Keeping with the classics

Resene Duck Egg Blue wall with floor in Resene Inside Back and door frame in Resene Black White.
Resene Duck Egg Blue wall with floor in Resene Inside Back and door frame in Resene Black White.
In an age where it can sometimes feel like trends change even faster than the weather, classic design styles and colour combinations will always be in high demand. But, formulating a design that doesn’t border on boring or feel like it’s been frozen in history can take a bit of finessing.

Creating a look with real longevity starts with forging the right foundation to build upon – well-constructed furniture in timeless designs, durable finishes, and a flexible palette that complements a whole spectrum of colour choices are a winning combination. Plus, sticking to a classic look can help you avoid the issue of a design looking choppy if you’ve had to stop and start your renovation due to cashflow woes.

By employing some thoughtful planning and tried-and-tested ideas, you’ll end up with a design solution that can be easily adapted as tastes and styles change, a cohesive look and a project that stayed within your budget.

Failing to plan is a plan to fail.

The best design solutions start with a well thought out plan – and it’s especially important if your renovation will be happening over the course of several months (or, let’s be honest, years). Fleshing out a path forward that keeps your end goal and budget at the front of the decision-making process can help you steer clear of problems later and figure out where to spend your money to get the most bang for your buck. A good plan will also help you to avoid the temptation of last-minute bargains that might not be the right fit for your design or end up looking dated by the time your project is finished.

If you’re unsure where to start, it never hurts to get an expert opinion. Use the free Resene colour consultancy service online at www.resene.co.nz/colourexpert or through your local Resene ColorShop.

Back to basics

One way to ensure a space has staying power is to turn it into a blank canvas. Nothing beats a base that’s built on good quality basics. Consider buying solid wood furniture – the best that you can afford. Coffee and side tables, drawers and shelving that can literally stand the test of time will help them look better longer, which will have a positive impact on the look of the entire space. Plus, these pieces can be easily stained or repainted over and over if your colour or style tastes evolve. From there, you can start picking a palette that complements the tones in your timber.

Remember that ‘blank canvas’ doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to stick to simply white or cream, either. The right colour choices – classic tones that work like neutrals – can also be used to build a base you can bring to life with changeable extras like cushions, throws and decorative accessories.

As a helpful resource to get you started, Resene has created the Classic Collection – a specially curated selection of shades that have staying power and look great in virtually any home.

Classic colour combos

Resene Secrets and Resene Quarter Cararra.  Project by David Wraight Cottages.  Photo by Juliet...
Resene Secrets and Resene Quarter Cararra. Project by David Wraight Cottages. Photo by Juliet Nicholas.
There is a reason why some combinations are considered classics – they work in most rooms and appeal to most tastes.

An ever-popular non-white neutral to consider is Resene Half Tea, a muted grey-beige that subtly changes in appearance depending on the light and surrounding colours. You can easily pair it with greyed blues, such as Resene Coast or Resene Dusted Blue, but it’s just as successful when matched with earthy browns like Resene Arrowtown or Resene Napa and brick reds such as Resene Pioneer Red or Resene Redwood. For a crisp finish, opt for a bright white like Resene Black White for ceilings and trims.

Other interesting neutrals to experiment with include:

  • Resene Jumbo, for a true grey with high contrast when paired with Resene Black White; and
  • Resene Soothe, a pale pink that works wonderfully with Resene Rice Cake.


One of the most classic combinations of all is navy with white and beige, a grouping often seen in the ever-popular Hamptons style. Try going a touch darker into a blue-black such as Resene Indian Ink then lighten it with Resene Alabaster and Resene Half Spanish White.

If deep blue is not your thing, opt for a paler weathered blue such as Resene Breeze for beachy effect, or swap the blue out completely for a forest green such as Resene Permanent Green.

Of course, you can’t get more classic than simple black and white. You can still experiment by veering into deep greys and charcoals like Resene Jaguar or Resene Bastille, and into creamier or putty-toned whites like Resene Pearl Lusta. All of them make a great backdrop for layering on colourful furnishings and accessories.

Break it up

Resene Coast and Resene Albescent White.  Project by Michael Mansvelt.  Photo by Pip Guthrie.
Resene Coast and Resene Albescent White. Project by Michael Mansvelt. Photo by Pip Guthrie.
Too much neutral can tend to get boring, so you may need to get a bit brave to break things up. Adding a feature wall in a bold paint colour or wallpaper is an easy way to work a trendier colour into a classic palette and, if you get tired of it, it’s much easier and more practical to update just one wall than an entire room.

Another way to add depth to your design is to start with a pale shade on the walls and then build up layers of deeper tones. For example, walls in Resene Biscotti could be built upon with furniture and accessories in deeper sunbaked shades such as Resene Just Dance, Resene Soulful, Resene Desperado and Resene Twizel.

Opting for a classic palette doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate touches of your own personal flair, either. Try using a muted pastel shade like Resene Half Secrets or Resene Half Duck Egg Blue as your base wall colour and layer it with changeable soft furnishing in different and deeper tonal shades with pops of bold contrast. Look to the Resene The Range fashion colours fandeck for popular brights that would pair well with either, like Resene Cleopatra or Resene Yowza.

Remember to work in a bit of texture too. Try using different tactile-looking fabrics and finishes in tandem with your classic colour palette. Natural fibres like coarse linen, smooth silk and natural wood grains can all add visual interest and, when cared for properly, will look great for years to come.

Top tips:

  • The best ways to keep a classic look is to decorate with things you truly love. No matter what decade it was purchased in, if a piece really speaks to you, you can find a way to work it in.
  • Metallic fixtures like faucets are one of the first things that can look dated when trends change. Pick clean designs that aren’t too ornate to give them the most staying power and stick to one finish for the most cohesive look.
  • A simple white kitchen or bathroom will never go out of style.


This classic white-on-white palette looks extra fresh with tropical plants and a mix of textures, including the woven basket, faux furs, and the plywood flooring is finished with Resene Colorwood Whitewash. The walls are painted Resene Double Black White, the benches and mirror frame are in Resene Quarter Rice Cake, and the hat box and slatted crate are in Resene Sea Fog.
Styling by Amber Armitage, images by Melanie Jenkins.


The repetition of round shapes tie this dining nook’s classic celery colour palette together. The walls are in Resene Quarter Coriander with a Resene Alabaster painted feature. The table is in Resene Quarter Titania and the chairs and shelving unit are in Resene Miso, Resene Secrets, Resene Quarter Coriander and Resene Thistle.
Styling by Megan Harrison-Turner, image by Melanie Jenkins.


This plywood wall stained Resene Pitch Black defines this chic black and white colour scheme. The rest of the walls provide balance in Resene Alabaster and medium grey Resene Quarter Atmosphere accents scattered throughout help to bridge the gap between light and dark.
Styling by Claudia Kozub, images by Melanie Jenkins.


This bedroom combines a traditional coastal colour combination of Resene Midwinter Mist walls and Resene Eighth Pearl Lusta trim with simple, timeless wooden furniture that can be repainted to suit a myriad of styles.
Images by Bryce Carleton.