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Neutrals with soul

From the Resene decorating blog

The colours that anchor our homes are becoming far more interesting.

In the decorating world, what we’ve come to know as character neutrals are paint colours that make for a much richer interior look – and they are trending. These are not the tans and beiges of the 90s, nor the one-dimensional greys of the 00s and 10s. They are neutrals with soul. It’s complex variations like nude taupe, mushroom taupe, new-age greige, terracotta and deep-smoked coffee browns are taking their turn in the spotlight – think Resene Zorba, Resene Otter, Resene Tide, Resene Sante Fe and Resene Barista.

A lounge painted in character neutrals

A lounge painted in dark character neutrals

Light lounge: Back wall in Resene Merino, front wall in Resene Alabaster, floor in Resene White Pointer, artwork DIY in Resene Quarter Tea, Resene Double Ash and Resene Half Truffle, tall vase in Resene Parchment, lamp in Resene Tapa and hook rack in Resene Double Ash. Project by Gem Adams, image by Melanie Jenkins.  Dark lounge: Wall and floor in Resene Suits, fireplace in Resene Noir, side table in Resene Thunder Road, low vase in Resene Noir, low dish in Resene Poured Milk, large vase in Resene Route 66, small ribbed vase: Resene Grey Seal and tall bottle vase in Resene Ethereal. Project by Vanessa Nouwens, image by Melanie Jenkins.

While you may love brights, there is a place in every home for whites and neutrals too. These are the colours that designers turn to again and again to create a classic palettes for their clients, and often their own homes. They provide a perfect canvas for building varied décor themes both outside and inside.

Until recently, the most popular neutral colours have been leaning toward flat, cold and steely greys, but things are changing.

Marilyn Cleland says she’s certainly noticed how soft brown tones are returning to the popular palette, which has been eclipsed by grey over the past few years.

“These new mushroom smoky pinks and nude taupes could also be described as new generation neutrals. They are used to complement stronger colours, as soft grey neutrals once would have. They also add a warmth when used next to cooler-toned colours.”

A neutral dining room with pops of colour

A lounge painted in soulful character neutrals

Dining room: Main wall colour in Resene Merino, small wall circle (top right) in Resene Swiss Caramel, large wall circle (left) in Resene Indian Ink, corner wall circle (bottom right) in Resene Route 66, pendant lamp in Resene Indian Ink, chairs in Resene Swiss Caramel (left) and Resene Indian Ink (right), tall vase in Resene Route 66 and wooden placemats in Resene Indian Ink. Project by Vanessa Nouwens, image by Bryce Carleton.  Lounge: Wall in Resene Rocky Mountain, floor in Resene Sixth Sense, door in Resene Thunder Road, side table in Resene Rivergum, large ribbed plant pot in Resene Indian Ink, large basket (with plant) in Resene Safehaven, tray in Resene Courage, plant pots (on tray) in Resene Grey Olive and Resene Noir. Project by Annick Larkin, image by Melanie Jenkins.

Marilyn believes that new-age greiges – a grey beige blend – can shine in both cool and warm colour schemes. She finds them very relaxing background colours to live with.

“Greiges sit comfortably between greys and browns and are fabulous trimmed with the greatest neutral of all – white. They allow a widely varied range of accessories and furnishing colours to shine – yellows, duck egg blues, blacks, coral tones and the new spice tones. These can all live happily together,” she says.

With the new mushroom smokey pinks in mind, Marilyn suggests considering Resene Wafer and Resene Shabby Chic. The first is described as a pink biscuit, the latter as a faded peach-edged pinky beige. Resene Urbane, meanwhile, is a pale milk beige – polished and sophisticated. Such colours show how neutrals offer a haven of delightfully muted colour choices with endless combinations possible. And neutrals with extra character also provide a more soulful backdrop for combining brighter, more intense feature colours into your scheme.

While character neutrals are trending, Marilyn’s adamant grey will never be overlooked as a choice of wall, door, window or furnishing colour. It’s a universal colour, she says, that closely morphs into lilacs and blues, which blend well with warm taupes and mushroom tones. She suggests Resene Archive Grey, a dusty dawn grey, full of a quiet old-fashioned charm, and Resene Half Copyrite, with its tint of leaden, salt-bleached grey, as ideal choices.

Interior designer Heather Lochhead has noticed clients are, in general, keen to include browns in their schemes but aren’t ready to eliminate grey completely. They’re mixing the two. She’s found Resene Quarter Ironsand is a popular, smoky warm brown with an undertone of dense grey.

Heather, who is a fan of moody colours, says neutrals are ideal on their own or to anchor a scheme, providing a soulful backdrop for brighter, more intense feature colours. For example, grey and strong beige tones can be successfully married with beautiful mustards and charcoals. She is particular to Resene Tuna, a bluey-charcoal, which is a hit with camel and beige.

Resene colour expert Christine Hodges was asked if the popularity of these complex neutrals – the tans and beiges – heralds an adieu to grey?

Greys still have their place, she assures, but browns are on the move up on the popularity scale.

“I am finding people are liking the warmer tones, rather than the stark black or white, so yes, there’s been a move over to the luscious chocolates,” she says.

She’s noticed that the warm, grey-brown of Resene Fuscous Grey is trending, for both the interior and exterior of homes, and pairs well with Resene Quarter White Pointer. Resene Eighth Bokara Grey – a warmed charcoal blended with slate and mudstone with red undertones – creates a point of difference and looks great with brass and timber. She’s recently used Resene Dark Web on a study wall where a light wooden desk and orange, leather chair contrast beautifully with this dense blackened brown.

Interior designer Kathrine McDonald says that when she mention neutrals to the bulk of her clients, they think white combined with grey. “Greys and white are so fresh and go with a coastal locality,” she says.

“I have very few clients who, regardless of trends, say they want beige or brown colour. Resene White Thunder, a true grey, and Resene Sea Fog, a white with a hint of grey, remain very popular amongst my clients.

“I find browns can put you in a challenging position to work with. Greys are easier to work with and provide a great base colour. I think grey is here to stay,” she says.

Resene Poured Milk

Resene Ethereal

Resene Shabby Chic

Resene Grey Seal

Resene Sixth Sense

Resene Rocky Mountain

Resene Route 66

Resene Thunder Road

Resene Swiss Caramel

Resene Safehaven

Resene Dark Web

Resene Noir

Resene Eighth Bokara Grey

Resene Suits

December 06, 2019

Visit your local Resene ColorShop for more colour ideas and all the expert advice and products you need for a superb finish on all your decorating projects.

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