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Habitat plus - using accents

Very few of us want to live in all-white interiors. It would be a little boring, and imagine the stress levels every time the dog or kids came near.

You might love your white walls and kitchen cabinetry, and have a delicious white leather sofa, but by adding other accent colours, you can turn boring into awesome.

What feeling or flavour are you trying to achieve. Is it casual or more formal? Elegant or beachy? Bright and breezy or restrained and architectural?

Develop a decorating ‘mantra’ of about five words that fits what you’re trying to achieve and recite it to yourself every time you’re choosing a colour, or product for your home.

Are you working around existing furniture and furnishings – do you need to take the colour of these into account? Chances are your room will include timber of some type, on the floor or in the furniture, which becomes an accent colour to factor in.

Lounge accents Resene Alabaster and Resene Colorwood Pitch Black walls with Resene Delta and Resene Half Delta tables. Styled by Claudia Kozub.

When it comes to accents, you’ll often find you gravitate towards a particular colour. Have a look around at the objects and accessories you have already collected and you’ll see it’s true – do they have a common colour or style theme?

You might love yellow, pink or purple – but they’re probably not the type of colour you would paint every wall. They can, however, be modified and used as accent colours in your interiors. Paint a plant pot dusky ochre, add an icy pink cushion, or buy a rug in muted mushroom lavender tones.

Keep it simple

Just as you would a tonal colour scheme, sticking to one or two families of colour for your accents is wise. Otherwise, your house may end up looking a bit hodgepodge. The exception is for children’s rooms where you might go all out with a colour that you wouldn’t have in your living room.

So, if ochres and browns are your thing, let a range of these colours ripple through the house. Try to keep them in the same style of colour, i.e. all rich terracottas and golds, or all pebble-brown and soft suede colours.

Likewise, you might use blue-grey accents that range in strength from duck egg blue curtains in the living room to a dusky midnight blue feature wall in the bedroom, and sea-foam blue walls in a study nook.

Introduce your colour at the front door, then let it flow through the house. You might have only subtle touches in one room (a more formal lounge or master bedroom), then more of it in other rooms (the family room).

Use the same principles for any pattern you are using. You might have a tropical wallpaper as a feature wall in one room, and botanical motifs on your cushions in another.

The best part about using coloured accents is that you can easily ring the changes, and in small ways. It doesn’t take much to repaint that ink-blue wall into a tranquil watery blue. It will give the room a new look but still fit with your other sea-inspired accessories.

Or you can move objects and cushions from one room to another, knowing that the over-riding scheme will allow them to look good.

Perfect partners for white

If you want to go one step further than an all-white interior, there are some classic colour partners to white.

  • Black: A black and white scheme is a classic one and can form the basis for completely different interior styles. Add geometric patterns, some bold accent colours, and glossy accessories for a glam Art Deco look. Choose downy cream sofas, rich oak floors, vanilla-coloured walls and black accents for a sophisticated upmarket look. Or go for pale timber, house plants, bone-white walls, and deepest black (try Resene All Black) for a Scandi sensibility.

  • Grey: Greys of any depth have become popular alternatives to the black and white look. Pale silvery grey (for example, Resene Concrete) and mid French grey (try Resene Half Stack) both look great with crisp cool whites, while charcoals (for example, Resene Steel Grey) are best softened with slightly warmer whites.

How to use white with other colours
Left: Resene Half Duck Egg Blue walls with Resene Passport shelf. Styled by Claudia Kozub. Center: Resene Albescent White walls over Resene Anaglypta 2011 (RD3360) wallpaper with Resene Desperado console and Resene Entourage and Resene Rumour Has it stools and bowl. Right: Resene Armadillo feature ceiling designed by Nobbs and Radford Architects.

  • Rich browns and timber: With terracotta, ochre and deep bronze on the popularity rise, warm rich white walls (try Resene Quarter Spanish White) are the perfect backdrop for such tones. Introduce some organic pieces and textural elements, and this is a scheme that will warm your soul.

  • Pale blues: White and blue has been the basis of many sea-inspired or country schemes, which of course suits the local situation well. Think whitewashed furniture (use Resene Colorwood Whitewash), pale timber floors, icy or duck egg blue walls (for example Resene Quarter Frozen or Resene Duck Egg Blue), and crisp white trims and ceilings (go for Resene Alabaster).

  • Botanic greens: Green-based whites are a wonderful foil for a land full of bush, pasture and gardens. And with plants being re-embraced as an indoor accessory, an interior based on white with punches of painted or ‘living’ green will create a calming, refreshing space. Some of the lovely verdant greens from the Resene collections include Resene Crusoe, Resene Groovy and Resene Parsley. If you are after a more subtle look, check out the more swampy or khaki greens.

Contrasting colours with white
Left: Resene Black White walls with Resene Frozen feature headboard shelf, styled by Claudia Kozub. Right: Resene Quarter Thorndon Cream walls, designed by Susie Cropper.

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