Farrow & Ball – Things to Consider When Choosing a Paint Color

Doug Wilson

Paint Expert

My life is dedicated to providing the best painting and wood care solutions to homeowners, contractors, and commercial property owners. Expertise in all areas of paint and wood coatings problems and solutions.

Farrow & Ball, a British manufacturer of Super Premium paint and wallpapers, has attracted and retained a cult-like following since opening their doors in 1946. The appeal is due to multiple factors, including a devotion to quality in materials and processes and savvy marketing to designers, influencers, and preservationists.

Here are five things to consider when choosing a Farrow & Ball paint color for your home:

  • How Light Affects Perception of Color
  • Architectural Features in a Room
  • Decorating Themes
  • Pigments by Era
  • The Enduring Allure of Neutrals

Farrow & Ball: Foundations in Science, Preservation, and Sustainability

“An engineer and a chemist walk into a bar….” No, this isn’t the lead-in to a funny joke. Farrow & Ball began when John Farrow, a trained chemist who’d worked for an Irish paint company, and Richard Ball, an engineer, met at a local clay pit. The pair discovered they shared a passion for rich colors in addition to their science-based technical backgrounds.

In the 1940s and 50s, Farrow and Ball built their first factory in Dorset, England. Originally, they focused on the manufacture and sale of commercial and industrial paints for clients like the Ford Motor Company and Britain’s War Office.

In the 1960s, they sold the original company and facility. Their new factory in Wimborne Minster, a suburb of Dorset, heralded a change in focus from commercial to residential products. From this point forward, Farrow and Ball specialized in interior paint and wallpaper.

In the 1970s and 80s, many paint companies reduced costs by creating acrylic (plastic-based) paints with fewer natural pigments. Farrow and Ball’s dogged devotion to its original recipes and age-old production methods established the brand as a high-end choice for designers.

The company was poised for global growth in the 1990s and took off like a rocket when leadership changed hands. The new owners, an advisor on historic interiors and a corporate financier, focused on restoring high profile historic heritage properties. Their historically accurate colors, carried by a selective independent dealer network, were in high demand in London, Toronto, Paris, and New York.

Farrow and Ball reformulated their entire range of oil-based paints in 2010. The forward-thinking company now offers eco-friendly, low VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints, recyclable paint tins, and responsibly sourced wallpapers.


Farrow & Ball: How Light Affects Color Perception

Because of the depth of pigment used, Farrow and Ball paints have a distinct and extraordinary relationship with light. As explained on their website, our perception of any color changes depending on whether the room faces north, south, east, or west.

Choosing a “true” paint color is easiest for south-facing rooms, which get the most hours of “warm” light per day. By comparison, rooms with northern light often feel dark and cold. Northern light emphasizes the cooler blue or grey undertones in a paint.

When decorating an east or west facing room, it’s useful to consider when you’ll be using it most. Light in west facing spaces is cooler in the morning and brighter in the afternoon, while the opposite is true for east facing rooms.

Be sure to order sample pots of paint and view them on the wall at various times of day and under artificial light. Whenever possible, use neutral white bulbs indoors that simulate the color spectrum of natural sunlight.


Farrow & Ball: Architectural Features in a Room

Before choosing a paint color from the Farrow & Ball Archives or a more contemporary Collection, consider the architectural features in the room. Consider factors to emphasize and downplay.

Take note of any wainscoting – also known as a “dado rail” in Europe – paneling, cornices, molding, baseboards, and trim. Consider window placement as well as ceiling height.

To make a room appear more modern, paint the wainscoting and trim the same color as the walls. To make a ceiling appear taller, paint the dado rail and the wall above it a lighter tone than the wall below the rail.

Paint color is a powerful, cost-effective tool in hiding a room’s flaws and highlighting its most striking features.


Farrow & Ball: Decorating themes

Rather than get bogged down in dozens of historical decorating styles, Farrow & Ball offers three simple time-tested decorating themes to help customers visualize paint pairings.

Light on Dark – The most traditional approach is painting a color on the walls and using white (or cream) on the trim. Honoring this tradition, all Farrow & Ball colors have a carefully chosen complementary white “partner”. This Light on Dark approach provides a fresh and effortlessly striking look.

Dark on Light – To create a more sophisticated room, paint a paler color on the walls and a slightly darker color on the trim. This method can also make a large room feel more grounded and a small room feel more spacious.

Monochrome – If you are craving a calming environment, Farrow & Ball recommends painting your whole room a single color. Add visual interest in a monochromatic setting by varying the paint finishes. Use Modern Eggshell on the walls and trim, and Full Gloss on the ceiling.


Farrow & Ball: Pigments by Era

Fans of historical fiction and history buffs in general agree that the past can be a rich source of inspiration.  Restore the original spirit of a landmark home or create a more modern feel in a vintage property.

The Farrow & Ball site offers color recommendations for these eras:

Georgian (1714 – 1830) – “The Age of Elegance”, characterized by symmetrical architecture with decorative flourishes of intricate plasterwork, stucco, and paneling. Refer to notes above on the timeless “Light on Dark” decorating theme.

Victorian (1830 – 1900) – The Victorian era is characterized by clutter, dark wood, and a profusion of furniture styles. Prior to the Victorian period, furniture was handmade. It was expensive and many families owned very little of it. In the Victorian era, furniture was mass-produced. As furniture became more affordable and available, middle-class families purchased “suites” of furnishings for the first time.

Edwardian (1900 – 1914) – Edwardian colors offer a light, refreshing break from the dark colors of the Victorian era. Think soft pastels (pale blues and greens, pinks, white and cream) applied in the “Dark on Light” theme to create a sense of expansiveness.

Art Deco (1910 – 1945) – Art Deco, characterized by rich color, bold geometrics, and lavish ornamentation, was the most popular style from World War I through the end of WWII. Art Deco was a complete departure from the light touch of the Edwardians.

Mid-Century Modern (1945 – 1975) – After WWII, designers championed the use of natural materials in furnishings with clean, linear shapes. Neutral colors became popular, often paired with organic greens and golds.


Farrow & Ball: Ready to Choose Your Paint Color?

Dive in! Farrow & Ball offers more than one hundred and thirty gorgeous paint colors to choose from. Search by Tone, Finish, Collection, or Color family. They also offer specialty paint formulations including a mineral Limewash and Exterior Masonry treatment.

Don’t be surprised by some of the very odd paint color names, including:

  • Smoked Trout, Potted Shrimp, Fruit Fool
  • Danish Lawn, Copenhagen Roof
  • Bible Black, Sugar Bag Light, Ointment Pink


Farrow & Ball: The Appeal of Timeless Neutrals

Feeling overwhelmed by all the color choices offered by Farrow & Ball? Fear not. Farrow & Ball has more than sixty neutral tones that are foolproof. You can view them individually or see them organized into six Neutral Groups. Neutral paint colors are a wonderful way to achieve a timeless and cohesive color scheme in your home.


Farrow & Ball: Visit Andriots to Learn More

Visits Andriots.com to learn more about the amazing products and services we offer.

Or stop by Andriot’s Paint Flooring & Blinds (1857 Midland Trail, Shelbyville, KY 40065) and let us help you explore ways to increase the beauty and enjoyment of your home. Consultations can be booked in advance by calling us at (502) 633-1944.