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Down to earth: design with earthy shades

From the Resene decorating blog

Humans have always drawn inspiration from nature in all kinds of creative expression, including interior design.

From simply filling our spaces with plants to embracing ocean blues, forest greens and sunset golds, not to mention cloudy whites and sandy neutrals. But there is a new trend among these natural palettes: sunbaked tones of terracotta or earthy deep browns that can lend not only warmth and colour to a space but texture.

Shades like Resene Burnt Sienna and Resene Kombucha are interesting, versatile shades that can uplift an otherwise neutral colour scheme, or even transport your home to the exotic landscapes of Morocco or Tuscany.

A bedroom painted with earthy neutrals

Textured finishes in earthy neutrals beautifully replicate traditional techniques such as mudbrick building or limewashing.

Wall painted in Resene Biscotti then Resene FX Paint Effects Medium mixed with Resene Quarter Thorndon Cream, floor in Resene Biscotti, bedside cabinet and small bowl in Resene Colins Wicket, pendant light and vase with flowers in Resene Thorndon Cream and small vase in Resene Quarter Doeskin. Stonewash duvet, pillowcases and brown rectangle cushions from Adairs, blanket, Euro pillowcases and square cushion from Freedom. Project by Vanessa Nouwens, image by Bryce Carleton.

An interior with dark natural shade and sponge paint effect

Opting for a darker natural shade in Resene Salted Caramel as the base colour on the walls has given the sponged effect created using Resene FX Paint Effects medium mixed with Resene Athena extra impact.

Floor painted in Resene See the Light, desk in Resene Meringue, bench seat in Resene Athena, floor base in Resene Meringue and small yellow vase in Resene Liquid Gold. Lamp and chair from Cane Collective, cushions from Citta, pouff from AC Home, artwork from Maiko Nagao, books from Father Rabbit and pencil holder from H&M Home. Project by Melle Van Sambeek, image by Bryce Carleton.

A peaceful palette

Because of their inherently muted nature, earthy shades create spaces that feel very calm and soothing, making them ideal for calming retreat spaces inside – or outside – your home.

To create calming, zen-like spaces reminiscent of a Balinese spa start with warm, beige or sandy neutrals. Try for a shade or two deeper than you might typically choose to ensure that earthy connection to nature that goes beyond a simple neutral palette and adds visual interest.

Resene Double Spanish White is a beautiful warm neutral that will work well with deep mineral reds like Resene Fahrenheit and Resene Colorwood Japanese Maple. For a subtle, sharper note that still keeps to the soothing vibe, try contrast notes in the green-toned ochre of Resene Bullwhip.

An interior painted with subtle earthy browns and beiges

The subtle earthy browns and beiges in this living room make the perfect backdrop for the biophilic mural. The rear wall has a basecoat of Resene Half Caraway and a topcoat in Resene Half Nomad mixed with Resene FX Paint Effects Medium. Side wall painted in Resene Half Breathless with arch in Resene Half Caraway, trees in Resene Craigieburn, floor in Resene French Grey, larger round table in Resene Pearl Bush with vases in Resene Half Breathless and Resene Barely There and smaller table and large urn in Resene Half Caraway, Round floor rug from The Ivy House. Project by Kate Alexander, image by Bryce Carleton.

Get muddy

Browns can have a bad reputation when it comes to interiors, often associated with dreary tones and a lack of vibrancy. But not all browns are created equal, and darker browns are a good example of how being a bit bolder or dramatic in your colour choices can really elevate a space.

Instead of a beige-brown toned neutral as the main colour in your room, try a muddier, smoky brown like Resene Rebel on your walls trimmed in delicate Resene Tua Tua and touches of prehistoric green Resene Seaweed. Your finished space retains the peaceful soothing qualities of a more neutral or muted colour palette but with a cosiness or drama that’s perfect for a sitting room or entertaining space.

If that feels too dark a colour palette for your tastes but you still want to experiment with bolder shades, try taking your floor to a deeper, darker place with a stain like Resene Colorwood Bark or paint it in Resene Outlaw. With your muddy dark on the floor, give the space some eye-catching contrast with a green-based neutral like Resene Epitome and the serene teal of Resene Unite.

Adding bold earthy tones to your home interior

The addition of a few bolder earthy tones completely elevates this otherwise neutral, monochrome space. Walls painted in Resene Rice Cake with floor in Resene Colorwood Breathe Easy, stool in Resene Colorwood Bask and crate shelves in Resene Colorwood Breathe Easy, Resene Colorwood Shore Thing, Resene Colorwood Rising Tide, Resene Colorwood Bask and Resene Colorwood Shade. Vases and art pieces in Resene Wafer, Resene Gold Coast, Resene Thor, Resene Colorwood Bask, and Resene Colorwood Rising Tide and books in Resene Green Meets Blue and Resene Juniper. Sofa from Freedom, rug from Mocka, washed linen cushions from Adairs, tealight holder from Indie Home Collective, print cushion cover from Leopard Hall. Project by Vanessa Nouwens, image by Bryce Carleton.

Take it to Tuscany

Tap into a Tuscan vibe with walls and ceilings in terracotta shades that feel sun drenched and a little lived in, such as Resene Soiree, Resene Dawn Glow or Resene Pioneer Red. Try pairing them with trim areas in a warm off-white like Resene Athena.

If you want to try something more creative, experiment with recreating a classic Tuscan-style terracotta tile floor. Paint your floor in a warm terracotta colour like Resene Tuscany, then paint over that in a contrasting pale grid using Resene Westminster to recreate the grout.

Alternatively, use a stencil to create a repeating contrast pattern in a soft pale blue like Resene Dream Big.

Make it Middle Eastern

Parched desert tones paired with lighter brighter notes add immediate heat to your interiors and can easily turn them from standard spaces to exotic retreats.

Try deep reddish brown Resene Wine Berry with an unexpected note of organic orange Resene Meteor and a cooler note of Resene Half Spanish White or opt for the dark coffee brown of Resene Brown Bramble with gold Resene Anzac and deep beige Resene Stonewall.

Recreate ancient exotic earthen tiles with a coat of Resene Moroccan Spice, stencilled over in rich cobalt blue Resene Wishing Well or the sea-tones of Resene Idyllic teamed with Resene Alabaster.

Earthy greens

As our current affinity with earthy tones stems from our desire to reconnect with nature, it makes sense that organic, primordial greens also work well in an earthy colour palette for soothing yet interesting interiors.

The smoky, grey-edged green of Resene Vantage Point soften the undertones of brick red in Resene Trek, while the muted green of Resene Backcountry work well as a wall colour, paired with trim in the pink-toned beige of Resene Soul Searcher and pastel Resene Transcend for an unexpected and fresh finish that is still grounded in nature.

Simple imperfection

Our current fondness for earthy colours and textures makes sense in the context of our ongoing collective desire for simplifying our lives and re-connecting with the landscapes around us.

Resene Canterbury Design Advocate Brooke Calvert says the rise of these warm naturals is part of the wider shift toward using honest materials.

Think of other modern design trends such as cottagecore or Coastal Grandmother. They’re all about a return to simplicity and embracing of a more rustic, imperfect aesthetic.

This connection with natural and earthy materials is also why there has been an increase in the use of weathered, washed, brushstroke or sponged paint effects to create an imperfect finish, reminiscent of traditional limewashed or mudbrick techniques.

Try a muted base shade such as the warm terracotta of Resene Dawn Glow then add a sponged effect with Resene FX Paint Effects Medium mixed with neutral Resene Rice Cake for a desert-hued, handcrafted finish.

Feathered brushstrokes are another look that works well with earthy tones to create a very natural finish. Try adding bold strokes of sienna red Resene Savour over Resene Domino for a relaxed but dramatic finish. Using Resene FX Paint Effects Medium will give your strokes a textured, slightly worn effect that resembles luxury hand-painted wallpaper.

Top tip:  Experiment on a spare piece of plasterboard, paper or wood, using Resene testpots in different colour combinations with Resene FX Paint Effects Medium to see what you like best and to practise your brushstrokes or sponge technique.

This brushed or matte effect finish can also be carried onto your furniture and even fittings like cupboard handles or tapware where you could opt for brush metal finishes rather than high-shine.

Says Brooke: “However you use them, this neutral palette of colours has always served us well. Earthy shades add warmth and create a calm and grounded feeling to your interior.”

Resene Meringue

Resene Athena

Resene Breathe Easy

Resene Tua Tua

Resene Soul Searcher

Resene Bask

Resene Epitome

Resene Vantage Point

Resene Dream Big

Resene Idyllic

Resene Rising Tide

Resene Outlaw

Resene Dawn Glow

Resene Soiree

Resene See the Light

Resene Transcend

Resene Salted Caramel

Resene Liquid Gold

Resene Shore Thing

Resene Unite

Resene Shade

Resene Kombucha

Resene Savour

Resene Trek

December 06, 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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