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Black is back: Which Resene paint colours to choose, where to use them and how to play to their strengths

10 May 2024

In design, many tend to divide colours into two camps: those considered to be classics and those thought of as trends. But there are plenty of times when a colour fits into both categories.

Most colours – no matter how timeless they might seem – follow a trend cycle, where a hue will emerge, disappear and reemerge over the course of months, years and decades. Colours that are considered easier to live with, flexible to design with or generally liked by most people tend to return to vogue more often than more polarising hues. The popularity of colour trends also has a way of waxing and waning depending on our exposure to each trend. When we see the market become oversaturated with a certain colour – or the way that colour is used – you can be all but sure that it will soon be on its way out. When we tire of seeing the same thing over and over, humans tend to be drawn to radical changes. That’s why we often see warmer neutrals ushered in after a time when cooler neutrals were championed and why a period of pastels or gentle earthy tones is often followed by a preference for bolder brights.

After a time when most people were partial to white and light walls, furniture, flooring, décor and accents, black is making a not-so-stealthy return to steal the spotlight – recapturing the attention of professionals and enthusiasts alike. Though it’s long been considered a versatile and timeless choice for both contemporary and traditional spaces, it hasn’t held the same prevalence it once did. Given the renewed interest in this deep dark hue, we share some helpful hints for how to make the most of it in your upcoming projects and which Resene blacks to choose to create the most relevant looks.

Left: Layering multiple mid-range blue, green and grey tones like Resene Ziggurat, Resene Celeste and Resene Mountain Mist can help soften the gap in contrast between black and white furnishings and décor in Resene Nocturnal and Resene Alabaster while white marble with black veining is an ideal accent material to tie the whole look together. Panelled wall painted in Resene Ziggurat, floor in Resene Mountain Mist, sideboard and plant pot in Resene Alabaster, artwork in Resene Celeste, Resene Nocturnal, Resene Rolling Stone, Resene Blue Bayoux and Resene Alabaster with frame in Resene Half Duck Egg Blue, bowl in Resene Nebula, ball ornament in Resene Half Duck EggBlue and coaster in Resene Rolling Stone. Armchair, coffee table, side table, rug and select cushions from Nood.

Right: Background painted in Resene Mountain Mist with A4 drawdown paint swatches in (from top to bottom) Resene Alabaster, Resene Nero, Resene Rolling Stone, Resene Wilderness, Resene Celeste and Resene Ziggurat, round vase in Resene Wilderness, oval tray in Resene Celeste, coaster in Resene Rolling Stone, triangular dish in Resene Alabaster, small ribbed vase in Resene Quarter Duck Egg Blue and large ribbed vase in Resene Half Duck Egg Blue.

The best places to use black

Black holds a unique allure, evoking a sense of sophistication, elegance and depth. As a wall, ceiling and floor colour, black’s ability to create drama and contrast while serving as a backdrop for other elements makes it a favourite among designers seeking to make a bold statement. Black also possesses the remarkable quality of being both classic and contemporary, adapting seamlessly to a variety of design styles.

As people look to seek refuge from the chaos of the outside world, the enveloping nature of black paint colours used in spaces from tip to toe offer a sense of comfort and security. Advances in lighting technology have also made it easier to incorporate larger swathes of black in spaces like bedrooms, bathrooms, media rooms, theatres, restaurants, bars and commercial retail without fear of creating a gloomy atmosphere. In these spaces, opting for a matte or low sheen finish can give your painted surfaces a sumptuous, velvety look in combination with diffused ambient and accent lighting.

While black hasn’t been an especially popular choice for furniture and flooring in recent years, black furniture and décor has been making a strong comeback as of late. Whether it’s an expansive dining table in a high gloss black finish or matte black shelving, black has returned as a chic choice for making a bold impact when used in contrast to subtler hues on other major surfaces. Black wood stains are a dramatic option for flooring and are often easier to keep looking their clean when compared with painted black floors. Dark and inky Resene Colorwood stains like Resene Pitch Black and Resene Charred Black allow the wood’s natural grain to show through, which can help distract from the appearance of dirt, dust and debris between cleanings.

Black is also extremely useful for ‘hiding’ elements of your project that you want to disappear from view, since it absorbs more light than other colours – making black-painted surfaces appear less prominent. On commercial building renovations, for example, this illusion can be handy for masking the appearance of unsightly mechanical ducting and cable trays by painting them the same Resene black as your ceiling or use Resene Set Black for a very flat matte finish. 

On exteriors, black has long been a popular alternative for painting cladding, trims, soffits, fascia and roofing for a clean, contemporary, uniform colour palette. Just be sure that, when specifying black or dark paint and wood stain colours outdoors, you ask for your chosen Resene hue to be tinted into a Resene CoolColour formula. A Resene CoolColour looks like a normal Resene colour but offers several advantages to your coating and substrate thanks to its special pigment technology.

Wall painted in Resene Blackest Black, floor and plant pot in Resene Stepping Stone, console in Resene Nero and vase in Resene Element. Sofa and side table from Matisse, rug from Baya, television from Samsung.

Which Resene blacks to use now

With the reemergence of black as a major colour trend, one of the biggest changes to note is the types of blacks that are currently considered on trend. At first glance, one might assume that one black will look as trend-worthy as the next. While true blacks like Resene Black, Resene All Black and Resene Nero continue to be timeless options, a major differentiator is that today’s preferred trending blacks are actually softer and often have subtle undertones. While not as dark as true blacks and not as light as charcoal grey, soft blacks like Resene Black Sand, Resene Night Magic and Resene Invincible are increasingly being used to reduce the level of contrast between one surface and the next. These muted options help make the black painted elements in your design less bold, resulting in a softened look overall.

When it comes to incorporating Resene blacks into your interior and exterior designs, choosing the right colour combinations is crucial. Here are some suggestions for pairings that can be used to create harmonious and stunning spaces.

Black + Cream

A timeless combination like no other, using black and white together offers a classic and sophisticated look. For example, pairing black walls or furniture with white accents creates a striking contrast that highlights architectural details and adds visual interest. On exteriors, a black and white colour scheme lends a sense of elegance and timelessness, perfect for modern homes, older villas and mid-century brick exteriors.

But when looking to use today’s popular soft blacks like Resene Foundry or Resene Zeus, it’s ideal to look to a softer, creamier white such as Resene Tea or Resene Parchment to use as its companion. Blending in other neutrals such as grey, beige or taupe can be useful for building up a sophisticated and understated ‘quiet luxury’ look while finishing the look with a touch of truer black and a truer white such as Resene Black and Resene Half Rice Cake – layered on top through smaller accents – will increase the depth within the space.


Left:Background painted in Resene Parchment with shapes in Resene Foundry, A4 drawdown paint swatches in (from top) Resene Half Parchment White and Resene Triple Parchment, 3D artwork and arch vase in Resene Triple Parchment, ball decoration in Resene Black and arch plate in Resene Half Rice Cake.

Right:Background finished in Resene Colorwood Shade, platter, tealight holder and ball decoration painted in Resene Tea, with A4 drawdown paint swatches in (from left to right) Resene Tea, Resene Bedrock metallic, Resene Half Tea, Resene Triple Rice Cake, Resene Zeus and Resene Catch 22 metallic.

Black + Metallics

In this chic interior living space, icy blue, chalky white and sunbaked terracotta form the base of the colour scheme in Resene Nepal, Resene Frozen, Resene Blanc and Resene Tuscany – but it’s the furniture in Resene Half Bokara Grey, a deep cinder black, and the metallic accents that bring the room its enigmatic depth and opulence. Gold details painted in Resene Gold Dust metallic paint, such as candlesticks and other small décor, is a surefire way to add warmth and glamour to any space that features black – no matter how much or how little is used. Externally, silver detailing in Resene Proton added to hardware and light fixtures can elevate the overall aesthetic of a black façade, creating a sense of grandeur and sophistication.


Walls painted in Resene Nepal with Resene FX Paint Effects Medium mixed with Resene Frozen applied on top, floor in Resene Blanc, coffee table in Resene Tuscany, console table in Resene Half Bokara Grey and ball ornament in Resene Wax Flower. Sofa from Wolf & Co, rug from Good Thing, ceramics from Formantics, artwork by Maiko Nagao, brass candlesticks from Power Surge.

Black + Timber tones

Balancing black with natural wood tones is one of the easiest ways to create a warm and inviting ambiance. In a media room, incorporating wood flooring, furniture or accents finished in Resene Colorwood Whitewash softens the starkness of a space with black walls in Resene Blackest Black, adding notes of levity to lift the space without taking away from the cocooning effect. Depending on your architectural lines and forms, a soft black exterior in Resene Shark paired with stained timber soffits and decking in Resene Woodsman Bark can create a contemporary or rustic look that blends seamlessly with natural surroundings.

Wall and battens stained in Resene Woodsman Bark layered with Resene Woodsman Charred Black, patio floor painted in Resene Gunsmoke with Resene FX Paint Effects Medium mixed with Resene Triple Concrete and Resene Quarter Concrete applied on top, bench in Resene Woodsman Bark, chair in Resene Shark, mat in Resene Gunsmoke with a border in Resene Bokara Grey, large plant pot in Resene Bokara Grey, small plant pot in Resene FX Faux Rust Effect and tray in Resene Off The Grid.

Black + Bold tones

For those who prefer a more daring approach, pairing a soft black like Resene Ebony Clay with bold, saturated colours is the recipe for a vibrant and energetic space. When it comes to choosing a bold tone that works well with black, you will be spoilt for choice – but remember that even just a little bit of eye-catching colour goes a long way. Indoors, incorporating select accents in parsley green, sapphire blue or ruby red like Resene Dell, Resene Ocean Waves or Resene Very Berry against a black backdrop adds an instant pop of drama and personality. Externally, bold colours like Resene Clockwork Orange can be used sparingly on doors, shutters or trim to create focal points and enhance kerb appeal.

If the contrast between your black and bold hues feels too sharp, bridge the gap by layering in desaturated tones of your bright colour and soft neutrals like white, grey and beige.


Left: Cladding stained in Resene Woodsman Pitch Black with painted accents in Resene Vesuvius and Resene All Black.

Right: Background painted in Resene Ebony Clay with A4 drawdown paint swatches in (from top)

Resene Blank Canvas, Resene Putty, Resene Clockwork Orange, Resene Eighth Truffle, Resene Truffle and Resene Triple Truffle and bowl and hook in Resene Eighth Truffle.

The renewed interest in black walls, furniture and décor is a testament to the hue’s enduring appeal and versatility in interior and exterior design. Whether used to create drama, add sophistication or evoke a sense of comfort, black has proven to be a powerful tool in the designer's arsenal. By carefully selecting complementary Resene colour combinations, you can harness the timeless allure of black with the timeliness of current trends to create stunning and memorable spaces that stand the test of time. For more beautiful Resene black paint colours to try in your projects, check out the Resene The Range whites & neutrals collection and the Resene The Range fashion colours collection. On the back of each swatch and in the free online Resene colour library, you’ll find three great suggestions for other paint colours that will pair perfectly.

projects Kate Alexander, Amber Armitage, Barry Connor, Laura Lynn Johnston, Vanessa Nouwens, Melle Van Sambeek

images Bryce Carleton, Wendy Fenwick, Denis Radermacher

Published: 10 May 2024