carleton.

Choose pattern or colour

When you’re choosing patterns or colours to blend together into a cohesive design, think about choosing one or the other – especially if this type of mixing things up is new to you. A mix of checks and zigzags is one thing but adding in several bold clashing colours as well could make the final look a bit overwhelming and lacking cohesiveness. To start with, keep your background colours neutral or in layers of different tones of one colour. This will focus attention on all the fun you’re having with patterns and shapes. If, for example, you want to mix polka dots with zigzags, keep those elements in one colour, and surround them with other plain features in different shades of the same colour.

Find a common thread

To bring some cohesion into your room, choose something your mixed colours or patterns have in common. It might be as simple as picking one colour for all your designs, even if it’s in different shades. It might be picking one shape and repeating it in different sizes and angles. It could be as broad as a theme, like ‘beachy’, ‘sunsets’ or ‘circus’ that ties all your elements together. Even if they are wildly different in tone, and shape, the theme ensures they’re part of a bigger picture that helps brings it all together.

An Art-Deco inspired home office

An art deco theme in muted, earthy shades means the colour combinations of this home office are soothing rather than clashing.

The pale wall colour is Resene Soothe, while the arch and lines are in Resene Sebedee. Circle painted in Resene Merlot, vertical stripe on the far right in Resene Coral Tree, blue curve on left and floor vase in Resene Streetwise, floor in Resene Sea Fog, smaller plant pot in Resene Merlot, large bottle on the floor in Resene Alabaster, tabletop vase in Resene Jaguar and desk in Resene Kilimanjaro with chair in Resene Silver Chalice. Plants from Give Plants. Project by Annick Larkin, image by Bryce Carleton.

A bold bedroom with a check pattern on the walls

Different sizes of a similar check pattern prevent this tri-colour room from clashing.

Walls are painted in Resene Kandinsky with a grid in Resene Wet N Wild, floor and nightstand drawer in Resene Wet N Wild, nightstand exterior in Resene Secrets, large plant pot and tiny vase in Resene Jalapeno and lamp in Resene Alabaster. Bedding, cushion covers, jumpers and windbreaker from H&M, artwork by Anna Mckay from Endemic World. Project by Laura Lynn Johnston, image by Bryce Carleton.

Think about scale

Size matters when it comes to clashing patterns. Mixing an intricately patterned geometric Resene wallpaper with another busy and intricate floral design might make it hard for either to stand out. Instead pick one design that’s bold and simple and add smaller touches of the more intricate design. Suddenly they’re complementing each other rather than competing.

Another way to make unusual shapes work is to take one design – maybe a floral outline or a check pattern – and repeat similar patterns in different colours at different sizes, layered against one another. Your eye will pick up the similarities in design rather than the differences.

Throw shade

When it comes to mixing, unexpected or ‘clashing’ colours, think about tones and shades, rather than just primary or bright colours. For example a room that mixes a fire engine red like Resene Chaos with a lime green and a melon-toned orange, might be a bit much. But if you opt for more muted reds, greens and terracotta, against a warm putty neutral, it all becomes a little more workable. Think Resene Half Pohutukawa with Resene Colins Wicket and Resene Just Dance against a Resene Half Drought backdrop.

A simple dining room with pops of colour

A simple, clean backdrop keeps this collection of colours from clashing.

The rear wall is painted in Resene Double Alabaster, while the floor is stained in Resene Colorwood Mid Greywash. Table painted in Resene Frozen, cream chairs in Resene Bubble White with details in Resene Spring Fever, Resene Maestro and Resene Rapture, green chair in Resene Anise, yellow chair and vase in Resene Yuma, pendant lights in Resene Nero, tall vase in Resene Frozen and plant pot in Resene Rapture. Plants from Give Plants, cushions from Castle and Things, artwork by Jessie Breakwell. Project by Annick Larkin, image by Bryce Carleton.

A cleverly clashing set of drawers

This wall in Resene Sanctuary Wallpaper Collection FJ40304 provides a stunning backdrop to this cleverly clashing set of drawers.

Using muted neutral shades, including Resene Colorwood Whitewash on the floor, provides a subtle backdrop to showcase different patterns.

Start small

Scared to go crazy with clashing patterns and colours in your lounge or bedroom? Start small. Cushions are a good place to start. Gather together a selection in different designs, fabrics, colours and shapes. You’ll soon start to get a feel for how to pull things together with surrounding colours and furnishings.

Another small scale project to find what unexpected colours and patterns will work in your space is to decorate a few small plant pots or vases with Resene testpots to see what combinations you like best.

If even that seems a step too far to begin with, play with online vision boards on platforms like Pinterest. They’re essentially digital scrapbooks that let you test your clashing talents out.

Start with stripes

When it comes to shapes stripes are a simple way to mix things up. Mix the sizes – thick and thin, turn them into grids, chevrons, cross hatches or checks. Go vertical, horizontal or even diagonal to play with perspective and unexpected lines, Then add a playful mix of colours. Plus, straight lines are easy to paint! Use masking tape from Resene ColorShops to get a crisp clean edge on your shapes – make sure you remove it before the paint fully dries.

Play with wallpaper

There are some stunning wallpaper designs available now, that can really kick off your clashing experiments. Many of them have already done the artful clashing for you. Resene Komar Heritage Wallpaper Collection HX6-043 mixes diamond shapes with stunning florals.

Try animal prints

Animal prints are fun patterns to experiment with because you’ll be surprised how many things they work with and how effective they can be at pulling other disparate colours together. Most animal prints tend to be in fairly neutral colours so they offer visual texture while blending into the background. Pair them with unexpected patterns like checks and stripes in similar tones.

Colours to clash cleverly

Unexpected colour combinations to play with are:

What does clashing colours mean?

Remember that ‘clashing’ colours is a fairly subjective idea. One person’s perfect colour or pattern match, might be another’s clashing nightmare.

A common school of thought is that colours on the opposite sides of the colour wheel are clashing colours. But just as often you’ll see these opposing shades described as complementary colours. So really, the only limit is your imagination. Just because your mum told you that you shouldn’t wear pink and orange together when you were little, doesn’t mean they won’t make a fun and vibrant bathroom combination.

Resene Eighth Stonewashed

Resene Just Dance

Resene Tablelands

Resene Colorwood Mid Greywash

Resene Eye Candy

Resene Pitch Black

June 08, 2021

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