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Defining the dining

Kitchen ideas from Food magazine

Use colour to give open-plan dining areas a sense of occasion

dado rail a feature in your dining room.Jessica and John gave their dining space character by adding a dado rail part way up the wall behind, then painting the bottom section in Resene Bokara Grey and the top in Resene Thorndon Cream.

Way back when dining rooms were a formal, separate room, we often went to town with colour – a riotous smorgasbord of hues that gave these rooms a touch of theatrical drama to heighten the sense of occasion as we dined or entertained.

But then dining came out into the open, literally, and the table became part of our open-plan living rooms. Did that mean we had to ditch the drama? No, it didn’t.

There are many ways to help define our dining spaces so that they don’t get lost in the open or morph with our living areas or kitchens too much. And most of that has to do with colour.

One way to highlight a dining area within a larger space is to use a feature wall beside the table that acts as a colourful frame to the table and chairs. You could use a darker version of the neutral colour you might have used in the rest of the area. Or you could go for an eye-catching colour that’s quite different to the other walls, but which links back to another colour in the room – that might be your benchtop colour, a cushion, an artwork, the curtain fabric, or even a view of the garden – you can take colour inspiration from many things. Enhance a feature wall even further by adding a large piece of art, a mirror or a gallery-style arrangement of smaller artworks.

Left: A subtle washed-blue ombre effect is a restful backdrop for this dining space. It’s actually wallpaper (Bloom 340097) from Resene and not timber panelling.  Right: A sophisticated palette of dusky pastels includes a back wall in Resene Tana, another wall in Resene Half Perfect Taupe, a floor in Resene Soulmate and trims in Resene Alabaster. The plant pot on the shelf is in Resene High Tea, with a chair in Resene Tussock. To add depth and contrast, the coat rack is painted in Resene Hot Toddy.

If your dining area is in a corner, consider making a feature of the two walls behind the table, as long as there is a natural stopping point for the paint colour.

Another approach is to have a feature wall in one of the many wallpapers available at Resene ColorShops. There’s an impressive array of colours and patterns available, from classic prints to over-blown florals and hyper-real stone and timber effects. Anything goes these days. If you are using wallpaper, choose it before you settle on your paint colour. It’s much easier to match one of the myriad Resene colours to the wallpaper, rather than the other way around.

The style of your dining furniture may well inspire your colour choices – chunky oak might go with soft sage greens for a country look; try sea-storm blues or soft grey for a Nordic approach; retro mid-century pieces work with teal or orange; an architectural trestle-style table goes with mid grey or black; or dark timbers match well with red or gold.

Your paint use needn’t end there.

What about giving an old dining table or a set of dining chairs a fresh look with paint? Or use Resene Colorwood Whitewash for a soft Scandi or country look. Paint the table all one colour, or just paint the legs, or the top, or give it a stencilled border or geometric pattern. Black or dusky blue legs with a timber top is a look that suits many interior styles. If you’re leaving any timber bare, protect it with a couple of coats of Resene Aquaclear.

Accessories are key to adding sparkle to any dining space – use candlesticks, flowers or a big bowl of fruit to dress the table. Hang a statement pendant light low over the table, and place a rug underneath to visually anchor the furniture. Now all you need is some dinnerware to match, and you have a delicious spot to dine.

Left: Make a feature of the table itself. This one was transformed with a herringbone stencil using Resene Colorwood Whitewash by paint effects expert Greer Clayton.  Right: Give dark grey Resene Quarter Foundry walls a lift with zesty accessories. The chairs are in Resene Wild Thing (at back), Resene Bright Lights (side) and Resene Teddy (front). A group of old plates is painted in a variety of oranges – from bottom left clockwise, Resene Juicy (two plates on left), Resene Touche, Resene Clockwork Orange and Resene Adrenalin (centre). Add some bright tableware (including a vase painted in Resene Touche), hand-painted geometric placemats in the same colours as the plates, a plant pot in Resene Transmission and a floor in Resene Colorwood Whitewash.

Top tips


Words: Sharon Newey

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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.