Total Colour Award winners

Theatre Royal

From the Resene Total Colour Awards gallery — Nelson

This project comprised the conservation of the historic Theatre Royal in Nelson to create a fully functional theatre of 21st century standards.

Theatre royal exterior

Palmer & Palmer Architects became involved with the theatre in 2001 producing a Conservation Plan to record the building's historic value. The theatre was built in 1878 and is New Zealand's oldest functioning theatre of timber construction.


The verandah had been lost in various past alterations, and was reinstated as an interpretation of the original based on historic photographs.

Looking at historic black and white photos it was apparent the Theatre had been elaborately painted enhancing the Victorian details. It was important to re-establish the building's position in the community by rethinking its current bland appearance.

Theatre royal exterior

The colour selection needed to give the building a presence on the street without being brazen. In essence the building needed to look beautiful. As a community building the use of glass at street level provides an inviting connection to the activities within. The exterior colours needed to enhance this connection. From the façade right through to the auditorium subtle connections have been made. An element of opulence is reflected with the use of the metallic gold painted details.

Theatre royal bannisters

In true Victorian style the façade was an elaborate attempt to hide the predominantly shed-like structure behind, the bulk of which was increased with the need for a substantially higher flytower to meet modern day functionality.

Appropriate sustainable Resene systems were chosen for use on recycled and refurbished materials including the historic upper level façade, and roof ventilators. Resene Sonyx 101 semi-gloss waterborne paint with Resene CoolColour technology was used for the timber cladding and detailing to reduce the stress of darker colours on the historic façade and improve longevity. The historic roof ventilation cupolas were finished in Resene Uracryl semi-gloss to achieve a high level of durability in an exposed location.


At the outset of the project we found the auditorium paintwork a tatty array of garish and loud colours – theatrical yes, but not befitting our vision for this grand old lady's future.

Theatre royal interior - after renovation
Theatre royal - chandelier

The careful conservation work within the auditorium revealed a wealth of information about previous colours used and these informed the final colour selection assembled to create a rich lustrous interior befitting the auditorium's heritage. The discovery of the original hand-painted decorative embossed ceiling paper – found covered by a painted canvas – of dirty white with pink, eggshell blue and gold detail provided a challenge. A small section of original frieze uncovered beneath a doorway architrave confirmed we were on the right track while allowing this to be replicated and reinstated to further embellish the space.

Theatre royal - interior

An element of opulence is lent from the use of the metallic gold painted details and deep velvet fabric curtains and upholstery. The broad areas of soft warm colours embrace the audience as the auditorium lights dim. Subtle use of contrasting Resene sheens recreate an original wall panel border stencil pattern found beneath layers of paper. Darker colours of the dado and flooring solidly ground the scheme with integrity.

Theatre royal - interior finishings
Theatre royal - interior finishings  2

The foyer colours mediate between the exterior and the auditorium with luxurious details on a fresh crisp background.

Theatre royal - interior finishings 3
Theatre royal - interior finishings 4
Theatre royal - interior finishings 5

Back of house utility areas are finished in Resene's PaintWise grey recycled waterborne paint, recovered from unwanted returned paint products.

Theatre royal - renovations
Theatre royal - renovations 2

Other appropriate sustainable Resene systems were chosen for use on recycled and refurbished materials, including the refurbished theatre seats, recycled timber benchtops, the re-laid rimu auditorium floor, the restored and reproduced decorative embossed ceiling paper, and the chandeliers recycled from previous light fittings.

Colours used: (exterior) Resene Anticipation, Resene Brunette, Resene Gold Dust, Resene Havana, Resene Kidman, Resene Quarter Lumberjack, Resene Warhol, (interior) Resene Aqua Squeeze, Resene Birthday Suit, Resene Breathless, Resene Buffalo, Resene Burgundy, Resene Cashmere, Resene Desperado, Resene Emperor, Resene Feta, Resene Gold, Resene Gold Dust, Resene Green Mist, Resene Miso, Resene Mule Fawn, Resene Peanut, Resene Quicksand, Resene Rebel, Resene Rialto, Resene Sienna, Resene Silk, Resene Soapstone, Resene Sonique, Resene Toast, Resene Van Cleef, Resene Ventura, Resene Vintage, Resene White.

Architectural specifier: Palmer & Palmer Architects Ltd
Building Contractor: Fitzgerald Construction Ltd
Painting Contractor (exterior): Brown & Syme Holdings Ltd
Painting Contractor (interior): PeterWood Decorating, Brown & Syme Holdings Ltd
Photography: Palmer & Palmer Architects Ltd, Kiki Nichols Photography
Project Manager: Delta Projects Ltd

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Resene Total Colour Awards gallery

The Resene Total Colour Awards celebrate and encourage creative use of colour. For colour and decorating inspiration, browse through the hundreds of projects submitted...

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View gallery:  2020 | 2019/18 | 2017 | 2016/15 | 2014/13 | 2012/11/10 |   Win:  Entry information

Resene Total Colour Awards 2011

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