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Down to earth – the evolution of terracotta

From the Resene decorating blog

Terracotta has always found a place in our homes, from the ubiquitous pots holding our herbs to handmade bricks and fireplace tiles. But today, terracotta is finding new life in the colours we use to decorate, bringing with it surprising versatility.

With a name meaning ‘baked earth’ in Italian, terracotta brings intrinsic warmth to any decor it’s part of, but its earthy origins also mean it pairs well with a range of other shades to create looks that are reminiscent of parched far flung lands, a refreshing oasis or simply a beautiful sunset.

A terracotta living room

This living room makes good use of the evolution of terracotta from dusky pinks, using two muted sunset shades.

Resene Sorbet on the left wall is used like a neutral, leaving the darker colour Resene Just Dance, to work as a feature wall and frame the linen sofa. Round jute coffee table painted in Resene Sunbaked, pendant light in Resene Despacito and cactus woven planter in Resene Green Meets Blue. 2-seater from Soren Liv, basket and rug from Republic Home, throw from Allium, basket and glass from Indie Home Collective, artwork by Amber Armitage, cushion from Madder & Rouge, small market basket from Epicurean Trading. Project by Claudia Kozub, image by Wendy Fenwick.

A lounge painted in sunbaked shades

Sunbaked shades work well with natural fibres and woven furnishings for an exotic, well-travelled vibe.

Wall painted in Resene Sunbaked and floor in Resene Napa. Accents painted in Resene Sambuca and Resene Rocky Mountain lock in the earthiness. Sofa and chair from Indie Home Collective, Kilim rugs (60-90 years old, from southwest and central Afghanistan) from Republic, cushion and throws from Furtex, tray from Freedom. Project by Claudia Kozub, image by Melanie Jenkins.

Today’s terracotta shares some DNA with the peach tones of ‘Millennial pinks’ we loved a few years ago. We’ve grown away from the delicate sorbets of those shades to duskier, deeper, earthier tones. But it’s worth noting that the two still pair well, and a touch of shades such as Resene Shilo bring freshness to spicy shades like Resene Sunbaked.

Wherever your design takes you, there is a shade of terracotta to suit.

Staying neutral

With their roots in the earth, terracotta shades can even work as a neutral in some instances, particularly if your space is filled with natural light.

Try paler tones such as Resene Just Right, or Resene Bone on ceilings, trims and flooring with bold wall shades of other colours, such as the red-brown of Resene Redwood, or Resene Swamp.

For a lighter, cooler touch try Resene Just Right with the grey-blue of Resene Nepal.

Because terracotta covers a range of tones from dusky sunsets to cinnamon-toned browns, it is an extremely versatile colour, whether you use it as your main colour choice or for trims and accents. It works well with pinks, reds, blues, greens and creams, even mustard shades while greys and charcoals will add a modern, dramatic twist.

Some unexpected but impactful Resene colour combinations are:

An interior painted with spicy terracotta shades

This eye-catching room doubles down on terracotta for a spicy and inviting layered result with depth.

Back wall painted in Resene Dark Buff, shelf wall in painted Resene Korma, floor in Resene Eighth Drought, coffee and console tabletops in Resene Twine, tall vase in Resene Alpaca, jug vase in Resene Raptor, short vase in Resene Gold Coast, large bowl in Resene Cod Grey. Project by Gem Adams, image by Wendy Fenwick. Armchair from Contempa, cushion covers, lamp, candle, rug and dish from Citta, throw from Paper Plane, vessel from Father Rabbit, books from Paper Plane and Father Rabbit.

An interior with layered terracotta shades

Different shades of green and white add freshness and brightness to these layered terracotta shades.

Walls painted in Resene Apple Blossom, floor in Resene Wax Flower, door in Resene Sebedee, floating shelf in Resene Quarter Tea, stool in Resene Woodland, storage box in Resene Gingko, bowl in Resene Yuma and vase in Resene Just Right. Chair from Douglas and Bec, postcard on wall from Garden Objects, books from Paper Plane, jug from Blackbird Goods, rice paper shade from Wah Lee Co. Project by Gem Adams, image by Wendy Fenwick.

Going natural

Terracotta is definitely having a moment as a colour choice – and one reason is our ongoing enthusiasm for all things natural in our interior and exterior decorating.

Natural fibres and textures in your terracotta toned room take it to a cool Bohemian place. Think natural linens, woven furnishings, flax, rattan, bamboo, rope and pale wood finishes to cool the colours down. Stoneware and pottery ornaments, and fittings also emphasise the earthy theme.

To keep with the natural look, think about rougher, less polished finishes to walls, with a sponged or textured effect. Refresh everything with cool, colourwashed wood flooring in Resene Colorwood Whitewash or Resene Colorwood Rock Salt.

Terracotta is also extremely versatile when it comes to matching with neutral shades. The tone of the neutral you chose will amplify different characters of your terracotta.

Creamy neutrals such as Resene Quarter Spanish White or Resene Clotted Cream will work well with deeper brown-toned terracotta shades such as or subdued hues such as Resene Quickstep.

Try oaty neutrals such as Resene Eighth Drought with spicy shades such as Resene Peru Tan, while bright whites will give a jolt of contrast to muted terracotta such as Resene Apple Blossom, particularly with touches of deep greens such as Resene Forest Green.

Adding a layer of green – in plants, paint, fittings, or all of the above – to your terracotta and neutral combination will give your space a lush finish, like an oasis in the desert. Different greens can also lend the space a more autumnal feel, rather than the heat of summer.

Travels in terracotta

To truly celebrate terracotta, think about adding graduated tonal layers in sunset shades, whether it’s just to one wall, or throughout your space, with furnishings, and decoration.

Pick one shade such as Resene Sunbaked and play with different half or quarter strengths for a layered effect. Or find complementary shades and paint in graduated stripes on a wall, starting with the darkest to lightest. You could even add a layer of deep blue such as Resene King Tide or Resene Twilight Zone to emulate the night sky against your desert sunset effect.

Different colour combinations with terracotta can also take your interior to different countries around the world. Add bright blues and reds for a hint of Mexico, try pale blues, creamy whites and turquoise for a glimpse of Morocco and the Middle East, or try mustard yellows and dusky pinks for a nod to Indian style.

Take it outside

Terracotta shades are made for outdoor decorating, whether it’s stained wood, painted concrete, tiles or weatherboards.

Use warm shades of Resene Sunbaked, Resene Route 66 or Resene Swiss Caramel in a walled off space, with plenty of plants and an outdoor fire for a cosy outdoor entertaining area. Surround an outdoor bath with Resene Tacao and a bold blue such as Resene Wet N Wild for a touch of the tropics. Add golden accents with stained wood in Resene Natural and pops of Resene Twisted Sister for a spot of sunshine any time of the year.

Resene Despacito

Resene Sorbet

Resene Just Dance

Resene King Tide

Resene Twilight Zone

Resene Swiss Caramel

Resene Twisted Sister

Resene Sunbaked

Resene Route 66

Resene Rocky Mountain

June 22, 2021

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