Article Photo

12 paint and decorating trends to design with now

13 Sep 2021

The ripple effect created by recent challenges has been hugely disruptive for decorating and design trends, given the massive interruption to global supply chains and the cancellation of significant fashion and design events. However, this new reality has opened up more opportunities for creativity. Designers and decorators are taking matters into their own hands and creating clever and colourful solutions that are personalised to their client’s wants and needs rather than being dominated by fast fashion and quick trend turnover.

But even with this increase in uniquely tailored project solutions, there are distinct colours and emerging styles gaining traction. We’ve rounded up the top trending paint and decorating ideas to help inspire you and your clients, for everything from quick room refreshes to new builds.

Lighter than air

Recent events have reminded all of us of the need to take (or make) time to switch off and tune in to what’s really important: our own wellbeing and the health of those we care about. This turn towards self-care and wellness is materialising into a sweeping change of lifestyles and values, and a rethink of how we bring this into the design of our homes.

A renewed love of honesty in materials, which favours those that come from nature, have made linen, wood, cane, clay and stone incredibly desirable to decorate with for their longevity and inherent beauty – along with light, bright and breezy Resene paint, timber stain colour pairings and low sheen natural look clear finishes to suit. Simple, pared down silhouettes and Scandinavian influences like whitewashed timbers in Resene Colorwood Whitewash and minimalist furnishings that focus on quality and sustainability over quantity are hugely popular.

A timber headboard finished in Resene Colorwood Whitewash adds another layer of visual texture and variety to this airy tonal space. Wall in Resene Triple Pearl Lusta, floor and pendant lamp in Resene Eighth Pearl Lusta, artwork in Resene Half Black White, vases in Resene Triple Bison Hide and Resene Half Bison Hide, bowl in Resene Grey Olive and chair in Resene Brown Bramble. Linen from Foxtrot Home, cushion and pink vase from Città, throw, candleholder and mug from Blackbird Goods.

Wallpaper doesn’t need to cover your entire wall – it’s great for highlighting architectural features like inset panelling or between battens on walls, doors and ceilings. Main wall and trims in Resene Carefree with panels in Resene Wallpaper Collection FI71308, right wall and plant pot in Resene Half Popcorn and floor in Resene Alabaster. Table and chairs from Good Form, pendant lamps from Mood Store, tabletop items from Città and Father Rabbit.

Greens reign supreme

From fashion to interiors, there is no hotter hue right now than green. As recently as last year, it was lighter shades of sage that were the dominant variation, but there has been a sharp shift as greens have become less grey and instead have taken on far warmer and yellowed undertones. While paler celery greens, appetising avocadoes and lavish chartreuses are all relevant viridian varietals, it’s richly saturated and enticing olive greens that have come to the forefront of popularity. Distinctly comforting and cosy with strong roots in nature, it’s understandable why lush and leafy colours like Resene Olive Green, Resene Seaweed and Resene Woodland have become the most desirable for decorating as we try and seek solace in the midst of an increasingly complicated world.

No colour is more popular in home decorating today than greens – especially olive tones. Upper wall in Resene Stone Age, lower wall and battens in Resene Wilderness, floor in Resene Green White, side tables in Resene Alabaster with ‘marble effect’ in Resene FX Paint Effects medium coloured with Resene Rolling Stone, cacti pot in Resene Celeste and vases/accessories in Resene Beethoven, Resene Papier Mache, Resene Hampton, Resene Toffee, Resene Teak and Resene Twine.

Wall in Resene Pale Leaf, cabinet in Resene Dingley, shelf and hooks in Resene Brown Pod and vases in Resene Half Spanish White (shelf and sideboard right) and Resene Spanish White (sideboard left). Bag and candle from Blackbird Goods, throw from Città, card from Garden Objects.

The sky’s the limit

The world’s all-time favourite colour, blue, is always relevant. Evocative of the sea and sky, no hue is said to be more relaxing or restful. Blue stands for integrity, power, tranquillity and health, and is considered as beneficial to the mind and body. Plus, our natural light and relatively temperate climate make blue an appropriate and evergreen choice for any room. Whether on your walls, floor, ceiling, furniture or accessories, there’s simply nowhere blue won’t do. And given Resene’s wide-ranging and diverse options, it’s a hue that makes it easy for us to keep finding fresh and exciting alternatives to the shades of previous seasons.

Cool, greyed and classic coastal blues such as Resene Nepal, Resene Frozen, Resene Blue Moon and Resene Midnight Express remain popular picks for interior decorating. But just like many of today’s popular hues, there’s plenty of indication that warmer varieties are set to make a big splash.

Wall in Resene Nepal with Resene FX Paint Effects medium coloured with Resene Frozen, floor in Resene Blanc, coffee table in Resene Tuscany and console table in Resene Bokara Grey. Sofa from Wolf & Co, rug from Good Thing, cushions from Adairs, ceramics from Formantics, artwork by Maiko Nagao, candlesticks from Power Surge, lamp from Lighting Plus.

Wall in Resene Frozen, floor in Resene Alabaster, bench seat in Resene Quarter Frozen and hook rack and basket in Resene Blue Moon. Rug from Freedom.

The new neutrals 

After two decades of cool, flat greys and whites reigning as the preferred neutrals, there has been a shift towards warmer and more complex options. Character neutrals, which feature more depth in their subtle undertones, are all the rage. Stone greys, biscuit beiges, blush suedes, steeped whites, olive taupe, slate greys and complex pewters like Resene Cobblestone, Resene Anglaise, Resene Calico, Resene Tea, Resene Cargo, Resene Silver Chalice and Resene Blue Bark represent the new neutrals that are trending today. Immensely flexible thanks to their rich and intricate undertones, each of these hues make a solid base for those who like to regularly change up their accent décor. Simply layer them with warmer-toned accessories like Resene Fire and Resene Americano in the cooler months and crisper tones like Resene Quarter Frozen and Resene Zumthor when the mercury rises to regulate the ‘visual temperature’ of your home.


Back wall in Resene Zumthor with shelf wall in Resene Blue Bark and floor stained in Resene Colorwood Dark Ebony. Linen and robe from Penney & Bennett, artwork by Sofia Lind from Slow Store, bedside table from Danske Móbler, carafe set from Sunday Homestore, ottoman from Republic Home.

Timeless classics

There is a good reason classic designs are called timeless. These colours and shapes evade the normal waxing and waning of trends because they quite simply always look good, no matter what year or season it is. However, it doesn’t mean that classic designs don’t continue to evolve. Today, traditional colour palettes and motifs are being blended with more pared down, contemporary forms rather than overly fussy or shapely furnishings, resulting in a hybrid style. Perennially popular hues like dusty blues, greys and whites such as Resene Duck Egg Blue, Resene Forecast, Resene Regent Grey and Resene Sea Fog continue to endure in these settings, with carefully curated pops of hues like red, periwinkle or navy, like Resene Fahrenheit, Resene Ship Cove and Resene Blue Night, being used to add extra style points and interest.

Wall in Resene Half Alabaster, floor in Resene Rakaia, arch screen in Resene Half Alabaster with stripes in Resene Pattens Blue and side table in Resene Ship Cove. Resene Harmony Voile – Blonde curtain from the Resene Curtain Collection, chair from Wolf & Co, lamp from Lighting Plus, cushion from Adairs, vase from Bed Bath and Table.

Wall in Resene Forecast with lower panelling in Resene Sea Fog, floor in Resene Colorwood Mid Greywash, pendant lamp in Resene Alabaster, side table in Resene Half Black White, screen in Resene Regent Grey, cabinet in Resene Sea Fog with inset panels in Resene Blue Night, timber lamp base in Resene Colorwood Whitewash, vases in Resene Azure and Resene Sorrento and bowl in Resene Blue Moon. Sofa and cushions from Johnston Imports, rug from Bed Bath and Beyond.

Down to earth

The decade long obsession with motifs, colours, materials and silhouettes popular in the 80s has waned and made way for 1970s influences. This is playing out through both colours but also with textures through earthy, handmade artisanal elements like pottery, macrame and dried floral arrangements.

When it comes to colours, look to browns from suede to espresso like Resene Dusty Road and Resene Felix, rich adobe terracotta like Resene Sante Fe and Resene Tuscany, avocado greens like Resene Avocado and Resene Lichen and biscuit beiges like Resene Double Biscotti and Resene Half Akaroa to bring today’s tones to your walls, flooring and furniture.

The word terracotta is borrowed from Italian and translates to ‘baked earth’, so it doesn’t get much toastier or earthier than these clay-coloured hues. It’s the oxidisation of the iron rich soils used to create the porous pottery which shares the moniker that you can thank for the colour, which is undeniably warming when used in quantities both large and small. Tap into a Tuscan vibe with walls and ceilings in popular varieties like Resene Wild West, Resene Crail, Resene Korma or Resene Sante Fe paired with warm off-white flooring in Resene Blank Canvas. Or invert the palette with walls in Resene Eighth Pearl Lusta and painted ‘terracotta tile’ flooring in Resene Tuscany with painted ‘grout’ in Resene Raven.

Channel the warmth of the Mediterranean with a subtly mottled paint effect in earthy hues. Wall and large vase in Resene Wild West with Resene FX Paint Effects medium coloured with Resene Sante Fe, floor in Resene Blank Canvas, table and daybed base in Resene Korma, arch in Resene Wild West, plant pot in Resene Sand, pendant lamp in Resene Alabaster, artwork in Resene Nero. Rug, cushions and glass from Città, bag from Blackbird Goods.

Bring a touch of elegance to your warm paint colours by pairing them with brass or gold metallics, white marble finishes and rich fabrics like leather, velvet or raw silk. Wall and floor in Resene Half Scotch Mist, vases (from left) in Resene Half Scotch Mist, Resene Leather and Resene Lemon Twist. Table and daybed from Contempa. 

Brown comes back around

Not since the 1990s – and, before that, the 1970s – has brown been as big a deal as it is right now. Hues like Resene Leather, Resene Dusty Road, Resene Brown Sugar and Resene Brown Pod are skyrocketing in popularity, likely for their ability to simultaneously ground and warm the spaces that they’re used in – both highly desirable qualities to bring into a busy, contemporary home. But unlike the one-dimensional browns of the 90s, these variations are richer and more complex with spirited undertones that love to be layered with one another or blended with greys, beiges and taupe, such as Resene Mondo, Resene Half Akaroa and Resene Half Nomad.

Back wall in Resene Quarter Linen, right wall in Resene Leather, skirting board in Resene Coral and floor stained in Resene Colorwood Dark Ebony. Stool and white vases from Domo, artwork from Mood Store, dark vase from Republic Home. 

Timber touches 

Given the natural beauty inherent to wood grain, it’s no wonder that timber walls, ceilings, flooring and joinery are all trending. But even if you want to embrace a natural look, timber needs to be properly protected and maintained to keep it looking great for years to come. It’s important to protect your timber from harmful UV rays, inside and out, so it’s recommended to use Resene Woodsman stain outside and Resene Colorwood stain inside to help block out some of the sun’s harsh radiation. 

For the most natural look, choose a Resene wood stain colour that’s most similar to your wood’s natural colour. Or for a rich, more dramatic look, opt for a popular darker colour like Resene Colorwood Bark, Resene Pickled Bean, Resene Colorwood Iroko or Resene Pitch Black.

Back wall in Resene Triple Merino, timber wall (left) stained in Resene Colorwood Pickled Bean, grooved wall (right) in Resene Quarter Karaka, shelves in Resene Settlement, floor stained in Resene Colorwood Uluru and desk in Resene All Black. Artwork from endemicworld.

Paint effects

The resurgence of paint effects – and, in particular, limewashing – has, without question, become one of the hottest trends around.  Those wanting to imitate the look of Mediterranean or concrete walls and floors are in luck, because it’s a look that’s very simple to create.

Start by specifying a wall finish in two coats of Resene SpaceCote Low Sheen waterborne enamel (or Resene Walk-on flooring and paving paint for flooring) tinted to the chosen Resene basecoat colour.  Once dry, apply the Resene FX Paint Effects medium mixed with a Resene testpot in a similar colour that’s one or two values lighter or darker than your base colour. Application is easier than it looks – dip a rag into the mixture and apply it in a circular motion over the base colour with one hand and soften the look with a clean, dry rag using the other hand. To give it even more depth, repeat the process again with the same colour (or a third one). To pull it back, dip your rag in your base hue and apply it to any areas where the effect is too strong. If a more brushed style is preferred, apply the coloured Resene FX Paint Effects medium by brush using a random criss cross technique.

Wall in Resene Anglaise with Resene FX Paint Effects medium coloured with Resene Calico, ragged for a textural effect. Floor in Resene Calico with layers built up of Resene FX Paint Effects medium mixed with Resene Cobblestone and Resene Half Karaka. Textured painted pot in Resene Anglaise with Resene FX Paint Effects coloured with Resene Calico. Bench from Domo, scarf and bag from World, pendant lamp from Republic Home, basket vase from Città. 

Tonal murals

Whether they bring attention to an architectural feature, fill an odd wall or act in the place of artwork, in home murals are having a renaissance right now. With endless options for colours and shapes, imagination and creativity are the best guide for making the most of this trend.

Upper wall in Resene Quarter Thorndon Cream, lower wall in Resene Double Thorndon Cream, marble mural in Resene Cougar, Resene Half Cougar, Resene Craigieburn, Resene Half Craigieburn, Resene Quarter Craigieburn (top half) and Resene Terrain, Resene Evolution, Resene Cobblestone, Resene Quarter Karaka, Resene Half Karaka (bottom half), floor in Resene Colorwood Mid Greywash, pendant lamp in Resene Zeus and Resene Terrain, tables in Resene Cobblestone (left) and Resene Zeus (right), plant pots on floor in Resene Zeus (left) and Resene Rivergum (right), shelf in Resene Half Karaka and vases in Resene Cougar, Resene Evolution and Resene Thorndon Cream and book in Resene Rivergum. Sofa and ottoman from King, statement cushion and throws from Freedom.

Added dimension

Adding more texture to a space is a sure-fire way to up the interest in a room, and tongue-and-groove panelling and battens are highly fashionable ways to add literal dimension to your walls and ceilings. However, decorators are coming up with more creative methods to incorporate them, moving past more predictable grids or dado rails in favour of designs with a clever twist or a more freeform attitude. Try building reverse wainscotting that protrudes out instead of being set in or upcycling old picture frames to create a unique look.

Wall and panels in Resene Reservoir, floor in Resene Hint Of Grey and side table in Resene Peppermint. Pendant lamp from Good Form.

Tropical motifs

Fronds from palm to monstera continue to grace wallpaper and textiles and are a chic way to bring elements of the outside in. But more and more, we’re seeing these patterns appear in more unexpected colour combinations. Rather than typical emerald and ivy greens, it’s designs with pretty pastel pinks, blues and beiges that have been popping up on our radar. Try Resene Wallpaper Collection 218741 on a statement wall or use it to cover dresser drawers or a door for an airy look. Or try your hand at hand-painting some palms on to a headboard or coffee table using an array of Resene testpots to bring instant elegance to your bedroom or lounge.

Left wall in Resene Wallpaper Collection 218741, other walls in Resene Alabaster, floor in Resene Colorwood Rock Salt. Sofa and ottoman from Contempa, lamp from Good Form, cushion covers and side table from Città, rug from Mood Store, mirror from Made of Tomorrow.

Remember, when it comes to decorating, use the trends as inspiration but encourage your client to be true to what they love. There’s no point following a trend if it doesn’t resonate for them in their project.

For more on the latest colour and decorating trends, check out the new habitat plus – colour and decorating trends book, available to view free online.

styling Gem Adams, Kate Alexander, Amber Armitage, Megan Harrison-Turner, Laura Lynn Johnston, Annick Larkin, Vanessa Nouwens, Melle Van Sambeek

images Bryce Carleton, Mel Jenkins, Wendy Fenwick

Published: 13 Sep 2021