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Choosing paint colours for the interior of your home

Choosing a colour palette for your home can be a daunting prospect. Warm, cool, neutral or bold, it can be hard to know where to start. But Resene colour consultant Christine Hodges says choosing paint colours shouldn’t be overwhelming. Trust your likes and dislikes, and remember help is always available if you need it.

“Start simple,” she says. “First of all, ask yourself what colours you like. Do you go for bright and bold hues, or do you prefer a pared back look? Are you looking for a soft, peaceful feel to your space, or something with more drama and energy? What style makes you happy? It’s a very personal choice.”

Christine loves helping people select colour to transform their homes. At a time when building and consumer costs are high, paint is a highly cost-effective way to breathe creative new life into a space.

“Colour is wonderful because it does so many things. It makes us feel cheery, it can provide a focus, or it can be very calming. And the great thing is, there is no right or wrong when it comes to choosing paint colours. What’s the worst that can happen? You decide it’s not for you and paint it out with another option. Colour mistakes are pretty easy to fix.”

Christine suggests starting with the basics. Look at what you already have in the room: the upholstery of your furnishings, joinery, benchtops, the flooring, views to the outdoors, and your accessories, including artwork. Draw clues from your interior to help strengthen your colour palette.

Next, consider which direction your home faces. North-facing, light-filled spaces work best with cool colours. South-facing rooms respond well to warm hues and darker tones. Do you have a large feature window or a spectacular view to showcase? If so, ensure your colour choice draws the eye to this.

Resene ColorShops have many tools available to help you make your decisions, like Resene testpots and a colour library of A4 paint swatches to help minimise the chance of making a mistake before you buy, plus helpful in-store colour consultants who are available to help with decision making.

This guide will help you understand the basics of colour and how it will affect your interior, and give you some tips to choosing the right colour palette for your space.

Resene colour swatch charts can help you narrow down your options.
Use Resene testpots to get a better idea of what a colour will look like in your space. The colours being tested here is Resene Shakespeare.

The colour wheel

The best way to create colour harmony in your project is with a colour wheel, as it shows us how colours relate to each other and how they work together. The wheel was developed from the colour spectrum and helps DIYers, decorators and designers alike co-ordinate colour and develop different types of schemes.

Every decorative colour combination can be defined by where it sits on the wheel, a diagram that maps the colours of the rainbow. The wheel makes colour relationships easy to see by dividing the spectrum into 12 basic hues: three primary colours, three secondary colours, and six tertiary colours.

Terms to get familiar with: tone, tint and shade

Tone refers to the brightness or deepness of a colour. Mixing grey to the colour will affect its tone. Tint refers to a shade of colour. Adding white to a colour will change the tint. And shade refers to the lightness or darkness of a colour. The term is also used when referring to similar colours such as ‘shades of green’ or a ‘darker shade of blue’. Mixing black to a colour will alter the shade.

The temperature

Colours can also be divided into warm and cool. Blues and greens can introduce a cool mood into a room, with the level of coolness depending on the intensity of the colours. Cool colours may also be used to change the appearance of a room, pushing back walls and furnishings and making the room appear more spacious. They work well in a room with a sunny aspect, where the colours counteract some of the strength of the direct sun. They should be avoided in shaded rooms.

Warm colours, such as red, yellow and apricot, can have an opposite effect, closing in the walls of a room. If the room is large, its dimensions seem decreased, yet this can also provide definition. Warm colours look their best in a not-so-bright room with southern light, so that the bright effect of the sunny colours is not too overbearing.

Whites, off-whites and neutrals

Natural, fresh and classic, whites and neutrals are a timeless colour choice for every type of home. But with so many different shades to choose from, how do we know which is the right white for our space? The first thing to decide when choosing a white is if you want your space to feel warmer or cooler. Cool whites work best with contemporary interiors that have lots of windows, whereas warm whites are best for homes with smaller windows or limited light.

Resene Alabaster and Resene Black White are ever-popular cool whites for light, bright, modern homes. Resene Rice Cake and Resene Merino are warmer whites with yellow undertones, adding a brightness to darker spaces.

How to choose your colour palette

Think about the feel you want for your home. If you love that coastal, holiday vibe, consider a light, airy scheme with crisp, cool neutrals and a splash of blue. Prefer an earthy, natural feel? Combine shades of green with warm neutrals. Add pops of yellow or orange as a nod to the sunshine peeking through.

When planning colours for whole house cohesion, a good guide is to stick to either three or five colours (odd numbers work better than even). That could mean black, white and one other colour, or it could be layers of tonal variations.

Christine says people are less interested in following exact trends than before. Instead pick and choose the trends that suit you and be brave with your choices. Organic shades, like mossy greens and terracotta colours, are a popular colour choice, says Christine. “It’s all about bringing a sense of nature into our lives and inviting the outside in. The line between outside and inside is more blurred than ever before, and paint colours are reflecting this.”

Colour palettes we’re loving:

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