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Create a tropical escape without leaving home

From the Resene decorating blog

A holiday in the tropics always seems like a grand idea. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible, for one reason or another.

A sea blue dining room

The sea blues and ocean-themed art in this dining room invoke the spirit of a coastal holiday without overdoing it.

The walls here are Resene Seachange with an arch and shelves on the side wall in Resene Awash. The floor is Resene Breathless and the table is Resene Rhino. The pot on the floor is in Resene Rhino with a stripe in Resene Breathless and triangle motif in Resene Awash. The small vase (on the shelf, with bar tools) is Resene Breathless. Chairs from Freedom Furniture, bar cart from Wooden Horse, rug from Grounded Homeware, scoop from Good Thing, artwork from Rachel Mataira, brass tray (on table) and plant pot (on shelf) from H&M Home, plant from Mood Store. Project by Melle van Sambeek, image by Bryce Carleton.

What is possible is recreating the warm, easy, breezy and relaxed vibe of a sun-soaked holiday at home, without blowing your budget.

The trick is to try to recreate the relaxed, casually comfortable laid-back feeling of a tropical holiday by using colours and textures in your design, rather than diligently recreating your favourite coconut-thatched tiki bar down to the last detail – although that might be fun too!

Aim for a sense of warmth, while keeping your spaces light and airy.

The holiday palette

It makes sense that the colour palette you use for recreating your holiday mood and memories will be drawn from the colours of nature with blues, greens and oaty neutrals.

Invoke the lush green of a tropical forest with deep, colour saturated greens like Resene Palm Green, Resene Goblin and Resene Kaitoke Green.

Cerulean blues such as Resene Wet N Wild, Resene Guru and Resene Bahama Blue recall the colours of those clear tropical skies, while teal shades like Resene Blue Lagoon, Resene Calypso and Resene Blue Chill are reminiscent of lagoons and open coast.

Add sandy neutrals such as Resene Double Pearl Lusta, Resene Concrete and Resene Quarter Tea for softened edges that accentuate the rest of the palette.

For bold contrast notes try sunset shades like Resene Celebrate, Resene Wax Flower or a bold coral pop of Resene Sunbaked.

Of course the tropics doesn’t always mean the beach. You can theme your palette more specifically to match a particular destination whether it’s Southeast Asia, the Pacific, the Middle East or the Australian outback.

Some regional themed palettes are:


A soft duck egg blue lounge

Living room walls in the soft hue of blue Resene Duck Egg Blue create a cool, relaxed and laid back feeling that is given extra breeziness and a sense of retreat by layers of blues and natural textures. The floor is painted in Resene Quarter Duck Egg Blue, the coffee table and shelf are Resene Unwind. The light fitting and large bowl are Resene Raindance and the bamboo plant stand is Resene Quarter Tea. Sofa from Contempa, rug, mug, coasters and votive from Freedom, artwork from Etsy/sageseaprints, cushion from Allium, round cushion and pot stand from Kmart, throw and linen cushion from Adairs. Project by Vanessa Nouwens, image by Bryce Carleton.

Top tip:  For a holiday look that's less tropical and more urbane but still beachy try the classic Hamptons combo of deep blue Resene Blue Night, fresh white Resene Poured Milk and plenty of wood stained with the natural style hue of Resene Colorwood Driftwood.

Add texture

Wood grains enhanced with Resene Colorwood Whitewash or Resene Colorwood Natural emphasise a ‘dressed down’ style reminiscent of beachside accommodation. Think beyond wooden flooring and consider stained plywood walls, window trims, skirtings or even a ceiling for a dramatic commitment to your holiday theme. Alternatively keep it to coffee tables, shelving or chairs.

A bach style room

Plywood walls stained in dramatic Resene Colorwood Woody Bay stain, add character and depth to this bachy-style room without detracting from its tropical holiday vibe.

The floors contrast in a pale Resene Sea Fog, while the sideboard is in Resene Casper, the coffee table is painted in Resene Indian Ink then wiped with Resene Sea Fog to add a paint effect. The tray is in Resene Escape, the vase (with palm leaf) is in Resene Lazy River and the white rattan votive is in Resene Sea Fog. On the sideboard the textured vase is in Resene Escape and the tealight holder and pendant lamp are in Resene Sea Fog. Sofa, chair and rug from Freedom, bottle from Farmers, artwork by Simply Creative, blue glasses from The Warehouse, jug from Citta, basket, faux palm, cushions and throw from Adairs. Project by Vanessa Nouwens, image by Melanie Jenkins.

Adding a layer of natural textures and fibres such as a rattan or wicker light shade, linen or raw fibre soft furnishings, wool throws and rugs to help keep your space feeling very relaxed.

Plenty of greenery in the form of potted palms or other leafy plants are the finishing touch that will really transport your space to the tropics.

For visual texture, a tropical themed wallpaper can be a very effective way to shift the theme of your room to anywhere in the world. Resene Wallpaper Collection CLR001 gives your space a simple, neutral backdrop with a textured finish. Alternatively, you could go more exotic with the palms and wild animals of Resene Wallpaper Collection 91319 or the jewel-toned leaves of Resene Wallpaper Collection 91112.

If you opt for a dramatic wallpaper, keep to a bold feature wall or go more minimalist in your furniture and fittings so the pattern really makes a dramatic impact without overwhelming the room.

Top tip:  As well as colour, smell can be a very powerful trigger to bring back the memories of great tropical adventures. Try candles and incense in botanical or spice notes from the region you want to re-visit; vanilla, frangipani or coffee can be good ones to try.

Ideas for outdoors

Outdoor areas are a natural candidate to upgrade with some tropical flair. You can play with patterns and colours more freely without fear of overwhelming a room and you can play off the greenery and natural features of your garden. If your garden is short on trees and shrubs add one or two in painted pots.

Layer seating areas with plenty of cushions in bright colours that remind you of being on holiday, whether that’s natural fibres and deep greens, sea blues or bright jewel tones or try a tropical print. Add an umbrella or sunshade in a complementary colour or keep it neutral and string with outdoor fairy lights.

Stain wooden tables, chairs, fences and decks in a natural shade like Resene Woodsman Driftwood or go for a dark charcoal or dark green such as Resene Woodsman Touch Wood or Resene Woodsman Canopy to emphasise the sense of being surrounded by dense tropical forest.

Where possible keep the flow between your outdoor areas and indoors as seamless as possible to recreate that sense of being in a hut beside the beach or pool.

Natural light

Look for ways to flood your coastal retreat – or home – with natural light where possible.

Keep windows uncluttered with curtains pulled back or replace them with Roman blinds or sheer curtains.

If your space isn’t blessed with natural light and lots of windows, emphasise what you do have with a mirror to bounce some light around, then add touches like fairy lights and natural toned bulbs in your ceiling lights or lamps.

A beautiful tropical theme artwork on the wall can also be an effective cheat for a large picture window looking out to the sea!

An outdoor area with a holiday vibe

Finishing touches such as the tropical print cushions, the palm and wooden slat screen transport this outdoor area to the holiday zone. The back wall is Resene Triple White Pointer with slatted panels in Resene Whitewash. The side wall is Resene Half Friar Greystone with Resene FX Paint Effects Medium mixed with Resene Quarter Friar Greystone. The flooring is Resene Triple White Pointer. The front trellis and the smaller planter is Resene FX Faux Rust Effect. The large planter is Resene All Black, the tray on the table is Resene Blanc and the tealight holder is Resene Biscotti. Sofa from Early Settler, blanket from The Warehouse, black cushion cover from H&M Home, fur cushion from Adairs, mugs from Kmart. Project by Vanessa Nouwens, image by Wendy Fenwick.

Touches of tropical

If going for a beachy theme in a large room feels like too much of a commitment, here are few quick ideas of adding small touches of that island vibe:

Resene Poured Milk

Resene Sunbaked

Resene Quarter Friar Greystone

Resene Half Friar Greystone

Resene Raindance

Resene Lazy River

May 11, 2022

Get ideas for your decorating project with Resene’s latest looks gallery, free to view online. For more decorating ideas and expert advice, visit your local Resene ColorShop.

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