Colour maestro says colour up – but do it with care

The winner of the Resene Total Colour Master – Nightingale Award, Paul Leuschke, likes to use a lot of colour in his corporate projects. It’s a way to make client interiors more memorable, says Paul, from Leuschke Kahn Architects, who was awarded top honours in the inaugural competition with a design for accountants Grant Thornton in Fanshawe Street, Auckland. Although he favours quite a bit of colour in public spaces, Paul tells Design Daily he wouldn’t want to live with vibrant hues everywhere.

Colour is a funny thing. You don’t necessarily need vibrant colour. You can create a quiet riot of colour with natural products rather than an obvious jarring colour. I tend to go for a lot of natural products. It’s true, people are returning to more natural materials, which is part of the health and sustainability thing. They’re working longer hours so they’re looking for better, more healthy work environments.

It’s always good for your well-being to have some variety. You wouldn’t want everything white and beige. On the other hand, you wouldn’t want to work with a lime green wall in front of you all day long.

I like high hits of colour in small bits – otherwise it’s obvious and boring. Fashion colours come and go. They just don’t last. So why do it? Natural colours and a hit of something bold just to give a surprise is good. In the corporate world and as an architect, I have to look at corporate culture, understand it and be able to express it with personality.

Grant Thornton made that job easy for me as they’d already been through the corporate identity process to find out who and what they were about. They’d decided they were different from the big corporates, a bit more personal and individual. Their agency had won an international competition with a campaign based on the slogan – We see things differently – using a strong tartan of colour and numerals twisted to appear to be letters that spell out key messages.

Part of the job was to give our client something memorable, so you know you’re at Grant Thornton and you have a memorable image of that experience.

After putting in internal stairs to give access between two floors, we added a 30-metre feature wall in the public spaces encompassing the two floors. The art wall is in a rich mix of browns, yellows, oranges and reds with numeral graphics that make it surprising and memorable. But the other side is white - Double Alabaster. There’s a lot of brown in the carpet and timber floors as well as ceilings. It’s a strong natural background, but then there are some big hits of high impact colour.

So one side is vibrant and the other is plainer. The public entry is moody and high impact. And in the open plan workstation area, it’s a palette of white, grey and silver. So there are contrasts.

We’ve also taken the colour back into the furniture with brown leather sofas and natural hand-made rugs. We took some of the colours of the wall to use in the bright orange cloth on reception chairs and on the acoustic walls in the café and conference room. They bring the colour theme through. The whole environment presents a mix of relaxation and formality so the furniture is eclectic – a mix of casual, formal and feature to cater for everyone - granny, cool guy and uptight guy.

Overall, it’s a bit of fun – professional, personal and memorable. Colourful but serious – conveying a serious message that’s part of Grant Thornton’s overall vision statement.

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