Choosing Paint Colours and Decorating with Farrow & Ball

March 14, 2017

Choosing paint colours when renovating/decorating is probably one of the most fun parts to put your stamp on a place. But it can also be one of the hardest if you're indecisive like me. The walls are a pretty fundamental part of your room/house and the colour on them can really change the whole feel and mood of your whole abode not to mention thinking about things like the aspect of a room or the way that it will complement other colours/furniture or the flow of other rooms. You're going to be living with them, and whilst they can of course be changed with a new tin of paint and a brush, it's not something you want to keep redoing {nor that quick or cheap} so it's best to try and get it right first time. But this can feel so so hard when you have a blank canvas ahead of you. Or in our case, choosing colours for the new kitchen before we even had the space built. There are so many factors to consider so today I'd love to share some tips I've learned along the renovating road and some from an afternoon with Farrow & Ball last week.. 

For me, Farrow & Ball are really the very best of the paint world. This isn't a branding thing, it's the fact that their paint is highly pigmented giving the greatest depth of quality and colour that you can buy. Their colours are truly beautiful, have been thought about for years and carefully selected. They have a certain look, you can recognise a room that's been painted in Farrow & Ball before you even ask the colour. I haven't been paid to say this, my husband and I have been using their paint well before I had an Instagram account/blog. From a Vert de Terre shed at my husband's house we first shared together to the Charleston Gray kitchen in our London flat to our Green Smoke front door of our last house, it's been a long term love affair. So when it came to decorating this new house {I can't believe it's nearly been a year since we first got the keys!}, it was the F&B paint charts that I turned to.

1. When first starting a project I will always refer to a colour card to choose paint sample tins from. Whilst the paint colours on the cards are small, you can start to get an idea of the testers you want to pick up to explore further. I tend to have an idea in my head of which colour I'm looking for but not the specific shade so will look at the different colour coded lines reading the descriptions on the back {which are often v v helpful giving details about the undertones of a colour}. I then look at the Farrow & Ball website for each colour where you can see other people's photos of rooms painted in that shade and also what the experts themselves recommend it will go well with. 

2. One of the most important things to think about is the room you're going to be decorating. Is it light with high ceilings? Is it small and cosy? Is it north facing? The aspect is really important for natural light as with Farrow & Ball paints in particular with the high pigmentation, the colour can look completely different in different parts of the house but also different walls within the same room! So even if you think you've found the perfect colour online by looking at photos or the colour card or descriptions, which I've done SO many times before. When you actually buy a tester and test it in your house it can look completely different. 

E.g. When choosing a grey for our master bedroom, the greys on the colour card that I thought would be perfect and I'd seen on Pinterest in other peoples houses looked too browny beige for our very very light south facing room. The only light grey that worked for us was Blackened but I know for a lot of people this is too blue and Ammonite works better for them. I also thought that Dimpse would be ideal for our kitchen but testing it at the back of the house, it was too blue.

3. Because of this, I always always buy tester pots. When I first started out I painted them onto bare plaster, or the previously painted walls but over time I've learned that the best thing to do is to paint them onto pieces of paper so you can get a much bigger area but also move them around a lot more or pin them on different walls. This was especially helpful when choosing the paint colours for our new kitchen extension which at the time wasn't built. We also needed to choose colours for the island, the units and the walls so by having the paper we could put them all together to see what worked and what didn't. We took the painted pieces of paper into the bathroom to make our final decision which is the room directly above the new kitchen and will be the same aspect.

4. Have a look at the colour in both morning and evening light as well as underneath artificial light. And think about what else you want in the room. Will you have a light or dark floor? Do you want the colour to be neutral as a backdrop to introduce other colours through artwork, furniture or accessories like cushions etc? Or do you want to make a statement? 

5. Layer up the paint. You won't see the true colour until you've painted on at least two coats so make sure you do this with your tester pots too. 

4. Farrow & Ball released a book last year called How to Decorate {here} which I bought and found it really useful for talking about decorating in general not just the specific paint colours. It gives a lot of inspiration but also reminded me of a recipe book talking about what would work with what, if you're in a colour quandary or have a lot of rooms to decorate all at once I'd definitely recommend it. 

Last week I was invited to an afternoon tea event with Farrow & Ball in Chelsea with the famous Joa of Joa's White {a colour that I had in my old bedroom at my parent's house}. Joa is the original colour consultant who's developed most of the colours for Farrow & Ball so I was SO excited to get her advice on all things decorating. I learned so much and wanted to share some of the most interesting things she said; 
  • "Light does matter especially when dealing with highly pigmented paints so consider your aspect carefully
  • Most people only think about the walls. But there are also architectural details to think about, skirtings, dado rails, door surrounds, picture rails. A classic white goes with everything but if you want to look even more decorated and considered, choose complimenting colours rather than white for woodwork or consider painting the whole room in one colour - ceilings and all!
  • But crucially she said, do what you like and what you're comfortable with. You'll be the one living with it so don't follow trends for trends sake or think Georgian colours just because you have a Georgian style house.
  • The pigment in F&B paints makes it like velvet, it's alive, magical and constantly changing. A lot of places will try to copy or colour match Farrow and Ball but they'll come out very flat because they won't have the same depth of colour. 
  • Think about creating a very dark front door or hallway which will then make everything else through it seem a lot bigger and lighter.
  • If you're scared of colour, introduce it at the back of a bookshelf or inside a wardrobe. Keep strong colours lower down to open up the room, painting a bath dark or a kitchen island will ground a room.
  • Don't paint a small room white because you think it will make it feel bigger, it's a myth. If you have a tiny room be bold with your colour choice and equally don't say that a light room can take a dark colour. 
  • Colour can be political and it's a way to express yourself into your home. "

Joa also gave a look ahead at some current trends for decorating and what will be next...
  • We'll all be accepting more colour away from the gray mania. Already there's this movement for the dark side with Downpipe and Railings etc.
  • Hay is the big colour for 2017, a soft yellow that's not too sunny or bright but has an aged feel. Best balanced with Oval Room Blue or Setting Plaster or Wimborne White. It's established yet whimsical.
  • All White is the white. It's soft, uncomplicated and naturally fresh without being cold. Perfect backdrop for artwork or to layer up with different whites/greys/blues. It's also ideal for this Scandi trend.
  • Pink was the big thing last year, we're now moving onto stronger Radicchio which works with stronger greys. More of a red and grey mix. 
  • And finally, Studio Green. Pantone have called Greenery as their colour of the year and we see this botantical green as an alternative to downpipe or railings. 
  • And also for the next couple of years, we'll be moving from white to more yellowy creams apparently... although I don't think anybody wants to see a return to the Magnolia days of the 1990s!  

There's so much to consider when selecting colours but it's also exciting to have so much choice and so many options. I can't wait to share the exact F&B colours that we've chosen for our kitchen but I'm keeping them under wraps for another few weeks yet. 

Do you have any favourites or a fail proof way to choose colours? Maybe you're just a lot more decisive than I am and it's easy?? Do you like bold colours or do you play it safe with neutrals? I tend to be very boring and prefer neutrals which are easy to live with and calming, adding colour through accessories. Although we do have a dining room snug painted in Downpipe which I can't wait to be able to use and cosy up in {it's full of boxes storing everything for the kitchen right now}. 

R <3 xx

{this post is in partnership with Farrow & Ball but all opinions are 100% my own. It's a brand I've been buying for years and years}

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  1. Such a helpful post, thank you. I would never consider you've made so much progress in your renovations in a year!

  2. Love the post. I'm about to move and my head hurts already with paint choices!! Our kitchen/diner is north facing so not a bright room but I like the idea of having a dark grey so make it all cosy. I like f&b molesbreath or plummet.
    I need to round to help me decide! ��


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