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Design inspiration from art

From the Resene decorating blog

Art and interior design have always had a naturally close relationship. Our taste in art is typically a major influence on the colours and styles that appeal when we’re putting together ideas for our interior spaces.

But can you put together a whole room around an artist or art movement? There’s no reason why not. The trick is to think broadly rather than simply try to find a couch that matches your favourite Picasso artwork. What are the main attributes of your favourite artist? What are the trends that denote a particular artistic style you love? Try to think in terms of influence rather than imitation; pay tribute to your favourite works with colour and design flourishes rather than, say, turning your room into a full re-creation of the Sistine Chapel!

A Mondrian-style bathroom

The bold primary colours and minimalist approach of a Mondrian-style design works well in functional spaces like bathrooms.

Wall painted in Resene Eighth Black White with grid lines in Resene Blackjack, colour blocks in Resene Jalapeno (red), Resene Aviator (blue) and Resene Galliano (yellow), timber floorboards in Resene Colorwood Mid Greywash, duckmat in Resene Black White, ladder towel rack in Resene Quarter Surrender and shelf in Resene Blackjack. Bath from Plumbing World, Resene Palazzo Towels from Briscoes. Project by Megan Harrison-Turner, image by Bryce Carleton.

A Bauhaus-inspired face in a sitting area

A muted colour scheme allows this Bauhaus-inspired face to be the feature of this sitting area.

The walls are painted in Resene Americano on the left, and Resene Quarter Surrender at the rear, with the face in Resene Grey Chateau. Floor finished in Resene Colorwood Mid Greywash, plinth in Resene Grey Chateau and vase in Resene Sea Fog. Chaise and chunky throw from Nood, cushion covers and vase from H&M Home, heels from H&M. Project by Kate Alexander, image by Bryce Carleton.

Artists and movements to try

Some artists or artistic styles will require more lateral creative thinking than others to incorporate into an interior design. Here are a few suggestions.


If you love simple, abstract designs and bold, primary colours, Piet Mondrian’s neoplasticism is one of the simplest styles to emulate, with simple grids in red, blue and yellow with black and white. Plan your design out carefully until you’re happy with how you’re placing your primary shades and black lines in relation to the white squares. Mondrian didn’t rule his lines but feel free to mask yours to avoid smudges and blurs. Try Resene Half Resolution Blue, Resene Energy Yellow and Resene Smashing as your primary colours with Resene Black White and Resene Black.

You could also take your inspiration from Mondrian’s grid style and then play with your own colour combinations. For a vivid and exotic alternative, how about pink Resene Smitten, teal Resene Optimist and bright green Resene Groovy. Soften the impact with yellow-tinted Resene Half Milk Punch and inky Resene Nero.

Frida Kahlo

Probably one of the world’s most famous female artists, Frida Kahlo’s use of intense, saturated colours make her a popular influence on interiors, particularly those looking for some boho-flair. Try using true greens like Resene Wheel Of Fortune with deep red Resene Bullseye. Other jewel-like colours to include are turquoise Resene Such Fun and yellow Resene Bright Spark. Try them paired with aged-looking off-whites such as Resene Merino or Resene Quarter Tea.

Ornate florals and tropical motifs are other strong Kahlo features that are right on-trend and can be most easily achieved with wallpaper prints such as Resene Wallpaper Collection 99341 or Resene Wallpaper Collection 91170.

Finish your look with layers of Bohemian prints in textiles like linen and muslin with hints of gold and washed wood.

A minimalist space with a surreal spin

Organic shapes and abstract art pieces give this minimalist space a surreal spin.

Back wall painted in Resene Snow Drift, left wall in Resene Half Cougar, ombre floor created using Resene FX Paint Effects Medium mixed with Resene Eighth Truffle, Resene Quarter Truffle, Resene Half Truffle, Resene Truffle, Resene Double Truffle and Resene Triple Truffle, plywood artwork in Resene Travertine with a curved shape in Resene Eighth Black White, ply circle lampshade in Resene Blackjack, circular candlestick holder in Resene Blackjack with dots in Resene Eighth Black White and vase and ornaments in Resene Travertine. Chair from David Shaw, vase by Formantics, shelf from Urban Outfitters, candleholder from H&M Home. Project by Laura Lynn Johnson, image by Wendy Fenwick.

An abstract wallpaper design in this bedroom

The right wallpaper design can evoke great art, such as this abstract design in Resene Wallpaper Collection 99347 which lends a watercolour finish to this room.

Try it pared with highlights and trim in Resene Alabaster and floorboards stained in Resene Colorwood Natural.

Vincent Van Gogh

When you think of Van Gogh the colours that most often spring to mind are the warm golds of sunflowers and haystacks found in shades like Resene Celebrate and Resene Cleopatra, cornflower blues like Resene Azure or Resene St Tropez and inky sky shades such as Resene Indian Ink.

Texture and movement are other strong features of Van Gogh’s works, as well as Impressionists such as Monet or Renoir. The resulting painting isn’t a perfect reproduction of what it depicts so in your room add furnishings that are slightly eclectic and mismatched, with flowing curtains, throws and plenty of plants. Mixing different Resene Colorwood wood stains is another way to keep that slightly imperfect and ‘undone’ feeling that you find in many Impressionist and Van Gogh works.


The Surrealist art movement can be a really fun one to play with in your interiors because there aren’t really any rules so you can let your creativity shine. Try for a minimalist surrealist look by paring back your Resene colour palette to a monochrome backdrop and creating interest through layers of objects and artworks that are eclectic in shape and texture to create a huge amount of visual interest in the pieces themselves rather than distracting with colour. Then add in one central piece of Surrealist art or furniture in a bold colour to pull everything into focus.

For a maximalist approach to the same idea, use lots of saturated jewel shades, and mixed textiles like velvets and satins, against furniture and art pieces that are free-form and organic in shape – think Salvador Dali’s melting clocks – rather than straight lines and geometric patterns.

Wallpaper can really help in creating a dramatic surrealist backdrop for your space that is fast and simple to complete. Try the carp design of Resene Wallpaper Collection 409444 or the dramatic print of Resene Wallpaper Collection HX8-052.

Pop art

This 1950s art movement is another fun one to recreate at home, because it’s an opportunity to embrace colour along with some retro charm. This style is all about being bright and clashing with a neutral to balance things out. There are strong references to early comics with bold primary blues, yellows and reds, but the colour palette isn’t restrictive; it’s all about being fun and energetic.

Try lime greens like Resene Wellywood with orange Resene Fireball or flamingo pink Resene Jive, all calmed down with Resene Dutch White. Look to the 1950s and 1960s for your furnishings, with curved shapes and block colours.

Brushstroke trends

One way to adopt an artistic feel to your interior is to look to the current trend for imperfect brushstroke finishes using Resene FX Paint Effects.

Start by painting your wall in your choice of base colour. A creamy or off-white neutral such as Resene White Pointer works well or you could try something with a subtle note of colour such as Resene Wax Flower or Resene Cashmere. Add some sweeping random strokes, made with a large paintbrush in a contrasting shade such as Resene Rustic Red or Resene Fahrenheit. Finally, using a clean cloth, add a layer of wispier white such as Resene FX Paint Effects Medium mixed with Resene Scotch Mist.

Bedroom - abstract whimsy and self-expression

Abstract whimsy and self-expression are the modern way to really embed your personality and design vision into your interiors.

This hand-painted artwork finish is achieved with a wall painted in Resene Wax Flower with brushstroke effect in Resene Cab Sav and Resene FX Paint Effects Medium mixed with Resene Scotch Mist. The floor is a warm contrast in Resene Cab Sav. Vases in Resene Wax Flower and Resene Scotch Mist. Table from Good Form, bedding from Foxtrot Home, cushions from Mulberi. Project by Amber Armitage, image by Flash Studios.

A dining room with brushstroke effect

Put some forethought into your design to create an artistic finish that is eye-catching and coherent, rather than totally abstract.

Back wall painted in Resene Half New Denim Blue with brushstroke design in Resene Half Athens Grey, skirting in Resene Half Athens Grey, left wall in Resene Blackjack, sideboard in Resene Cobalt with a design on the doors in Resene Blackjack, floor in Resene Colorwood Whitewash, side table inn Resene Blackjack and the vases in Resene Half Athens Grey and Resene Blackjack. Dining chairs from Cintesi, tile vase from Floralcentric, jug, glasses and pendant lamp from Freedom, blue base glasses from Urban Outfitters, tall black vase from Babelogue. Project by Kate Alexander, image by Bryce Carleton.

For a deeper, stormier look go for a base colour in Resene Half New Denim Blue, then add brushstrokes in Resene FX Paint Effects Medium mixed with Resene Half Athens Grey.

Using Resene FX Paint Effects helps give your strokes that textured, slightly worn effect and the overall finish resembles an abstract or Impressionist-style watercolour painting.

Experiment on a good-sized piece of plasterboard or wood so you can test your look first and try different random or more considered brushstrokes to see what you like best. There’s no limit to the looks and colour combinations you can try.

Resene Colorwood Mid Greywash

Resene Cleopatra

July 27, 2022

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