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It’s all in the details – how to decorate architectural details

From the Resene decorating blog

It's time to revamp your home, and you've decided on your wall colours, of which you should feel proud! But there's one more thing to consider – what colour will you paint your interior architectural elements?

A room with restful mauve battens

Battens not only add visual interest to a room, they give the chance for an additional colour to add to a space. In this room they are painted in the delightfully ambiguous tones of mauve to create an interesting, yet restful, setting. Wall painted in Resene Ghost, battens in Resene Santas Grey, floor in Resene Colorwood Rock Salt, DIY cloud artwork painted in Resene Gumboot, Resene Matakana, Resene Zulu, Resene Jimmy Dean, Resene Santas Grey, Resene Ghost, Resene In The Mauve and Resene Sea Fog with frame in Resene Sea Fog and vase in Resene Matakana. Rug and smoked glass from Freedom, chaise and table from Nood, throw from H&M Home. Project by Laura Lynn Johnston, image by Melanie Jenkins.

We often hear the phrase, "It's all in the details", and it's true; the little features in most things are where the magic lies.

These aspects are architectural features that sometimes get overlooked in a home; ceiling roses, ornate architraves and archways – when done right, they catch the eye. They draw us in, providing interest in what would otherwise be an ordinary space.

You might have been blessed with living in an old villa or bungalow, complete with structural interest on its walls and ceilings. Or you may have retrofitted them into a new build. Celebrating these aspects with paint is one way to truly enliven a space and embrace character.

The key is choosing a cohesive colour within your overall space, whether you want your features to pop joyfully or subtly blend in.

Painting these a complementary colour will give your room a fresh spin and make it a pleasure to be in. Resene Colour Consultant Amy Watkins suggests first considering how much you want to accentuate your features. To what degree would you like the to stand out? Do you want your painted feature to be a strong focus of the room or subtly provide an additional plane of colour?

"For a ceiling rose, you typically wouldn't use a different gloss level but stay in the same flat finish as the ceiling paint, such as Resene SpaceCote Flat,” she says. “But you could enhance it by introducing a soft pastel and not going too dark.”

“You're trying to achieve a third dimension to enhance the ceiling rose, without it becoming overpowering. On the ceiling, you don't want it to be too jarring or in your face. Usually, you would repeat the same colour tone from the wall, albeit a shade darker, continuing in the same colour family but just going deeper."

Choosing a darker paint colour for your architectural features compared with your wall colours will draw the eye to them. Vary your colour shades; opting for a dark midnight on your walls, mid-toned teal on your architraves and pale blue on the ceiling.

This can have a fun, joyful effect and is ideal for those who thrive off colour, especially when choosing bright colours. Let your home ooze warmth with walls in the dusty amber of Resene Soothe, trims in the dusky red of Resene Coral Tree and ceiling rose in the burgundy of Resene Merlot. Or pair walls in the lilac-hinted neutral Resene Flotsam and ceiling beams in the grey of Resene Jumbo or ceiling rose in the black charcoal of Resene Ebony.

Use Resene Jet Stream on the walls with Resene St Kilda on the trim, or something more subtle – use Resene Quarter Frozen with Resene Cashmere on the door frames and doors. For those who love soothing green, use Resene Hindsight on your walls, Resene Shore Thing on wooden trims and darker Resene Rising Tide on the ceiling.

Black battens help break up this lounge

Black battens on this lounge wall break up the space, bringing interest and a way to hide away marks or bumps you don’t want visible to the eye. It’s far from overpowering, especially when combined with pale, warm-toned décor.

Plywood wall stained in Resene Colorwood Sheer, battens in Resene Lustacryl tinted to Resene All Black, floor in Resene Colorwood Natural, pendant lamp in Resene Black White, sideboard in Resene Snow Drift, nesting coffee tables in Resene Bison Hide (large, left) and Resene Quarter Drought (small, right), large vase in Resene Tequila, medium round vase in Resene Half Hairy Heath and lidded dish in Resene Tequila. Artwork by Cloud 9 Creative (Lee Sinclair) from endemicworld. Sofa from Nood, rug from Adairs, cushion covers and green dish from Citta, shoes from H&M. Project by Laura Lynn Johnston, image by Wendy Fenwick.

A green sitting room with diagonal battens

The beauty of applying battens to a wall is that you don’t have to stay within the confines of a horizontal/vertical layout. These diagonal patterns go against the norm, while pops of spontaneous grey painted on selected battens adds further interest.

Walls painted in Resene Waiouru with accent battens in Resene Gravel, floor in Resene Quarter Spanish White, large coffee table in Resene Clover, small coffee/side table, cabinet and tray on coffee table in Resene Gravel, plant pot in Resene Gravel with design in Resene Waiouru, tall vase (on cabinet) in Resene Black, other vases and accessories painted in Resene Clover, Resene Dingley, Resene Solitaire, Resene Gravel, Resene Biscotti, Resene Thistle and Resene Highland. Chair from Contempa, rug from Citta, throw and linen cushions from Shut The Front Door. Project by Vanessa Nouwens, image by Melanie Jenkins.

By coating your ceiling rose or beams in a subtle, contrasting hue, you'll evoke personality, allowing a focal element without overpowering your room. Pastels work beautifully in this way, such as walls in the gentle apricot of Resene Beethoven, trims in a pale green of Resene Stone Age and hints of the lightest yellow of Resene First Light in accents such as a ceiling rose or detailed wainscotting. You can also paint a bold colour on the ceiling in between your beams for a surprising display of colour.

Combining paint colours with wainscotting works similarly to a dado, in that you have one section of the wall white or a colour and a different shade on the other expanse. Sometimes the wainscotting in a simple white can look exuberant in all the patterned detail. White being a perfect complement for a grey-blue, use Resene Nepal, or for pink-orange above, use Resene Crail. Equally eye-catching, Resene wallpaper above coloured wainscotting brings character, too, merging both colour and pattern – a beautiful pairing!

There's something clean and regal about painting walls in white, with door trims and a rim around your ceiling in an intense blue – use Resene Wan White with Resene Bismark. Or paint your entire ceiling and walls in white, with trims in a soft, gentle green or grey – use Resene Half Alabaster with the navy of Resene Bunting.

Light and bright colours will make a space feel open, whereas dark and moody colours are comforting and cocooning, allowing you to immerse yourself. However, because you are using the dark colour on a small aspect of your room, it shouldn’t dominate.

"If you have dark colours on dado or architectural features, but the rest of the walls are light with off-white, those archways and dado features will be dominant but not make the room feel smaller necessarily," Amy says.

A harmonious home office

A focus on texture and lines, such as this vertical tongue-and-groove surface, meets an earth-toned palette, creating a balanced, harmonious space. Back wall painted in Resene Triple Merino, timber wall (left) stained in Resene Colorwood Pickled Bean, tongue-and-groove wall (right) in Resene Quarter Karaka, batten shelf in Resene Settlement, plywood floor stained in Resene Colorwood Uluru, desk in Resene Enamacryl gloss tinted to Resene All Black, stool in Resene Anglaise, vase painted Resene Karaka, small jug vase (top left shelf) in Resene Half Blanc and tray table in Resene Teak. Project by Kate Alexander, image by Bryce Carleton.

You might have a dado running along a hallway, its tongue and groove pattern adding texture and interest. Paint is a way to bring colour to this zone and accentuate the panelled feature. "You can go bold and dark to emphasise the detail that comes with the dado or an archway structure,” Amy says. “We see many deep inky blues, emerald greens and charcoal used in those areas. In terms of finish, you can either use the same as the walls – a low sheen like Resene SpaceCote Low Sheen – or add to that intensity with a semi-gloss finish such as Resene Lustacryl.

Colour drenching your ceiling and walls, including your ceiling moulds and window trims, will evoke a seamless, saturated effect. Try a gentle pastel for a clean look, use Resene Duck Egg Blue or the pale rose of Resene Soulmate.

Think about the room you're in and the emotions you want your colour to evoke – playfulness in the lounge, relaxation in the bedroom and a small guest toilet or powder room provides the chance to go for something with extra personality.

If you have an archway as a transition point between two rooms, paint it a bold colour or even gold paint to bounce the light and provide a warm lustre. Such archways typically cover small areas, so they're a perfect opportunity to dare to celebrate colour in a way that might seem too much in an entire room.

Of course, you may have architectural features you don't like or that are damaged; downplay them: "Just paint into the same colour of walls, seamless, to help them blend in."

Bold and punchy, white and serene – whatever way you paint your inside architectural details, it's the inside of the home that counts. After all, colour is what makes a house a home.

Resene Rising Tide

Resene Shore Thing

November 13, 2022

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

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