Sonia and Yasmine chase away the shadows

04 Apr 2016

When two designers collaborated on a project south of Sydney, they turned a gloomy, shadowy home into a sophisticated retreat with a striking palette of Resene neutral colours. And they proved that an all-white interior isn’t necessarily light and bright.

The house had been renovated and extended some years before, however, the interiors felt gloomy and uninviting. The bright natural light available at each end of the house didn’t penetrate the depths of the house and the clients’ existing strategy of painting everything white had only accentuated the grey shadows.

Existing cool-toned Carrara marble floors throughout the house meant that 'warming up' the white walls was not an option. Introducing bold colour was also not on the agenda for the self-confessed colour-phobic clients.

Colour consultant Sonia van de Haar of Lymesmith devised a dramatic but neutral palette of charcoal, white and grey to complement the existing marble floors, new joinery, artwork and furniture selections by Yasmine Ghoniem of Amber Road. She chose Resene KMK Gravel (Resene Gravel customised with a little extra black to make it darker), Resene Taupe Grey and Resene Quarter Bianca.

Says Sonia: “Once I realised that I could get around the clients' 'colour problem' by using black and grey to accentuate the whiteness of the whites, inspiration flowed. Using tonal contrasts to affect spatial perceptions was the key to the success of the project. There are no 'feature walls' as such.”

Sonia took control of the areas of shadow and light, rather than let the architectural 'flaws' like the low ceilings and narrow hallway, have the upper hand.

Resene KMK Gravel was used to frame and accentuate special areas such as the entry and staircase, and Resene Taupe Grey was used to add depth and warmth to the living zone, and frame views of the sea. Using these darker colours made Resene Bianca seem more vibrant by contrast.

Materials like American Oak cabinets, a cast concrete benchtop, linen, leather and aged brass were added to bring a casually elegant palette of textures together. Black furniture details and lampshades reinforce the harmony and playfulness of the colour scheme.

Sonia shares some of her colour and paint tips:

·       Conventional wisdom holds that a small room will appear smaller if painted black, or a low ceiling will appear lower. Actually, the converse is true, because black recedes away from the eye, creating an impression of space.

·       It is only when juxtaposed with very dark tones that white architecture can glow and express its full radiance.

·       We chose Resene SpaceCote Flat to complement the polished marble floors. A flat finish is elegant, it allows the walls to be ‘quiet' and puts the emphasis on the people, artworks and special objects in a room. This paint is easier to maintain and clean.

·       Don’t be limited by physical boundaries. The Resene KMK Gravel colour on the entry wall stops short of the stairwell corner and the ceiling. This avoids accentuating imperfections in the plaster work and avoided making the walls look flimsy at the corner, where the Resene KMK Gravel and Resene Quarter Bianca would have otherwise met. 

·       Another interesting strategy was to paint one wall of the narrow hall Resene Quarter Bianca and the opposite Resene KMK Gravel. It completely transformed the impression of space, making the hall feel much wider and far more interesting to move through.

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

Entry wall, grey, gravel, stone, living room, lounge, sitting room

The striking entry wall in Resene KMK Gravel unconventionally finishes short of the corners. 

feature wall, grey, accent colour

Another wall in Resene Taupe Grey puts paid to the assumption that you can only use one accent colour in an open-plan space. 

black, stairwell, gravel, stone, grey

Resene KMK Gravel is used to accentuate the stairwell and, in turn, frame the bedroom on the floor below. 

panelling, paneled walls, bedroom

Floating birch ply panelling is juxtaposed with bright Resene Quarter Bianca walls to create warmth and vibrancy in the previously dark master bedroom. 

bedroom, black, accents, white

Carefully selected furnishings and accessories in black are used to echo the black painted walls elsewhere. These walls are in Resene Quarter Bianca. 

bathroom, charcoal, custom colour, gravel, black

The custom charcoal colour, Resene KMK Gravel, was added to the all-white master bathroom, dramatically framing the sculptural white bathtub and basin.

dining room, grey, neutral, feature wall

Resene Taupe Grey frames the window to the right of the dining table while other walls are in Resene Quarter Bianca. 

entrance, hall, hallway, black, gravel

Painting one wall of the narrow hall in Resene Quarter Bianca and the opposite in Resene KMK Gravel transformed the impression of space, making the hall feel much wider and more interesting.

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Resene Quarter Bianca

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Resene Taupe Grey

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the look

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Resene Quarter Bianca

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Resene Taupe Grey

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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.