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Break all the rules

From the Resene decorating blog

If you’re new to experimenting with interior design, it can seem like there are a lot of “rules”. “Never mix these colours, never do this, always do that...”

When mixed with the time and costs involved in an interior makeover, it can all get a bit intimidating. You’re left sticking to a very safe look, or no look at all, when you’d really like to throw caution to the wind and play with different styles and colours.

A joyful living room

There’s not really any such thing as colours that clash. It all comes down to experimenting until you find the combination you like as this joyful living room demonstrates.

These Resene Black White walls have been painted with blocks of Resene Turbo, while the gloss-finished floor and shelf are Resene Noir. The picture frame is Resene Sorbet and the DIY artwork is Resene Noir, Resene Roadster, Resene Turbo, Resene Party Zone and Resene Sorbet. The tall vase on the shelf and the large floor planter are Resene Havoc. The two vases on the table are Resene Roadster (tall) and Resene Sorbet. Sofa from Cintesi, table from Soren Liv, rug from The Ivy House, Inaluxe Morning Sun artwork from Endemicworld, floor lamp from Mr Bigglesworthy, cushions from Bolt of Cloth, shoes from Gorman. Project by Kate Alexander, image by Bryce Carleton.

Geometric and organic shapes bring interest to this room

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

The right side of the rear wall is painted in Resene Eighth Black White with the left side in Resene Double Concrete. The floor is in Resene Half Concrete. Timber frame screen stained in Resene Colorwood Pitch Black, desk/bar 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, basil pot in Resene Double Concrete, yellow shelf, platter and planter in Resene Canary and grey plant pot in Resene Tapa. Rug from The Ivy House, bar stools from Cintesi, locker cabinet from IKEA, artwork from endemicworld. Project by Kate Alexander; image by Bryce Carleton.

Paint is your friend here because it is relatively easy and cheap to replace if you change your mind. But the other good news is, the only rule you really have to worry about is “please yourself”.

Here are some common “do nots” you’ll hear around interior design, with some ideas on how to subvert them, and why you should try it.

“Clashing” colours

The idea of clashing colours is quite a subjective one, and subject to change as fashions change. It often comes down to natural preference, if you tend toward minimalist, neutral interiors a blend of bright pink and bold orange might not be your thing but if you like splashes of dramatic colour then hot pink Resene Irresistible and citrusy Resene Adrenalin could be just what you’re looking for.

Often the idea for clashing colours comes from a hesitancy to mix shades traditionally thought of as cool (blues, greens, purples) and those thought of as warm (reds, yellows, oranges). The trick is to not think too stringently about specific colours like red, yellow, or green and look at the full spectrum. That way you will find versions of almost every colour that will work together. Testing combinations with Resene testpots is a helpful – and fun – way to narrow things down.

Some traditionally clashing combinations to try are:

A kid's bedroom with unexpected colour combos

Stripes, checks, patterns and unexpected colour combos all pull together for a finished children’s bedroom that is charming rather than clashing.

Wall stripes painted in Resene Merino, Resene Ebb and Resene Truffle, while the floor is in Resene Quarter Truffle. The exterior of the drawers is Resene Merino, with drawers painted in (top to bottom) Resene Brown Sugar, Resene Ebb and Resene Apache. The toy box is also in Resene Apache. The table is Resene Soothe, with stools in Resene Apache and Resene Brown Sugar. The stacked rainbow is Resene Merino, Resene Ebb, Resene Truffle, Resene Apache and Resene Brown Sugar. The pencil pot is also Resene Brown Sugar. Duvet from Adairs, gingham pillowcase and cushion from Homebody, pink cushion from H&M Home, boho cushion, muslin pillowcase, pom-pom blanket, bunny, jelly handle basket, willow doll and books from Little Whimsy, lamp, canopy and linen throw from Adairs, jute rug from Mocka, caterpillar toy from H&M Kids Home. Project by Vanessa Nouwens, image by Bryce Carleton.

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 completing.

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 the left and large floor vase in Resene Streetwise, floor in Resene Sea Fog, smaller plant pot in Resene Merlot, large bottle on the floor in Resene Alabaster, tiny tabletop vase in Resene Jaguar and desk in Resene Kilimanjaro with a chair in Resene Silver Chalice. Clock from Shut the Front Door, lamp from The Warehouse, scarf from Bird and Knoll, shoes from Adidas, mug from Flo and Frankie, plants from Give Plants. Project by Annick Larkin, image by Bryce Carleton.

Mixed patterns

How often have we heard the rule “don’t mix spots and stripes”? In fact mixing different patterns in your interior can give you a space that is dynamic, sophisticated and a reflection of your personality.

Matching patterns successfully does take a bit of trial and error so work on a mood board or just a collection of pattern scraps from wallpapers and fabrics, or pictures in magazines, and play around to see what works. When you’re feeling confident to take your clashing patterns into the real world, start in a smaller space like an ensuite or a study, where you’re working in smaller quantities of everything that will be less expensive to change if you don’t like the end result.

A unifying colour between your patterns is a good place to start finding a cohesive look, and you might want to try them against a fairly neutral backdrop as your eye for a good match becomes more discerning.

You’ll also want to pay attention to the scale of your patterns. For example, mixing an intricately patterned geometric wallpaper such as Resene Wallpaper Collection FOL405 with another busy and bold pattern like Resene Wallpaper Collection 91170 might make it hard for either beautiful pattern to stand out. Instead pick one design that’s bold and simple like Resene Wallpaper Collection 456721 and add smaller touches of the more intricate design. Suddenly they’re complementing each other rather than competing.

Top tip:  Start mixing patterns with stripes. 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!

Neutral backgrounds

Our fondness for neutral backgrounds comes from wanting to play it safe, and not wanting the expense of re-doing your paint and wallpaper if your colour choice doesn’t work with your room. It also comes with recent trends toward minimalist and Scandi looks.

Those trends are changing though and design elements like feature walls and bold-coloured geometric patterns are becoming increasingly popular. A feature wall is a good place to start if you’re nervous about introducing bold colours to your walls. If even that feels too much, think about a bold Resene colour painted around a key piece of furniture like a couch or a showcase artwork. It will add some drama and depth to an otherwise neutral space and pull attention to the items in your room that you want to show off.

Light colours in small spaces

This is an interesting rule, because while it is true that painting a small room in a light colour can make it feel more airy and open, you can still use darker colours on small spaces to play with proportion.

A good example is if your small space is long and narrow. By painting the end walls in a darker shade you will bring the room back into proportion. By painting the walls of a small room dark at the bottom and then switching to a pale shade on the top third, and continuing over the ceiling, you can make the space seem taller.

Depending on how your room is lit, some dark colours, often with a cool undertone, can actually make the walls recede in small spaces. The key is to try with Resene testpots.

Top tip:  In a small garden try a deep colour on your perimeter fence behind trees and shrubs like Resene Waterborne Woodsman Pitch Black or Resene Crowshead, so it adds depth and shadow and your property boundary recedes from the eye.

Wood finishes

Matching wood finishes is one of those design “rules” that seems to make sense in theory, but less so in practice. For a start, if you have too much of the same wood finish on the floors and walls it can start to feel as though you’re living in a log cabin or a sauna.

As with any design aesthetic, texture and variety are key. So try mixing your Resene Colorwood Natural finished flooring with darker contrasting features around the room in Resene Colorwood Mahogany or Resene Colorwood English Walnut.

It’s also worth noting that matching wood finishes is hard. You might be able to diligently stain some features of the room yourself in the same shade if they’re all made from the same wood, then you’ll buy a new table or desk only to find it has a different wood finish.

“But, what will others think?”

This isn’t so much a design rule, as a fear that’s holding us back from experimenting with colours, patterns and styles we love. It goes with “But will it go out of date?” and “Will I go off it?”

A lot of that comes from thinking about the sale value of our house and how it will appeal to others. That’s well and good, but remember it’s also nice to be surrounded by design that you love, when you’re living in the house. It’s where Resene paint and wallpaper are great design tools to experiment with because they are relatively cheap and easy to swap out when you’re ready for change. Chances are when it comes to sell you’ll need to refresh up the paintwork anyway.

Resene Eighth Stonewashed

Resene Sorbet

Resene Tablelands

Resene Party Zone

Resene Eye Candy

Resene Noir

June 25, 2022

For help choosing colours to suit your projects, visit your local Resene ColorShop, ask a Resene Colour Expert online or book a Resene Colour Consultation.

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