Dulux colour ambassador Alex Walls on nailing a neutral palette

How she chose the colours and materials for her Auckland home — and how to do it at your place.

In association with Dulux.

So, Alex, what was the first step in selecting the colour and material heroes for your place? Before Corban and I decided on anything, I went down to the beach at nearby Island Bay and took loads of photos of its rocky cliffs. I’ve been going there my whole life, so I know how beautiful it is with its limestone, clay, terracotta and slate grey — layers of time. 

ABOVE Subtly morphing by the hour, Dulux Haast Half features on a fluted feature wall in the open-plan space where the dining and family rooms meet.

When did you start integrating your preferred options into Fraser Horton’s architectural design process? We always knew we’d feature cedar timber on the exterior, but one of our first big decisions was what material to use for the wall that wraps around the front of the property and becomes both an exterior and interior element of the house. It was planned as a solid presence, so we considered stone and cinder blocks, but I’d envisaged a Mediterranean feel that somehow also referenced our local landscape, and when I came across a picture of some split-face travertine, we became set on that. We didn’t know how we were going to source it, but after investigating options near and far, Corban eventually located a supplier in Turkey.
It was a bit of a waiting game until the travertine arrived, but once it did, we were able to start devising the rest of our material palette. The flooring was the next big thing inside, and for this, we selected an American oak that when paired with the travertine saw a warm, neutral palette start to emerge. I then came up with the paint colours to tie it together.
I usually choose Dulux Okarito, which is a lovely clean, fresh white, but for this home we wanted to use something warm and soft to suit the textured look we were trying to create. Consulting the Dulux Colours of New Zealand range, we pulled out warm white Dulux Cardrona and sandy neutral Dulux Opononi, before spotting Dulux Haast Half, the perfect match for the oak and travertine. We later colour-matched several of our other materials to this hue, including our linen curtains.

What makes Dulux Haast Half so right for this home? It’s a lovely warm white with a subtle beige undertone, and just works so well for the mood we wanted to achieve. We love how it looks as the light changes and shifts from the living room to the kitchen and family room throughout the day.

That dynamic effect is enhanced by the texture you’ve brought to your walls as well… Yes. Although we wanted to keep the look simple and classic, I like adding interest with texture, so we had five samples of routed MDF made up and ultimately chose this fluted finish. 

ABOVE Painted in the same hue, this second living area is a chic space to retreat to. On the wall is a photograph taken at Auckland’s Island Bay that provided the inspiration for Alex and Corban’s palette, which has come to life through her signature use of neutrals layered with earthy tones.

What are the key things people should do when determining their own perfect white? First, decide whether you want a ‘cool’ or a ‘warm’ white. Then, when you’ve got some options in mind, order large colour swatches or sample pots from the Dulux website, so you can see how the colours look in your home and at different times of the day. 

Have your colour preferences changed in the five years since you started planning this house? Not really. There was a time when I might have gravitated towards more mustard tones, but there’s always been a muted, earthy palette that runs through my work. I’m never attracted to blues, or yellow-based pinks or reds. Some people might think that’s boring, but it wouldn’t be my home if I didn’t follow my heart.  

Paint swatches, from top: Dulux Haast Half, Dulux King Country, Dulux Hopelands Quarter, Dulux Lyttelton Half.

Want to try Dulux Haast Half at your place? Order free large colour swatches and buy sample pots and paint from dulux.co.nz.

Interview Alice Lines
Photography Sophia Bayly

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