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When Authenticity Counts

April 2005

When Authenticity Counts

Traditional homes are an integral part of New Zealand’s heritage. There is a growing trend towards restoring older homes and the subsequent resurgence of interest in the house colours of our past. Many homeowners with older houses, especially those pre-1940 are striving for authenticity in colour repainting to enhance the true architectural heritage of their homes.

In association with leading conservation architect Ian Bowman, Resene developed a set of colour guidelines to reflect the various historical periods of home design. This original palette of 48 authentic heritage hues, first released in the 1990’s, is now showcased in the newly released Resene Heritage colour chart. To ensure the authenticity of the colour palette, Ian Bowman has meticulously documented the source building, structure or documentation for each colour.

The range of colours used in the past was somewhat limited and changes between periods were gradual. While not every early homeowner will wish to recreate the exact colour shades of another era, those who do will find the Resene Heritage colour chart an ideal starting point for developing the right scheme.

When decorating old homes lead may be a health hazard. Small chips of lead containing paint or lead paint dust may create health risks and contaminate the environment. Until 1965, many paints on the New Zealand market had high lead levels. This was particularly true of pre-1945 paints. Even if a building has been recently painted, it may have been painted with lead-based paints or have layers of old paint covered by modern paint. Lead-based paints must be handled with care - see the Resene Putting Your Safety First brochure at your local Resene ColorShop or visit for handling recommendations.

Resene has a particular interest in heritage homes, having started in 1946 by an Eastbourne builder, Ted Nightingale, who needed an alkali resistant paint to cover his concrete buildings. There was nothing available at the time, so in typical kiwi style he developed his own - in a cement mixer in his garage! In response to demand from other builders, Ted commenced producing his paint on a commercial basis under the brand name Stipplecote.

Stipplecote was a cement based paint required by builders because there were really no paints on the market at that stage that were suitable for use over concrete. The initial garage production facility was superceded by the establishment of Resene’s first factory in an old stable in Tinakori Road, Wellington.

In 1951, Ted Nightingale launched the first waterborne paint in New Zealand under the brand name ‘Resene’ - a name derived from the main ingredient of paint - resin. This launch was followed in 1952 by company registration under the name Stipplecote Products Ltd and a move to a new larger factory in Kaiwharawhara, Wellington. A period of innovation was to follow. Waterborne paints had a very slow start. The marketplace was cautious with the new technology and had difficulty understanding that a waterborne paint would not wash off the walls with water. Customers initially remained loyal to lead and solventborne paints. It was only after a massive sales effort that waterborne paint sales really took off. Demonstrations were run in shop windows showing boards being painted with waterborne paints and then the brushes being rinsed off in water. People standing in the street could not believe that the paint wouldn’t just wash off the board.

The market eventually responded to the new paint technology and Resene’s perseverance paid off with a period of rapid expansion during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. As the emphasis shifted away from cement based paints towards waterborne paints, the company name was changed to ‘Resene Paints Ltd’ in 1977. Resene shifted premises from its older site in Kaiwharawhara to Gough Street in Seaview, Lower Hutt, where it remained for 25 years before shifting to its current location in Naenae, Lower Hutt in 1992.

1975 saw the launch of the first of a national chain of retail stores. The move into retail occurred almost by accident. Tony Nightingale (Ted’s son and the then Managing Director) bought a wallpaper company that happened to own a store in Marion Street, Wellington. It was at this site that the first store, originally called the Marion Street paint shop, was established. Following overwhelming success with the opening of this store, the ColorShop concept was conceived and duplicated in other regions. The brand name ‘ColorShop’ was selected in preference to ‘ColourShop’ quite simply because it was unique and the word looked better.

Resene also built itself a reputation as the colour leader, with a number of firsts in this area. In 1969 Resene introduced a new system of colour, the British Standard Specification colour range (BS2660 range), which provided a range of strong colours at a time when New Zealanders were used to pastel colours. The stronger BS4800 range followed in 1973. Resene was also the first company to offer a full range of testpots in New Zealand in 1975.

Throughout this time, Resene has also been known as a leader in the development of environmentally friendlier products from the basic innovation of Resene waterborne paints to the removal of lead from decorative paints in the late 1960’s well ahead of other manufacturers. To reinforce this position, Resene joined the Environmental Choice programme in 1996, making it easier for consumers to select paints and technologies that ease the burden on the environment. The relatively recent innovation of waterborne enamels has enabled customers to substitute waterborne products for solventborne products.

Over a half a century on, the Resene Head Office is situated in Naenae, Lower Hutt supplying quality paints to both the New Zealand and international markets.

Customers requiring further information may visit any Resene ColorShop or to order a colour chart.

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