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Habitat plus - tonal colour schemes

Tonal or monochromatic colour schemes make great use of whites and neutrals. These schemes are where one colour is used in varying strengths for a harmonious look. This is an almost-foolproof way of developing a scheme.

Here, the Resene Whites & Neutrals collection really comes into its own, as up to six strengths of the one colour are shown on the same card. So you could, for example, use Resene Half Drought for the main living area, Resene Double Drought for bedrooms or a second living room, and Resene Eighth Drought for the ceiling and trims.

Of course, a completely tonal scheme can look a bit boring, so the trick is to add interest with accent colours, as well as texture and gloss levels – more on this.

Lounge Resene Quill Grey walls with Resene Quarter White Pointer trims and ceiling.

Levels of interest

  1. For an elegant restful look, you could keep any furniture, fabrics and accessories in the same colour theme but play with texture. The curtains might be sheer or linen, the rug nice and knobbly, the timber floor grainy, the cushions might have a self-pattern, the accessories might have lustre and the monochromatic artworks will have a pattern.

  2. You can create an interesting twist on a tonal scheme by using what are called ‘related’ colours. This is easier to understand when you’re talking about bolder colours, for example, red is close to rust is close to terracotta. But it can work well with neutral colours. So instead of slavishly using all variants of one colour, you might take a step sideways into one that’s close by but slightly different. For example, Resene Rice Cake and Resene Thorndon Cream.

  3. The next level would be to add a feature wall, or accessories in a very deep neutral that’s an extension of the main scheme. If you have a mostly off-white scheme, you might add charcoal and black. They are not a colour as such, but add a touch of drama. Likewise, if your scheme is made up of soft greige, a deep brown-edged grey will add interest.

  4. If you want even more interest, add an accent colour or two in your curtains, cushions, rug, artwork, accessories, furniture or a feature wall. Keep the ratio of this colour to about 10% of the overall look of a room, and try to continue it through the house in varying forms and uses for a cohesive look.

Resene Triple Black walls with trims in Resene Black White.

Did you know...

Did you know that in any scheme, tonal or otherwise, we often feel more comfortable when the floor is a darker colour and the ceiling is lighter? It’s because that combination is more common in nature – the ground is darker, and the sky is lighter.


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Colours shown on this website are a representation only. Please refer to the actual paint or product sample. Resene colour charts, testpots and samples are available for ordering online.   See measurements/conversions for more details on how electronic colour values are achieved.