Dare to be bold in your living space

If you’re after living spaces that are up to date, but don’t want to drown in a sea of Scandi-inspired white, there are plenty of other ways to go. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be painting your walls in savage red or goodness-me purple.

We’re not knocking white. It’s an amazingly versatile colour that runs the gamut from edgy icy whites and cool alabasters to aged ivories and rich creams. If that sea of Scandi still appeals, then check out the Resene Whites & Neutrals collection of paint colours to see just how many ‘whites’ there are.

White can also be the anchor colour to a bold scheme. In fact, if you have a bold or brightly coloured feature wall, for example, painting the other walls in off-white will help accentuate the drama of the feature wall.

Which leads us to one of the simpler and less anxious ways of giving a boring living area a bolder look. Feature walls. These decorative devises have been popular for many years and have become a mainstay of our interiors. Feature walls are amazingly versatile, can be used in many rooms, and are particularly good at providing some visual relief in open-plan living spaces.

The move towards more open-plan living spaces has led to a colour calamity – where do you end one colour and start another? Unfortunately the answer for many has just been to paint everything the same colour. Which can be awfully boring.

But a feature wall allows you to overcome this issue and add interest at the same time. Feature walls are great for defining specific areas within an open-plan space, for example, behind the dining area to frame the table and chairs. Try them also on a fireplace wall, in the kitchen, or at the back of a living space. A feature wall can be painted a bold colour, or you can use a striking wallpaper – check out the wallpaper options available at your local Resene ColorShop.

Or if you’re artistically inclined you can create your own mural or geometric masterpiece with a few Resene testpots and some masking tape.

Don’t limit yourself to using just a plain wall as a feature wall. You might choose a wall that’s punctuated with windows or doors instead.

In many modern homes or renovations, large windows and sliding doors are a feature of the living spaces. If you’re keen on a bold colour for all of your walls but feel a bit nervous, remind yourself that you often won’t end up with four full-on walls of colour. Once you take away the glazed areas, and the kitchen cabinets, and know that curtains, furniture and art will hide more walls space, you may find there’s not that much walls space left, and that it will be nicely broken up and interspersed with other elements.


If you’re unsure of diving into a bold colour for your walls, add accessories like rugs, cushions and lamps, in the colour instead. These are more easily changed if and when you tire of the colour.

Left image: Concrete wall feature in Resene Half Raven, Resene Grey Chateau, Resene Double Concrete and Resene Half Concrete, floor in Resene Colorwood Whitewash.

Right image: Wall in Resene Dark Buff and Resene Korma, floor in Resene Eighth Drought.

Top tips for bolder living rooms:

  • Use the opposite of white-black, or a deep charcoal or an inky blue, such as Resene Indian Ink. These colours are as restful and versatile as white but will instantly transform your room into a more dramatic space. Contrary to popular belief, dark walls don’t necessarily make a space look smaller, especially if they are a cool-toned colour. They will recede from the eye instead.
  • A bold look isn’t necessarily about wall colour. If you’re sticking with a fairly neutral scheme, use over-sized furniture and lots of texture (worn leather, a knobbly rug, lambs-wool cushions or gleaming copper accessories) to enliven the space.
  • If you’re opting for a feature wallpaper, choose it first, then pull colours from within it to paint your other walls. Staff at your local Resene ColorShop can help with this. Paint colour is infinitely flexible whereas elements like wallpaper and upholstery or curtaining fabric isn’t.
  • If you’re using a strong bright colour for the walls, make sure you carefully consider the paint colour that you’ll use on the skirting, architraves, ceiling and doors. A bright white will make the bright colour look garish, whereas a cooler or warmer white may make the brighter colour feel more integrated.  Try out the scheme by using Resene testpots of both the wall colour and the trim colour. 
  • Know that ‘muddied’ colours are easier to live than clear, bright colours. So try a duck egg blue, such as Resene Duck Egg Blue, instead of a true blue, or a gentle grey-green instead of grass green. 

If your home has high ceilings, a full wall of a dark or bold colour may be overpowering. Instead, use the visual trick of bringing the pale ceiling colour down the walls for about 50cm.

Opt for over-sized accessories to add drama – a large mirror or artwork leant against a wall, a big squishy statement sofa, striking light fittings or a heavily textured rug.

Get inspired by other kiwi living room decorating projects in the online inspiration gallery

If you need help getting started, ask a Resene expert at your local Resene ColorShop or online with the free Ask a Colour Expert service or free Ask a Tech Expert service.



Need help with your decorating? Resene has a colour expert and technical expert service to help you choose the right colours, wallpapers and paints for your project, plus advice on how to apply the products to get the best finish.


Need help with your decorating? Resene has a colour expert and technical expert service to help you choose the right colours, wallpapers and paints for your project, plus advice on how to apply the products to get the best finish.

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