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Little show-stoppers

From the Resene decorating blog

Got a small space that needs a revamp? Living in a studio, an apartment or a ‘bijou’ home with no room to swing anything? The good news is that no matter how spatially-challenged your room or dwelling, you don’t have to be squeezed for choice with your Resene colour palette.

A bold red headboard

Focus bold colour on one area like this headboard and painted arch beside it, both painted in Resene Salsa.

The wall is Resene Bon Jour, a gentle French beige, forming a subtle backdrop for the drama of the intense magenta headboard and arch. The timber floor stained in Resene Colorwood Natural also allows the bed to steal the limelight. Bedside table and small vase in Resene Jaguar. Lamp from Freedom Furniture, quilt from H&M Home. Project by Kate Alexander, image by Bryce Carleton.

Conventional wisdom dictates that going bold or dark is best avoided in a small space. But don’t let outdated notions cramp your style.

“There is no one-size-fits-all solution in finding colours for a small space. It’s more about finding the right paint colour for your style and taking into account the light the space gets,” says Resene Colour Consultant Jill Marsh.

Jill recommends staying away from bright colours for walls – like reds, oranges and yellows – and reserving these for brighter accents in the space.

Darker shades like navy and charcoal can create an impression of depth and luxury, she adds. “Resene Foundry, Resene Indian Ink or Resene Baltic Sea are stunning for a bit of drama.”

Over to the dark side

If you’ve toyed with the idea of black walls but worry they might be hard to live with, opt for a softer option that still brings the drama. Go for a wall in a deep charcoal or slate like Resene Dark Knight which offers all the impact of true black without being overwhelming. To soften the effect further, you can apply Resene SpaceCote Flat for a velvety felted look.

Deep charcoal is still a strong shade – and for it to work it needs to be reflected in other elements in the room. Echo this dusky hue in your smaller accessories such as bowls, vases and candleholders.

For your furniture, go for lighter colours that soothe and relax the effect of the dark wall. Greens like Resene Snowy Mint add a breath of fresh air and combine well with more vigorous greens like Resene Green House. Add in a few lustrous, leafy house plants and a warm, sandy taupe for your flooring and you’ll beautifully offset that strong, moody wall.

For your remaining walls, try an off-white with depth like Resene Island Spice or a whisper of cream like Resene Half Scotch Mist to avoid the stark contrast you’d get with a black/white monochrome palette.

A deep charcoal wall adds depth to a smaller dining space

A deep charcoal wall painted in Resene Nocturnal adds depth to a smaller dining space. The effect is further softened with pale flooring and a side wall in Resene Quarter Akaroa. The sideboard in Resene Rainee and chairs in Resene Rivergum act as a gentle intermediary in the light/dark contrasting palette. Planters, vases and bowls are in Resene Stack, Resene Rivergum, Resene Silver Chalice, Resene Pumice, Resene Nocturnal and Resene Rivergum. Table from Target furniture, artwork from H&M Home. Project by Vanessa Nouwens, image by Bryce Carleton.

Deep attraction

Dark greens also make a stunning backdrop in a small space. Try a bold bushwalk hue like Resene Midnight Moss or Resene Kaitoke Green for a dash of turn-of-the-20th-century elegance.

High-contrast furniture, artwork and accessories in rich ochre yellows like Resene Rob Roy or Resene Apache, pastoral greens like Resene Clover and vivid limes like Resene Sushi will balance out a dark wall nicely. Go for a sofa in a lovely rich tan to add warmth, and paint your flooring in a pale flaxen hue like Resene Half Gin Fizz to really lift the whole palette. Then offer a nod here and there to that bold backdrop in your cushions, throws, accessories and ornaments.

Top tip:  A dark wall is quite a commitment – so take advantage of Resene testpots. Audition your favourite colours by painting a large A2 sample onto card and move the samples around the room. Live with them for a few days, and check the colour under different lighting conditions – both natural and artificial – at different times of the day. That way you’ll see whether a colour looks washed out or different in certain lights, which will help you pick your final palette.


A streamlined deep green wall emphasises the length of the lounge

Taking the deep green painted Resene Midnight Moss right across the wall, mantel and fireplace makes for a streamlined look that emphasises the length of the wall. The colour scheme is pulled from the vintage poster above the fireplace: Resene Half Fossil for the floor and Resene Rob Roy, Resene Clover, Resene Sushi, Resene Lightning Yellow, Resene Tequila, Resene Bandicoot, Resene Black Forest for the vases, bowls, plant pot, books and other small accessories. Folding screen in Resene Tequila with ‘leading’ in Resene Midnight Moss and ‘stained glass’ in Resene Bandicoot, Resene Rob Roy and Resene Lightning Yellow. Sofa, rug, tables and lamp from Freedom, throw from Citta, poster from Pictorem, mug by Fiona MacKay from Public Record, tray and grid cushion from H&M Home. Project by Laura Lynn Johnston, image by Wendy Fenwick.

Get playful with pattern

If you’re feeling reticent about painting a whole wall dark, why not go for an eye-catching design instead? Painted onto a neutral backdrop, it will stamp your style and inject a bit of pizzazz.

A pattern of geometric shapes gives a sharp, contemporary edge to a neutral canvas. Choose a strong anchor colour like Resene Biscay – a dramatic dark blue – then build up a high-contrast ensemble of hues. You want shades that are strikingly different but which together sing in harmony. A great combination would be a creamy light biscuit for the wall then for the design a sweet, warm tan like Resene Brown Sugar or Resene Leather, a ceramic blue-green like Resene Ming, a deep forest green like Resene Bush and a placid pastel like Resene Summer Green.

To make the space feel restful and inviting, find or paint pieces in colours that tie in with your DIY wall design to keep everything harmonious. With accessories also singing from the same tonal song sheet, the overall look will be colourful and appealing while retaining the cohesion that’s especially key in a smaller space.

Your space may be modest in size – but that doesn’t mean it can’t also be fabulous. And for a colour palette that is unapologetically flamboyant, look no further than the Renaissance era.

A painted hexagonal pattern adds wow factor to the wall

This painted hexagonal pattern adds wow factor to the wall painted in Resene Tea. Hexagons painted in Resene Ming, Resene Bush, Resene Brown Sugar, Resene Blue Night and Resene Summer Green. Side wall and table in Resene Summer Green, cabinet in Resene Ming, pots and vases in Resene Brown Sugar, Resene Summer Green, Resene Blue Night, Resene Ming, Resene Bush and floor in Resene Tea. Sofa and navy cushion from Freedom, hexagon cushion from Wallace Cotton, throw from Adairs. Project by Vanessa Nouwens, image by Bryce Carleton.

During this period of ‘rebirth’ in arts, science and society – spanning the 15th and 16th centuries – certain colours were profoundly symbolic. Saturated hues such as royal blue, rich red and gold signalled a homeowner’s wealth and status, and the upper classes favoured lush, expensive fabrics like velvet and silk.

While Renaissance-style suggests ornate Italian palaces and grandiose interiors, a modern take on the aesthetic can still work well in a small space – although balance and restraint are key to pulling off the look.

The rich jewel tones characteristic of the era exude luxury, but they also add warmth and make the space feel cosy and inviting. Go for deep rust-reds like Resene Burgundy, brooding magentas such as Resene Salsa and glamorous bright blues like Resene St Tropaz. Up the glam factor with metallic accents such as Resene Gold Dust metallic paint – but use these sparingly and opt for matte finishes for a slightly aged, vintage feel.

Lastly, look for more understated hues and natural textures and materials in your linens and flooring to keep everything grounded.

There’s a colour palette to suit all spaces great and small all it takes is a little colour bravery to create depth and personality in your home, so get painting!

November 10, 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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