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rural masterpiece

From habitat magazine - issue 39, feature home

An interior designer with a love of animals and a master’s in art curates a beautiful palette of Resene Whites & Neutrals to turn a rambling rural property into a sophisticated home.

Almost a decade ago, with a young family and a dream of living in the country, interior designer Danielle Francis drove up the beautiful tree-lined driveway of her soon-to-be home in Auckland’s Karaka.

A barn-style home exterior

The exterior of the barn-style addition to Danielle’s family home is in a beautiful soft palette, designed to sit in harmony with nature. Danielle chose the palette to reflect the colours of the Turkish travertine flooring in the entrance of her home. Exterior walls painted in Resene Ash with window trims in Resene Double Masala, frames in Resene Triple Friar Greystone and roof in Resene Ironsand.

At nearly nine hectares, the scale of the enchanting property – with its rolling pastures and park-like feel – was huge. Danielle knew that to realise her long-held vision of a beautiful home surrounded by children, horses and dogs, she would need to balance caring for her family with project-managing a large-scale renovation and rebuild.

As an interior designer, Danielle creates homes that are not just about beautiful aesthetics. She believes spaces must tell a story that reflect her clients’ lives and, importantly, meet their practical needs. The same ethos was at the heart of the designs for her own home.

When she took on the project in Karaka, she knew it would be a labour of love. The grounds captivated her, and she wanted a home to reflect their beauty and sit cohesively in the landscape. The first step was overhauling the rundown cottage, the property’s original living quarters.

Danielle and her daughters

Danielle with daughters Isabella and Allegra in their beautiful country kitchen.

Double strength Resene Mangrove is painted on the cabinets and joinery, with an Arabescato marble splashback and kitchen island from SCE. The island’s base and legs are also painted in double strength Resene Mangrove. Ceiling and trims are in Resene Rice Cake.

An outdoor shower sits against the cottage exterior

The outside shower sits against the exterior of the cottage, painted in Resene Lumbersider Low Sheen in Resene Double Rice Cake, with eaves and shutters in Resene Rice Cake.

The neutral tones used on the exterior wall create a great backdrop for the rich patina of the showerhead and faucet.

“The property had this quite lovely little cottage, but it was not substantive enough to suit the needs of our growing family. I wanted to create an extension that looked like it had always been there. Along with SGA architect Pat de Pont, I worked with local architect Bruce MacKenzie to design a barn to house a master wing, walk-in wardrobes, study, laundry and internal garaging. We needed to create a new entrance and a new driveway. I was drawn to those classic American barns in Virginia, and we used several features to recreate that aesthetic.”

Starting from the ground up, Danielle chose a Turkish travertine floor for the new extension and entrance. The flooring has a wonderful grey and deep licorice marbly grain, offering three shades to help her create the palette for the exterior paint colours. She selected beautiful, muted tones of Resene Ash for the barn’s exterior walls, with window trims in Resene Double Masala, frames in Resene Triple Friar Greystone and the roof in Resene Ironsand. The cottage exterior is painted in Resene Double Rice Cake with shutters in Resene Double Ash.

A cottage and American style barn

The cottage nestles into the garden with the American-style barn in the background. The barn and cottage roofs are painted in Resene Summit Roof in Resene Ironsand.

“The build had to be very practical, and I chose materials that could handle a plethora of muddy feet and children. My children come in soaked through after riding and washing horses or playing outside in the fields.”

When choosing paints for the home’s interior, Danielle embraced more of the beautiful colours in Resene’s Whites & Neutrals range, building her palette from a base of Resene Half Ash on the main bedroom’s walls, with trims and ceiling in Resene Rice Cake. She favoured Resene’s SpaceCote Low Sheen finish because it allowed the relaxed tones to be diffused beautifully while being easy to clean.

Soft neutrals were also chosen for the lounge and bedrooms, with Danielle building on the same palette to complement her furniture and paintings. Her use of crisp linens and natural fabrics in pared-back colours allows the family’s stunning artwork and sculptures to shine.

Danielle’s horses

Danielle’s horses are raring to go for a ride. Exterior walls painted in Resene Ash with trims in Resene Double Masala, frames in Resene Triple Friar Greystone and the roof in Resene Ironsand.

A spacious home entryway

Danielle plays with the family Labrador in the spacious entranceway. The entranceway is painted in Resene Half Ash with the practical finish of Resene SpaceCote Low Sheen allowing for the family, four legged members included, to enjoy the space confident in the knowledge the finish is easy to clean.

The large country kitchen is timeless and elegant. Danielle chose a rich double strength of Resene Mangrove on the cabinets and joinery, teamed with an Arabescato marble splashback and kitchen island from SCE with a base and legs in double strength Resene Mangrove. The crisp white ceiling is painted in the practical finish of Resene SpaceCote in Resene Rice Cake for easy wiping.

This stunning home – taking two and half years to complete, thanks to the pandemic – is now a wonderful retreat from the hustle and bustle of Danielle’s busy design business, Danielle Francis Ltd (Instagram @daniellefrancis_interiors).

But interior design isn’t Danielle’s only talent. Danielle has a background in art, studying contemporary art in Australia, followed by a master’s degree. She landed jobs with auction houses Sotheby’s and Christie’s and did a stint at London’s Serpentine Gallery. “It was a real education in art and style. It exposed me to the very sophisticated world of interiors and I met some incredible collectors and designers – in London, especially.”

A moody but muted kitchen

Moodier but muted tones of double strength Resene Mangrove on the island and cabinetry help anchor the large space. The vaulted ceiling is Resene Rice Cake.

An elegant neutral bathroom

Bathroom walls and cabinetry painted in Resene Half Ash with trims and doorframes in Resene Rice Cake.

top tip  Selecting colours from a beautiful artwork or travertine like this one offers a great opportunity to create a beautiful palette that works harmoniously throughout your home. Load a photo of the artwork or material into the Resene Colour Palette Generator and it will suggest a palette of Resene colours to try.

She loves extending her clients’ ideas and challenging their perceptions to create a cohesive aesthetic direction that properly reflects them. “Once we have agreed on an overall palette and the tone of the interior, I begin to work with specific colours on-site and start collecting interior pieces and curating or renovating existing furnishings. Ultimately, I am looking to merge their lifestyle and history into a deeply personal expression of themselves.”

Danielle is embracing the shift from minimalist monochromatic exteriors to more subtle earthy shades as her business grows. “These days, interiors are getting more nuanced. We’re seeing braver use of richly coloured stone and textural wallcoverings. So many of us work in sterile corporate environments. It’s wonderful when your home can offer a rich and warm contrast to relax in.”

Though Danielle now enjoys working with her clients to create their personal stories, she loved working on her own family home, with unlimited time allowing the process to evolve more intuitively. “It keeps changing, and it’s my place to experiment and develop my visual vernacular. The house is continually changing with us.”

Soft and inviting hallway to master bedroom

The hallway leading to the master bedroom is painted in Resene Rice Cake, wall lights offer a soft and inviting pathway to the master bedroom. Painted in Resene Ash with trims and window frames in Resene Rice Cake, the colours in this bedroom offer a subtle sanctuary of calm in the family’s busy home.

An elegant but practical space

Wooden battens and walls painted in Resene Ash add elegance even to this practical space.

Paint it right

Choose the right Resene colours and paints for the job.

Elevate your palette

The perfect shades to give your neutral palette a punch of colour can be right under your nose, Resene Colour Expert Angela Fell says. “You can find them in everything from a beautiful piece of artwork or character timber flooring to the bright red tractor you see through the kitchen window. Look to the red of pōhutukawa trees in summer or hay bales you can see in the distance from your bedroom and bring those colours inside to make a feature of your dining chairs, or revive an old vase, painted in high gloss Resene Enamacryl.”

Timber care

Deepen the colour of your floorboards with Resene Colorwood stain or mix Resene Colour Enhance with Resene Qristal ClearFloor 1K. A mid-range wood stain colour finish, such as Resene Colorwood Walnut, will help to hide marks better than a very light or very dark finish.

Exterior glow

Paint your architraves and window frames in Resene Enamacryl waterborne gloss enamel so they stand out from your exterior walls.


Resene Triple Friar Greystone

Design: Pat de Pont, SGA Architects, Bruce MacKenzie, MacKenzie Architecture
Images: Simon Devitt, Maegan McDowell
Garden images: Neve Woodward

Alternative solution – embrace sunset in style

refined exterior elegance

Designers Vic Bibby and Dael Brady suggest this alternative scheme:

Vic Bibby and Dael Brady
Vic Bibby and Dael Brady

We love the board and batten exterior of this home and decided to flip the colours to highlight the beautiful doors and windows creating a timeless look. Combining the soft neutrals with a light roof gives the home a slightly more contemporary feel. We’ve chosen Resene Triple Sea Fog for the walls and barge boards – a soft, misty grey, only slightly deeper than white. The windows, doors and shutters are Resene Alabaster for contrast, and the roof is Resene Titania. These colours create a soft neutral base for the rich shade of the tiles to take centre stage, with the bright bold blue cushions creating a pop of colour against the warmth of natural wood. Accents of brass and amber round off this elegant scheme.

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Vic Bibby and Dael Brady - alternative solution

Create an alfresco area for enjoying the beautiful surroundings with friends and family. Smart navy and white Moroccan tiles contrast the otherwise pared back colour scheme, and the linear elements of the house. The sofa, chair and coffee table ooze relaxed elegance with their tapered legs and sturdy teak frames. Comfy white cushions with custom-made throw pillows in outdoor velvet make this the ideal spot for afternoon drinks or early morning coffee. The small concrete side table from Coco Republic adds a touch of flair with its textural form and adds softness to the straight lines around it. Touches of warmth are added with the brass lighting and amber glassware.  Illustration: Malcolm White.

Before alternative design

Top tip  Refresh your old tiles or try your hand at painting a faux DIY tile effect. Simply clean and seal your concrete or tiles first. Topcoat with Resene Walk-on in your basecoat colour and then paint your pattern with your contrast colour. You can make your own stencil, buy one online or go freehand.

Carrie LED lamp, Paper Plane
Carrie LED lamp, Paper Plane
Broste Copenhagen tall tumblers, Smith & Caughey’s
Broste Copenhagen tall tumblers, Smith & Caughey’s
Moroccan cement tile, Thornton Studio
Moroccan cement tile, Thornton Studio
Sienna marble tray, Corso Interiors
Sienna marble tray, Corso Interiors
Reef sofa, Globewest
Reef sofa, Globewest

Alternative solution – soak under the stars

relax with restful tones

Resene Colour Expert Rebecca Long suggests this alternative scheme:

Rebecca Long
Rebecca Long

Brooding greens such as Resene Ravine can bring so much power to your exterior and are the perfect backdrop for a lush garden. The cloudy, smoked grey undertone of Resene Ravine pairs effortlessly with crisp Resene Double Black White and earthy Resene Gravel CoolColour. Selecting a new colour scheme for the exterior of your home is quite different to selecting a new colour scheme for the interior. Not only is it a larger area to paint but there are often multiple substrates and fixtures to think about. Repetition is key to keeping a scheme in balance and in this instance Resene Double Black White is applied to multiple substrates. Pergolas are a great way to frame and create an outdoor living space. Create ambience by hanging festoon lights, lighting candles and layering pots and planters. Whether your space features a hot tub, dining table or simply a cosy seat, painted pots and planters are very cost-effective and a great way to bring atmosphere to your outdoor living space.

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Rebecca Long - alternative solution

This beautiful hot tub is the perfect end of day spot to enjoy a relaxing soak under the stars. Lights festoon the pergola painted in the soft shade of Resene Double Black White. Wood warms this outdoor area with its toasty tonal quality, protected with Resene Furniture and Decking Oil. To enhance this nature themed scheme, paint your pot plants in calming colours, such as Resene Bokara Grey and Resene Kensington Grey. If you prefer a bolder palette, go for Resene Bright Spark or Resene Adrenalin to bring a pop of colour to the space.  Illustration: Malcolm White.

Before alternative design

Top tip  As an alternative to stone cover, you can add a low rise wooden deck or lay concrete pavers for an all-weather, no shoes needed surface. Finish decking in plant based Resene Woodsman Decking Oil Stain to enhance the timber colour and protect it from the weather. For pavers, stain in Resene Concrete Stain or use Resene Walk-on.

European Willow Clay Turkish cotton towel, Adairs
European Willow Clay Turkish cotton towel, Adairs
AVERI planter, Freedom Furniture
AVERI planter, Freedom Furniture
Hot tub, Cedar Hot Tubs
Hot tub, Cedar Hot Tubs
AVUTTO planter, Freedom Furniture
AVUTTO planter, Freedom Furniture

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