After two decades of grey reigning supreme as the preferred neutral for most, warmer tones are finally beginning to make a comeback. Previously popular in the 1970s and 1990s, browns, beiges are experiencing a huge resurgence.
Previously seen as the pique of modernity, many are coming to realise that cool greys aren’t particularly comforting hues – especially when used in large quantities. With our lives becoming increasingly complicated in recent years and the reactionary rise of self-care because of it, it makes sense that homeowners are seeking warmer paint colours for their walls as they look to create cosier spaces where they can find solace from everyday life.
Moodboard – Paint: Background in Resene Spanish White with A4 drawdown paint swatches in (from top left to bottom right) Resene Wood Bark, Resene Brown Sugar, Resene Putty, Resene Calico, Resene Rusty Nail, Resene Double Spanish White, Resene Tussock, Resene Bone and Resene Spanish White with vases in Resene Spanish White and Resene Brown Sugar (left), Resene Rusty Nail and Resene Tussock (centre) and Resene Calico (right).
Earthy clay browns, especially those with rosy undertones, have been having a major moment in areas of the home where people like to relax, such as bedrooms, living rooms and dining rooms. These hues are easy on the eyes, and as a neutral, there are seemingly endless ways to combine them with pretty much any other hues you’re drawn to.
It’s worth noting that grey and brown neutrals don’t have to be mutually exclusive, either. Choosing greys that have a slightly warmed undertone such as Resene Half Athens Grey, Resene Stack and Resene Silver Chalice can work as an excellent counterpoint to offset beiges like Resene Bone and Resene Calico, mid-range ginger browns like Resene Dark Buff, Resene Brown Sugar and Resene Tussock and even deep chocolatey tones like Resene Wood Bark. You needn’t look further than the artwork in this room by Australian painter Kirsten Katz to see this unexpected combination at play.
With any neutral based colour scheme, the key is to build balance and interest through contrast. There are plenty of different approaches for doing this, but if the concept is new to you, start with picking a mid-range tone. Most colours fall into this category, so the only guideline is to pick one that’s neither too light nor too dark. Find a Resene swatch that appeals to you, and look to the colours located in the middle three rows. Then, you’ll want to identify a lighter hue and a darker one than your first colour to add highlights and low lights to your design. While you can absolutely look to other swatches to find lighter and darker supporting colours that coordinate that have similar undertones, you can keep things simple by looking to the top two hues and bottom two hues in the same column of the Resene swatch your first colour is on. While not all from the same swatch, Resene Spanish White, Resene Canterbury Clay and Resene Brown Sugar form the key light, mid and deep tones of the colour palette respectively.
Main Paint Colours – Floor and lower wall in Resene Canterbury Clay (colour comes up to 1.6 metres off the floor). Top part of wall in Resene Spanish White. Batten stripe in Resene Brown Sugar.
Living Room – Large coffee table in Resene Putty. Small side table in Resene Rusty Nail. Hall table in Resene Wood Bark. Cabinets in Resene Brown Sugar. Mirror in Resene Putty. Large pot in Resene FX Faux Rust Effect. Large bowl in Resene Wood Bark. Tall vase with large handles in Resene Wood Bark. Round ball object in Resene Brown Sugar. Short shapely vase in Resene Wood Bark. Coasters in Resene Wood Bark. Tall raised planter in Resene Gravel. Tall vase with painted design in Resene Calico and Resene Canterbury Clay. All other vases painted in Resene Putty, Resene Bone, Resene Canterbury Clay, Resene Calico, Resene Spanish White, Resene Rusty Nail, Resene Brown Sugar and Resene Tussock.
Dining Room – Table in Resene Spanish White. Chairs and bench in Resene Spanish White. Hall table in Resene Wood Bark. Cabinets in Resene Brown Sugar. Rattan Mirror in Resene Putty. 3 legged pot with handles in Resene Spanish White. Small hand painted vase in Resene Spanish White with Resene Brown Sugar stripes. Medium size jug in Resene Canterbury Clay. Small jug with twin handles in Resene Bone. Small brown dish on table in Resene Wood Bark. Ribbed vase in Resene Bone. Tiny vase on Console table in Resene Tussock. All other vases painted in Resene Putty, Resene Bone, Resene Canterbury Clay, Resene Calico. Resene Spanish White, Resene Rusty Nail, Resene Brown Sugar and Resene Tussock.
Rather than painting the walls one colour and the floors another, this living/dining room has been given a ‘tideline’ treatment, with Resene Canterbury Clay on the floor and lower section of the wall and Resene Spanish White on the upper wall section. You can get the look by first painting two coats of your lighter hue on the upper portion of the wall. To conserve paint, you don’t need to take the colour all the way to the floor – but be sure that you ‘feather’ the bottom edge of your paint by laying off the roller when you reach the bottom third of your wall, and lightly roll over the bottom edge a few times to blend and soften it. This technique will keep your paint from forming a hard edge that could become visible later on in your project. Be sure to let your first coat of paint dry before applying your second and let the second dry completely before moving on.
Then, using a measuring tape, a level and a pencil, mark a faint line at a uniform height across all the walls of your space. Ours is at a height of 1.6m. You can even choose to take your line across architectural accents within your space, such as across architraves and doors.
Next, apply wide, high quality painter’s masking tape along the top of your pencil line before adding the first coat of your second colour to the lower section of your wall. Allow the first coat to dry before applying the second, and then allow the second to dry to the touch before removing your masking. The time you took to properly measure and draw your pencil line, and investing in quality masking, will paying off with a straight, crisp finished line.
While you could definitely stop here, you can take the look one step further and add a thin stripe of your third darker colour to your wall design as an accent to create stronger definition to your tideline. To give the stripe added dimension, install square dressed timber moulding where the two colours meet – which is also known as a dado rail. Your dado rail can be attached with either glue or screws.
For the tidiest finish, it’s a good idea to prime and paint your moulding before you install it. If your moulding is new, start with a basecoat of Resene Quick Dry primer and allow it to try before applying your colour coats. This one is painted in Resene Brown Sugar then attached to the wall with countersunk screws. Fill each of the screw holes with a small amount of wood filler and lightly sand once dry. Then touch up the screw holes using a Resene testpot and a small, flat artist’s brush.
To bring the lighter and darker highlight colours off the walls and into the room, paint the dining table, chairs, bench and a few small accessories in Resene Spanish White and the sideboard cabinets in Resene Brown Sugar. For more depth, in this room the deepest hue in the artwork has been matched to Resene Wood Bark and brought on to the console table, a vase and a bowl strategically spaced out around the room. The result is a space that’s connected and cohesive, with earthy warmth to spare.
Accessories — Orange cushion cover from H&M Home, Harvest Bunch artwork by Kirsten Katz, sofa and chair from Freedom Furniture, cushions, other cushion covers, bowls and tumbler from Citta, throw from Adairs, tablecloth from The Warehouse. Books and candle are stylist's own.
Painting your own art is an inexpensive way to add some interest to your walls. Plus, you’re sure to end up with something that’s the right size and colour palette for your space.
Pick up one or more art canvases and start by painting it in a base colour that suits your scheme (ours was Resene Putty). Then, take a medium-sized paint brush, such as a Resene testpot brush, and let your creativity and emotions be your guide. We used Resene Tussock, Resene Brown Sugar and Resene Calico to create an abstract swirling pattern, but you could choose to create something with more form or geometry to suit your space or tastes.
Arty paint vases
Give old vases a new look by simply painting them and adding a paint design in stripes or looser brushstrokes for a more natural look. Start by painting your vase in two coats of your base colour of choice. Be sure to let the first coat dry completely before applying the second, and let the second dry before moving on. Then, use your imagination to add stripes, brushstrokes or whatever design you desire in a Resene colour that contrasts your first. Go for dark on light, or light on dark. We went for light over dark and created freeform leafy motifs that are perfect for autumn.
Project by Vanessa Nouwens. Images by Wendy Fenwick. 2021
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