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colour for cosy spaces

From Habitat magazine - issue 29

Designing a small bathroom is a common challenge. Colour can be your best friend.

Small bathrooms can be a tricky design hurdle but not an uncommon or unsurmountable one, whether you’re in an old character home or a modern apartment. Colour could be the key.

Resene Remember Me

Resene Mystery

Resene Aura

Resene colour expert Carolyn Atkinson says paler tints in shades of blue, aqua or some greens can work well to give the illusion of space. “These are colours that visually recede away from you so they can make spaces appear larger.” Try Resene Remember Me, Resene Mystery and Resene Aura from the new Resene The Range fashion colours fandeck.

She also recommends using a large mirror over your vanity. “It will reflect more light around the room as well as creating the illusion of more space.”

tiled shower and bathroom.
Stylist Emily Somerville-Ryan chose a wall of horizontal planks painted in Resene Indian Ink for a new bathroom in her renovated bungalow. It anchors the room, marries with the bold floor tiles and modernises a classic look.

Windows do much the same job, and should be carefully factored into any bathroom make-over. When designer Laura Lochhead of Pocketspace Interiors ( was asked to transform this now stunning yellow and white bathroom in a client’s old villa, she started with the window. “Light was an issue so we actually removed the existing window and inserted a horizontal window that framed the line of the bath nicely,” Laura says.

This bathroom is also an example of how to use well-planned but bold colours even in small spaces. The striking Resene Turbo yellow on the custom designed vanity, and its clever lower shelf, came about through the client’s love of bright colours. “We kept Resene Turbo refined to the custom vanity and left the custom mirror with a white surround to blend into Resene Black White on the doors and wall. This gave the spotlight to the vanity, highlighting its highgloss finish.”

A yellow and white bathroom Resene Turbo brightens a small white bathroom designed by Laura Lochhead of Pocketspace Interiors.

Laura adds that the floating vanity also breaks up the visual line and adds the impression of extra space.

Designer Kelly Read used strong colours in quite a different way for her bathroom, painted in Resene Olive Green, with complementing charcoal grey fittings and tiles. The challenges of this space didn’t end with the size; it has two entry points and is also a laundry.

Kelly wanted the bathroom to feel completely different to the rest of the house, painted almost entirely in Resene Wan White. Yet she still wanted to make an asset out of its connections to other rooms, emphasising the overlaps and using them to make all the spaces appear larger as a whole. “It was really just about creating a deep recessive space within a much larger volume. Resene Olive Green accompanied with the dark tiles and lowered ceiling is in complete contrast to the light open nature of the living spaces. Both the hallway and bedroom borrow spatial volume from the basin area, and vice versa. We pushed this overlapping notion further by designing the open basin area to have the look of a dresser or hallway table.”

Designer Kelly Read chose moody Resene Olive Green, disappearing walls and a lowered ceiling to differentiate the bathroom space in her new home.

Small bathroom tips

Laura Lochhead:

  • Tile choice is key. Bigger tiles make spaces appear bigger. Tile orientation can also make a space appear taller or longer.
  • Painting gives you the most vivid colour application. For example in this Resene Turbo bathroom a melamine would have looked dull. The high-gloss finish helps bounce light around the space.
  • Over-spec storage space in the design. You can always reduce it later.

Kelly Read:

  • Consider spatial layering rather than designing rooms in isolation.
  • Ensure you have space where you need it, such as around the basin rather than the toilet.

Carolyn Atkinson:

  • Use light to mid-toned colour on the floor to open up the space and make it seem larger.
  • Think about the ceiling - the ‘fifth wall’ is another place to use bold colours instead of the typical white. It’s a good way to avoid the ‘refrigerator’ look with all-white surfaces.

Remember Me

Resene Mystery

Resene Aura

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