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Pretty in pastel

There’s a reason why pastel colours are so popular in children’s bedrooms.

They’re fun, playful and very soothing. Paint a child’s room red and chances are you’ll never get them to sleep. Paint it battleship grey and it’s unlikely they’ll choose to spend much time in there. The psychology of colour is a very real thing. And what is says about pastels is that they are easy to live with, joyful and reassuring. So much so that during various decades they’ve charmed their way out of children’s rooms and into other areas of the house. And we’re in one of those times now.

A pastel kid's bedroom design

A pastel moodboard

A pastel mood board

A pastel kid's bedroom

Mood board: Background painted in Resene Half Milk Punch with pattern in Resene Tuft Bush, A4 drawdown paint swatches in, from bottom left, Resene Hawkes Blue, Resene Snow Drift, Resene Half Milk Punch, Resene Blue Chalk and Resene Egg Sour, small vase in Resene Hawkes Blue, purple vase in Resene Blue Chalk, square mat in Resene Quarter Moonbeam and round ribbed vase in Resene Salomie.

Just as pastels are having a moment, child-like motifs, oversized almost cartoonish shapes and curves – lots of curves – have come bouncing into all areas of the house.

The curviness is part of a trend called Neotenic where big plump squishy shapes are both comfortable and comforting – it’s the opposite of stiff and formal. Interiors may look more like something from a kids’ animated movie and the look digs deep into our hearts where the ‘ahh’ response to anything cute lies.

To amp up the childlike appeal of this bedroom a fun wiggly-edged shape has been painted on the wall in Resene Hawkes Blue to anchor the desk within the wider space and to match the shelf. It looks like something out of the TV show Sponge Bob Square Pants.

There’s also a wiggly river of pink Resene Tuft Bush paint applied faintly to the Resene Half Milk Punch floor, which disappears under the bed as if marking the route to a treasure trove.

The curves of the shape are then echoed around the room – in the round cushion, the curvy chair, the drum-shaped bedside table, the round vase and over-sized pendent rice paper pendant light shade.

A pretty pastel bedroom

A pretty pastel bedroom for kids

Paint: Back wall – Resene Snow Drift, Floors – Resene Half Milk Punch with pattern in Resene Tuft Bush, Shape on wall – Resene Hawkes Blue, Stool – Resene Half Alabaster, Desk top and part legs – Resene Eighth Black White, Shelf – Resene Hawkes Blue, Tall vase – Resene Half Milk Punch with small details in Resene Egg Sour, Short pink vase – Resene Tuft Bush, Shelf vases – yellow – Resene Quarter Moonbeam (yellow), Resene Hawkes Blue and Resene Blue Chalk (lilac).

Both neotenic styles and pastel colours are peaceful and soothing so are an antidote in turbulent times – and we’ve certainly had a few of those. They have strong nostalgia appeal – like cuddling up with a security blanket and dreaming of lollipops. Or remembering the joy of spring when it rolls around after a cold winter and when flowers bloom in pretty shades of, yes, pastel.

Pastels also press another feel-good button – the nostalgia we carry for retro styles. A rainbow of eye-popping pastels were often used in houses in the 1950s with turquoise kitchens, canary yellow Formica tables, pink bathroomware and pale green sofas. They were also prevalent in the Art Deco era and if you’re a fan of English country style interiors, then you’ll find many examples of clever pastel colour combinations both in paint and in furnishing fabrics.

So what are pastels? They’re simply shades of other colours generated by adding white. In doing so, red becomes pink, purple becomes lilac and orange is transformed into a peach. Because pastels are less bold in nature they are easy to combine, so yellow will live happily alongside peach and baby blue alongside pink or lilac.

They also work perfectly with grey of various intensity levels, as well as with white, and also with pale timber furniture or pale timber floors – try Resene Colorwood Whitewash for a classic look, Resene Colorwood Breathe Easy for a warm blonded look or Resene Colorwood Becalm for a pale stain wash finish with a pinky edge.

There are different categories of pastels. One group that has been popular lately is muted, washed or weathered pastels. Unlike their clearer, prettier pastels, they have been muddied with a bit of grey to make them softer and more adaptable to a wider range of interior schemes. So instead of using the colour seen in this room, you could opt for a weathered blue like Resene Oxygen, a curd yellow like Resene Mellow Yellow, sage green like Resene Transcend, an ashen pink like Resene Contented or a faded grey-mauve like Resene Lola. The other way to soften stronger pastels is to literally add more white so that they become more icy in nature, like a range of sorbet flavours at the ice cream shop. Examples to try would be pale sky blue Resene Dream Big, sunshiny Resene Quarter Moonbeam, minty aqua Resene New Day, delicate pink Resene Pale Rose or soft lilac Resene Fog.

Resene Breathe Easy

Resene Becalm

Resene Contented

Resene Dream Big

Resene New Day

Resene Transcend

Project by Kate Alexander. Photography by Bryce Carleton. July 2022

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