John Farrow & Richard Ball
Chemists John Farrow and Richard Ball started the company on the southern coast of England, in Dorset, in the 1940s. Farrow and Ball's paints contain a high degree of pigment, and they sell a highly edited palette of traditional colors. Their paints are available through showrooms and specialty paint stores in Europe, the US, and Canada.
Farrow & Ball's new colorchart
I've resisted Farrow and Ball for many years, thinking for some reason they were snooty and affected. But then again, so am I. When their new color card flew over my transom, I decided to have a closer look.
For starters, Farrow and Ball has an “edited” palette of 132 colors, compared with the thousands at other paint companies. I’ve got to say, this is something I have unlimited respect for because: A) They’ve done all the work for us. B) People go crazy when given too many choices. C) They’re staking a claim and saying, “ In our world view, this is what’s important.” D) If you don’t like that world-view, then move on.
They claim to be both traditional and contemporary, and at first glance this seems very accurate. Many of the colors are redolent of the landed gentry, with names to match (Dorset Cream, Pale Hound). Churlish Green could be the color of a British breakfast nook, but looks also like a part of the recent Wasabi trend. Arsenic might either belong in a scullery, or make a sensational children’s room. And of course I’m drawn to the deep darks like Pelt, Railings, Black Blue and Green Smoke and I think one could do things fresh and exciting with them depending on the context.
But what really slays me is the color card. It’s both a history of interior color and an instruction for its use, with descriptions such as these: “Cool, a lighter, less blue version of No.88 Lamp Room Gray, reminiscent of an elegant colour used in Sweden in the late 18th century under Gustav III.” (Pavillion Gray No. 242); “This yellow-green colour has been used decoratively for centuries, both on its own and as a ground beneath patterned wallpapers. Good contrast to Tanner’s Brown No. 244.” (Churlish Green No. 251); “First available in England in the 18th century, this pigment was produced by reducing the bright yellow urine of cows fed on a special diet of mango leaves.” (India Yellow No.66). I’ve been pouring over this booklet for days—I can’t get enough.
This is my first time using this product. It has a texture like heavy cream, but went on a bit thin. I’m unwilling to condemn anything after just one use, so I’m curious as to readers’ experiences. Have you used Farrow and Ball?
Let me know your thoughts.
- Mark Chamberlain, interior and decorative painter