Are Kiwis feeling the kick inside?

By Jess Brunette April 12, 2016 Painting & Decorating

New Zealanders may have more choices than ever when it comes to colour, texture and interior design products, but are they really embracing the options? Jess Brunette asked some top interior designers.

For this feature I spoke to one supplier and three prominent New Zealand interior designers/decorators, picking their brains for their thoughts on the state of the market, and what the future holds for colour texture and materials for NZ interiors.

New Zealand interiors legend Sylvia Sandford ( is seeing a return of strong “senior browns” with touches of grey and red.

“There is an aluminium joinery colour called Electric Cow (Vantage Doors & Windows) that is the most fascinating brown-grey colour and it can really take architecture into another dimension by framing vistas from inside. And it’s softer than black but it’s still strong and the houses I have used it with have all been sensational,” she says.

Sandford is also pleased to see blues and greens returning to interior palettes with a focus on turquoise blue and bright fresh citrus leaf, rather than darker forest greens.

Well-known Auckland-based designer Leonie von Sturmer ( is a kitchen & bathroom specialist and is predominantly finding that “more colour is emerging to blend with the natural and monochromatic schemes we have seen in the past.”

“This could be colour in metals, like copper and brass, or pastel colours to enhance the neutral palette. Blue/green greys like Resene Concrete, Surrender and Transmission have been popular and accent colours in yellows, corals and French Blues combine with these rich golds and brass to give a relaxed elegance – a feeling of luxe,” von Sturmer says.

Another influential interiors name, Mal Corboy (, explains that, in his experience, most interior design trends tend to follow what is happening in fashion and fabrics.

“Generally, interiors are one season behind whatever colours you see coming out in fashion and at the moment there is a lot of those deep sea-greeny teals coming through in fabrics and I am noticing that a lot in furniture, they are real highlight colours,” he says.

The economical use of strong bold colours as a form of highlight for interiors has also had an effect on the types of neutrals being favoured, effectively taking colour out of the white and into the colour highlights.

This has seen the Kiwi go-to Spanish White, creams and other warm whites fall out of favour, with crisp whites with blue, rather than yellow undertones, seen as a better match for bold colour splashes. Darker neutrals are also moving away from beige tones in favour of softer greys.

I asked Laminex’s Gretchen Flynn what she has seen doing well in recent months.

“Anything goes at the moment but yellows are coming back especially with golds. We are seeing tones of browns coming back through as well. There are always your blacks and whites and your turquoise shades and oranges are doing well too,” she says.



“Splashes,” “pops” and “highlights” are terms often heard when discussing colour in Kiwi interiors but is there something in the New Zealand psyche that makes us shy away from making colour the main event?

“I think, despite our exposure to colour in our clothes and outside, we just won’t use it enough in our homes. We just simply haven’t got the confidence,” says Sylvia Sandford.

“Colour is very personal and if you live with other people you have to think about their wellbeing and emotions. So generally people play it safe and put neutrals around them. Also we are very lucky here with our city, land and seascapes and we can embrace colour outside so maybe we just don’t need so much colour indoors compared to some parts of the world,” she says.

Sylvia Sandford also suggests that even those Kiwis who embrace colour prefer the flexibility of using colour in “portables”, like furniture, photos and art.

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Mal Corboy does think things are changing, however: “People are definitely getting a lot bolder. I have always used a lot of colour and I am finding it far easier now to get colours across the line, where before you maybe had to justify why you wanted to use that colour a bit more.”

Corboy is also finding that Kiwis’ typical property-orientated reasoning behind making conservative colour choices is falling away: “People always worry that if they use a colour it’s going to date but I think they are realising that because of the investment in their home and the way the property market is going that most people are either renovating and staying put or building new and staying put.

“So they are doing design for themselves and not in case they sell it in two or three years. And I often tell my clients, at the end of the day, if people are going to buy your home they won’t be making the decision based on the yellow colour of the kitchen,” he says.



Of course, colour isn’t the only factor when creating interiors and May Corboy for one is seeing some interesting trends in texture and materials coming into New Zealand homes.

“There are a lot of pastels coming through, mixed with different timbers and a lot of feature walls with timber look tiles. Also a lot of 3D effect tiles that aren’t flat but have raised textures which are adding a lot of interest to different walls, so you can keep the same colour toning but playing around with the different textures in the tiles, creating a space that has a bit of a wow factor.”

Corboy’s high-end customers are also looking for cutting edge custom solutions.

“That real hard-edged minimalism is gone definitely. So we are doing a lot of curves and organic shapes and that’s coming through in materials with a lot of natural texture. When you use veneers nowadays we use pearl blasting so it takes out the soft grain and leaves the harder grain and leaves a nice textured look,” he says.

Mal Corboy has also seen strong demand for large format porcelain tiles and a return to marble now that new stain resistant coating technologies are available.

In terms of materials, I asked Laminex’s Gretchen Flynn whether matte or gloss was the order of the day.

“Both really,” she says. “We used to do a lot of gloss, and it’s still there on some horizontal surfaces, but it’s definitely not as strong as it used to be and now it’s coming back to not quite mattes but somewhere in between, so satin looks are really coming back.”



Now that we have a handle on what is hot and what is not for interiors, the question remains, how healthy is the demand for it?

“Our business going up to Christmas has increased by quite a bit,” says Laminex’s Gretchen Flynn. “We’ve been a lot busier this year with architects so obviously there is a lot more being specified and it’s starting to come through now. It’s probably getting busier in residential but commercial is giving big wins too but it’s always staggered whereas residential comes through steadily.”

All well and good for the suppliers of course but are people still using the services of an interior designer/decorator in an age where information and advice on interior design are readily available on the internet?

Sylvia Sandford: “I’m always busy. My business has been mostly word of mouth but also I have done lots of other things apart from design, but it’s all been related to it. I’ve written articles, been a public speaker, and wrote the design course for the open polytechnic.”

“However, it is definitely more difficult out there for design graduates to get a job, so many are striking out on their own or working in commercial or doing something that’s not strictly their preferred field. And many of my friends’ daughters are coming to work for them and they are particularly lucky as they are able to pursue their passion in their mother’s footsteps.”

For Mal Corboy business is healthy but full of challenges that keep him on his toes: “The market is generally pretty good. You go through dry periods when the phone doesn’t ring and then you get three or four in the space of a week.

“The hardest thing is that we get a lot of enquiries where people are waiting for consents to come through from the Council which can take ages and that can hurt the market a little bit.”

“And on the other end, I have a lot of people who want to engage me but their architect will say ‘if we can’t do the kitchen and interiors, we aren’t interested in doing the rest of the house.’ So there’s always that little battle.”

Corboy also feels price gouging is an issue for the industry, particularly with recent part-time graduates undercharging for their services.

“They should be charging realistic fees as this is hurting the market but realistically that’s always going to be there and you have to push right through it. So our marketing and branding is really important for us and we really make an effort to make sure it gets out there for people to see.”

Summing up, like many aspects of the hardware channel, although there is still a residual feeling that Kiwis don’t really embrace colour when it comes to their home, interior decorators with their finger on the pulse appear to be doing well.



Dulux Colour Awards Finalists announced

Now in their 30th year, the 2016 Dulux Colour Awards received a record-breaking 256 entries. Now narrowed down to 80 finalists across Australia and New Zealand, nine New Zealand entries have been selected as finalists across 10 categories.

Kiwi entries include Beech Hill by Design.spec (above left & centre) and Chisnallwood Intermediate School (above right) by Kyla Davies Design.

Dulux Colour & Design Specialist, Davina Harper, says the 2016 submissions have been more playful and experimental than ever, with colour utilised in bold and unexpected ways.

“We are thrilled to see entries pushing the boundaries of colour application and incorporating both futuristic and retrospective elements – fitting with this year’s focus on the evolution of colour in design and architecture,” she says.

“In the Commercial Interior categories there is an emergence of metallic shades, geometric shapes and hidden reveals of brighter colours. Pastels and soft tones are popular throughout the Residential Interior categories, with accents of vibrant colour applied to doors, ceilings and cornices.”

The 2016 Dulux Colour Awards finalists will now be judged by a panel of Australasian design leaders, including New Zealand based stylist Alex Fulton. Winners of the 2016 Dulux Colour Awards will be announced at a gala event in Melbourne on Thursday 28 April.



Concrete – so chic

Those in love with modern concrete looks seen on programs like Grand Designs can now enjoy the concrete aesthetic easier than ever with new concrete looks now available in Laminex’s Caesarstone and Clipwall products. The new Melteca Granulo Clipwall colour is an addition to the Melteca Clipwall stable of wall lining solutions that use patented tongue & groove Uniclic technology to create a concrete look up to five times faster than traditional systems. Melteca Clipwall panels are 2785x600mm, and with a thickness of 10mm providing a functional high quality wall solution. You can see these and many more colour additions at the Laminex website.


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