5 common colour decorating dilemmas (and how to avoid them)

13 Jun 2019

A lot can go wrong when trying to pick the right colours for your home, even with the best of intentions, but some predicaments pop up more than others.

Here are five of the most common colour issues that leave homeowners scratching their heads – and what to do about them.

Dilemma #1: The fear of getting started

Perhaps you feel like you have too many ideas and are paralysed by choice, or maybe you aren’t sure which ones are going to yield the right results. Decorating should feel fun, not frightening, but if you’re feeling stuck as to where to start, you could end up living with something less than desirable for a lot longer than you’d like.

Solution: Hiring a professional, such as a Resene Colour Consultant or interior designer is a great way to get started. If you don’t have the budget to have someone work with you the whole way through your project, participating in an initial consultation might be all you need to get your ideas together and forge a path forward.  You can book a free appointment with a Resene Colour Expert in many Resene ColorShops to help get you started.

Do you have a home full of wonderful Resene paint and colour? Send us some snaps by emailing [email protected].

moodboard, interior inspiration, colour combinations, colour ideas, art deco moodboard

Creating a mood board, either yourself or with the help of a design professional, can help you build a plan and give you a resource to learn back on if you start feeling lost. This mood board sets the motifs and colours for a cosy, art deco style lounge. The background is in Resene Ethereal and the A4 size drawdown paint swatches (from top to bottom) are in Resene Eighth Stonewashed, Resene Alabaster, Resene Napa, Resene Double Pravda, Resene Jalapeno, Resene Dynamite and Resene Noir.

Dilemma #2: The design doesn’t feel cohesive

Does the room feel unfinished or like it has a mish-mash of items that don't really go together? This feeling of disjointedness can often stem from a stop-start approach to decorating, when a space comes together over a long period of time or because you tend to make impulse buys rather than creating a focused plan from the get-go.

Solution: Implementing ‘the rule of three’ is something you can always rely on to bring a sense of interconnectedness and create visual rhythm. Bring in at least three objects that are the same colour and place them in three different areas within your space. When in doubt, start with a favourite cushion, throw or rug and pick up a Resene testpot or two in a colour that matches. Then, use it to paint a vase or plant pot, try your hand at making your own artwork using an easy DIY, liven up a lampshade, highlight the front edges of your bookshelves, or brighten up a boring picture frame.

living room, orange living room, resene sunbaked, white and orange, terracotta interior

Picking a statement colour and using it in at least three places within the room can help to create a cohesive space. In this dining room, Resene Sunbaked was used on the peacock chair, the peg stool at the far left and the large planter on the right – tying the whole look together. The wall is painted Resene Half Spanish White, the floors have been kept simple and understated in Resene Colorwood Whitewash, and the other two peg stools are painted Resene Shabby Chic (at right) and Resene Despacito.

Dilemma #3: The space feels ‘too samey’

Some homeowners assume that, even if they choose the most neutral of neutral paint colours, they should use it on every surface imaginable – walls, trims, ceiling floor. While choosing the same colour everywhere can create a sense of consistency, too much of a good thing can end up being a bad thing.

Solution: Incorporating some different visual textures into the space is a sure-fire way to break things up. An effective scheme can be created by using a full strength of a colour on the walls, triple strength on an accent wall, half strength on the trims and quarter strength on the ceiling, such as Resene Black White for walls, Resene Triple Black White for a feature, Resene Half Black White on trims and Resene Quarter Black White on the ceiling.  See the Resene Whites & Neutrals collections which has many variations of the most popular colours to make it easy for you to choose.

Mixing in some different woven textures, like curtains, rugs and throws, is another great strategy, but also consider opting for different finishes or sheens within your space. For example, you could paint a couple of floating shelves and a coffee table in your lounge in a gloss finish so that it reflects more light. Or, you could try building up some visual texture on the surface of a wall using Resene Sandtex to create a Mediterranean-style finish.

pink lounge, pink living room, pink interior, pink feature wall, living room, resene just dance

This lounge uses both repeating colours (pinks, whites, greens) and shapes (cactuses and curves) to feel cohesive without overdoing it with any one element. The back wall is painted Resene Just Dance, the side wall is in Resene Sorbet, the ottoman is in Resene Sunbaked, the pendant light is in Resene Despacito, and the distressed floor was created by painted Resene Poured Milk over a basecoat of Resene Rebel.

Dilemma #4: The room doesn’t feel right

The way a room looks has a lot to do with the way a room feels, and liking a colour doesn’t mean you’ll like the way you feel when you’re surrounded by it.

Solution: Magic happens when you combine colours you love the look of with a mood in mind – whether that’s to energise you or calm you down. Greens and blues can be great for spaces you’d like to relax in whereas reds and oranges are better in areas full of activity, like rooms where you eat or entertain.

The best solution of all is to try before you buy. Make a shortlist of swatches you really love the look of and then pick up a Resene testpot of each of your top contenders. Paint an A2 size card in two coats using the entire contents of the testpot, leaving an unpainted border around the outside, and move the sample around the room you’d like to use it in at different times of the day and evening. Certain colours can look wildly different under different lighting, and this approach will help you to eliminate ones that won’t look good ‘in situ’ right off the bat. Then, concentrate on how the colours make you feel and go with your gut.

green lounge, green living room, green feature wall, green and pink interior, resene waiouru

An earthy green can help make a lounge feel more restful than a more energising hue, like red. These walls are painted Resene Waiouru, the floor is in Resene Bubble N Squeak, the drawers are in Resene Napa, the top of the side table is painted Resene Meditation and the vases (from left to right) are painted Resene Unwind, Resene Smoothie and Resene Green Meets Blue.

Dilemma #5: You’re haunted by the re-sale boogieman

Have you decorated your home in an all-white scheme from top to bottom simply because you’re afraid that you may want to sell it at some indeterminate stage in the future? You could be the victim of the ‘re-sale boogieman’ attempting to scare you into an overdeveloped sense of safety. While it’s an extremely common decision for homeowners to paint to appeal to a wide range of people, this approach often leads to a space that’s devoid of personality or even downright boring.

Solution: What can actually help your home sell is to help it to stand out in a market drowning in a sea of white walls. One of the beautiful things about paint is how easy and affordable it is to change. Since you likely don’t have a crystal ball, why not enjoy where you’re living now by livening things up with some paint colours that you truly love instead of focusing on what someone else may or may not want to live with later on?

If you’re positive that you will be moving in a couple years, one solution is to treat your home as a ‘blank canvas’ to which you can add removeable and changeable layers of decoration. Look for opportunities to upcycle with paint and make-over items you already own. A piece of second-hand furniture in a pleasing style or shape could end up becoming your new favourite element in a room with a fresh lick of paint that really pops.

blue lounge, blue living room, resene duck egg blue, blue feature wall, light blue interior

Year after year, Resene Half Duck Egg Blue is consistently one of the most popular paint colours out there – and for good reason. A ‘triple threat’, the colour is more interesting than a typical neutral, palatable to be liked by most, and flexible enough to pair well with a wide range of colours. Here, it’s shown with soft furnishings in a range of dusty berry tones along with Resene Rocky Mountain on the bookshelf, Resene Dreamtime on the woven rattan side table and Resene Sixth Sense on the trivet.

Styling Kate Alexander, Annick Larkin, Claudia Kozub
Images Bryce Carleton, Wendy Fenwick

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Resene Alabaster

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Resene Black White

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Resene Bubble N Squeak

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Resene Despacito

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Resene Double Pravda

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Resene Dreamtime

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Resene Green Meets Blue

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Resene Half Duck Egg Blue

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Resene Half Spanish White

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Resene Just Dance

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Resene Poured Milk

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Resene Shabby Chic

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the look

If you're stuck on what
colour to use or need colour
advice, try out the Resene
Ask a Colour Expert service.

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Resene Alabaster

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Resene Black White

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Resene Bubble N Squeak

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Resene Despacito

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Resene Double Pravda

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Resene Dreamtime

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Resene Green Meets Blue

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Resene Half Duck Egg Blue

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Resene Half Spanish White

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Resene Just Dance

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Resene Poured Milk

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Resene Shabby Chic

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the look

If you're stuck on what
colour to use or need colour
advice, try out the Resene
Ask a Colour Expert service.