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banning beige

From Habitat magazine - issue 18

Fearless use of colour lifts Bruce’s house way beyond the one-neutral-fits-all philosophy.

David and Lian Bruce
David and Lian

David Bruce knew shortly after meeting his wife-to-be that life was never going to be any shade of beige. Her bedroom at the time featured wooden floors that she’d painted dark red. A poster on the wall carried the message: “You are different”, and she’d painted footprints across the floor leading halfway up the wall to the poster.

The Lian Bruce of today has retained that fearless approach to colour, as evidenced in the home she shares with David, their border collie Max, and visiting daughters. Home, in the coastal town of Papamoa near Tauranga, is a white house with terracotta roof that does little to hint at the cornucopia of colour inside.

While there are no painted footprints, there are sumptuous eye-catchers such as a rich-red, velvet chaise lounge imported from Lian’s homeland, the Netherlands as well as bold paint, decals and wallpaper.

Modern green kitchen
Resene Wasabi doors open into the light and airy kitchen and dining space. Get the look with Resene Enamacryl gloss waterborne enamel tinted to Resene Wasabi.

Feature walls add zing to rooms which are otherwise painted in Resene Alabaster. Doors are predominantly painted in the grey Resene Cloud. A wall in the living room, for example, is painted in Resene Clockwork Orange; the internal double doors leading from the entranceway into the open-plan living area are Resene Wasabi green, as is the kitchen splashback nearby. Adding to the diversity is a deep purple-coloured (Resene Tarot) wall dividing the bed from the walk-in wardrobe in the main bedroom.

Orange living room
Quirky light fittings and accessories decorate the living room with its Resene Clockwork Orange feature wall.

Lian, an English teacher and interior designer, firmly believes in the link between colour and emotions. “What is fun about purple hues is that they incorporate the soothing aspects of blue with the energy of red. This is an interesting combination for a bedroom,” Lian laughs. Similarly, orange is a good colour for the living room, she says, as it stimulates conversation.

Red couch

Lian’s the first to admit, however, that these colour choices can change in the blink of an eye. “Things are in a constant state of flux. The people at the local Resene store know me well as I change colours all the time. It’s not because I am not happy with the way our home looks. It’s because it is fun and energising to change and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. For $50 you can make a significant difference.”

Until recently, for example, the lounge feature wall was Resene Hot Chile red. And, Lian tells how she instructed the kitchen craftsman to install the breakfast bar’s kickboard in MDF rather than veneer. “It’s currently Resene Black... But, because I know myself I can say it may change. I might re-paint it or even wallpaper it.”She says her two daughters are familiar with many shades from the colour spectrum – their bedrooms tended to change colour every two years. One of those rooms recently had a colour makeover. One wall features rough stripes of Resene Picton Blue with Resene Alabaster, Resene Cloud and Resene Clockwork Orange. In the white stripes Lian has inserted text messages such as: “A woman is like a tea bag. You never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water.”

Orange bathroom door
Even the smallest room of this house gets a Resene Rose Of Sharon door and poppy decals.

Lian used a roller to paint the stripes here and in the bathroom. There has been no attempt made to create perfect edges. “You have to have fun with your house and not take things too seriously,” is her mantra.

Just as Lian is totally comfortable with a paint brush or roller in hand, she also likes working with MDF. Before her bedroom feature wall was purple it had an MDF bedhead that Lian had painted dark blue. She then drilled 200 small holes into it, into which she slotted fairy lights. “They were like little pinpoints of light and it was a lovely effect,” she says.

Hallway art
Striped bathroom wall
Hallway: A Komar wallpaper sprinkles spring flowers across the entrance foyer walls.  Bathroom: Wide stripes roughly painted with a roller decorate the bathroom wall. The colours are Resene Alabaster and Resene Cloud. Get the striped look with Resene SpaceCote Low Sheen Kitchen & Bathroom tinted to Resene Cloud and Resene Alabaster.

This creative homemaker (whose business is called Ideas, for Interior Design) is puzzled by people who opt for one paint colour for their entire house. “That doesn’t make sense to me – rooms have different functions, different inhabitants and different energies.”

Even the smallest room of this house has its own look, with its Resene Rose Of Sharon orange door and poppy decals on one wall.

Striped bedroom decoration
Purple master bedroom
Stripes: Stripes painted in Resene Picton Blue, Resene Alabaster, Resene Clockwork Orange and Resene Cloud with Resene SpaceCote Low Sheen are teamed with quirky messages. Bedroom: All of the bedrooms, including the master, get a new look every few years. This feature wall is Resene Tarot.

The latest addition to the décor is a photomural, found on one of Lian’s favourite websites,, and available through Resene ColorShops. “This spring flower drawing is colourful and cheerful and exactly what I wanted. It offers colour, but not a whole wall of it.” The mural provides stunning detail in the entranceway where a chandelier of light bulbs inside a metal basket is the other attention grabber.

In fact, lighting is an art form in David and Lian’s home. A large ice cube light from Ikea sits on the kitchen benchtop, a bulb in the office is covered in entangled wire, and balloons suspended from a bedroom ceiling are also light features. “It makes sense to me to create atmosphere through lighting. We drive past some houses at night and I think ‘give me my shades’. How is that cosy?”

People say they love the house this couple has built and the home they have created since emigrating from The Netherlands five years ago. When Lian quizzes them over exactly what it is they love, it is the colour they comment upon – “people react to colour.” Living in a house without colour is quite simply untenable to Lian. “Yes, I could live with beige,” she says, “but only if I could paint over it.”

Did you know... that you can see more inspiring and colourful homes like this one on the Habitat of the Week website – And each week, we send out an email newsletter full of great decorating ideas and paint uses. Sign up now, and enjoy your weekly decorating fix while you wait for your next Habitat magazine.

Designer: Lian BruceIdeas, for Interior Design, Komar photomural,,available from Resene ColorShops.

Alternative solution – year-round appeal

simple, natural elements give lasting good looks

Resene colour expert Carolyn Atkinson suggests this alternative scheme:

The room has good light, good spatial aspect and simplicity with ideal ‘inside-outside living’. The new look gives the room year-round appeal with natural elements and neutral colours. The strongly patterned and colourful curtains frame the view outside and sit well against Resene Evolution which is dense, warm and atmospheric. Resene Quarter Pearl Lusta trims and ceiling echo the background colour of the curtain fabric, and lifts and brightens the room. The light shade with its voluptuous curves is an eye-catching focal point. A large multi-coloured rug defines the table area and adds warmth and comfort underfoot. It carries colour down to the floor area to soften the dark timber floor.

Alternative solution 1

The dining room chairs are a design classic in recycled plastic and are in a flexible neutral charcoal to coordinate with anything. They can also be used on the deck during parties or barbecues so are multi purpose and eco friendly. The table is the existing one.

The natural colours of Resene Evolution walls, and trims and ceilings in Resene Quarter Pearl Lusta, give this room year-round appeal.

For help with your colour queries, ask a Resene colour expert at

Accessories: Sea Flower light shade in white, from Joug Design. Drapes in Kaka Beak fabric by Ingrid Anderson, from Bolt of Cloth. Kina snack bowl, Kete, Pepa gourd, from Studio Ceramics. Emeco Navy 111 chairs, from Thonet New Zealand. Swing Stripes rug, from Signature Rugs.

Alternative solution – the eco cocoon

a place to share, free from distraction

Sustainability ambassador and interior designer Emine Mehmet suggests this alternative scheme:

Relaxed, warm and inviting, this is a place to come together to enjoy good food and good company. With increasingly busy and ever stimulated lives, it’s difficult to find time to relax, unwind and connect with family and friends. This dining room encourages you to slow down and notice who and what surrounds you. Resene Seeker is used as a feature colour to cool and calm the senses and ties in well with the hemp rug. Resene Sandspit Brown on walls and ceilings creates warmth and a sense of space.

Alternative solution 2

The dining table and chairs are made from sustainable timbers – comfortable and inviting with a connection to nature. The sideboard is unique in character and is made from recycled materials – a great talking point. Add wonderful hand-crafted, sustainable accessories and a matching pendant light to further encase the space.

Walls in soothing Resene Sandspit Brown, trims and ceilings in Resene Quarter Sandspit Brown and a feature wall in Resene Seeker... this is a place to unwind.

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Accessories: The London Chair in Light Grey Felt Upholstery with Oak Leg, from BoConcept. Luxaflex Luminette in Orignale Fabric, colour Honey Beige. Cadry’s handwoven Hemp Soumak Rugs in turquoise, from Hemp Gallery. Kozo Paper Art, from Sala Verde. Gen Y sideboard in white with retro Owl Doors, from Old School Industries.

words: Monique Balvert-O’Connor
pictures: Chris Parker
illustration: Malcolm White

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