Choosing paint colors is one of those activities that sounds fun, but in practice quickly becomes overwhelming. After all committing to a room full of color is different than buying a bold accent chair, it has to suit all moods, all purposes and there are limitless options. We quickly become paralyzed with choice (or deadlocked in an argument with our partner) so most rooms are delegated to a safe white, gray, or beige. That's one of the reasons why British paint company Farrow & Ball keeps precisely 132 curated paint colors in its famed color card, updated each year with just the right shades.
To celebrate 75th anniversary, the Dorset-based paint company brought in discerning outside eyes for the first time, collaborating with California interior designer Kelly Wearstler on eight new colors for 2021. For a company that only introduces a few colors every couple of years, this is huge.
If there is such a thing as a "status paint" then Farrow & Ball is it, even earning a dedicated Saturday Night Live skit. The secret is in the colors, all whimsically named (Dead Salmon, Manor House Gray, Hague Blue) and hand-mixed from a proprietary 13 pigments that include a hefty dose of black. "The extra black makes things feel familiar, like a perfectly worn pair of jeans," says Charlotte Cosby, head of creative at Farrow & Ball.
For Wearstler, who has used Farrow & Ball colors decades with her clients (who range from Hollywood celebrities to luxury hotels), the opportunity to create her own colors was an exciting one. "Color is such an important reflection of who we are and what makes us feel good," Wearstler says. "Especially as we approach the end of this pandemic, I wanted colors that felt optimistic, happy."
Each color she chose is tied to a specific memory in Los Angeles, like the faded terracotta tiles she found in a Silverlake vintage shop and the muted gray-green of the Southern California landscape.
Wearstler swears by her moodboards, which are really trays she makes full of swatches, photos, and objects related to each aspect of her projects. For those choosing colors for their homes, Wearstler recommends getting personal. "Go into your closet to see what colors you have and what colors you look good in. Choose a few pieces of art that you are drawn to. Things you like. You’ll see some sort of theme where you can start connecting the dots," she says.
She also recommends testing it out in real life as much as possible. "Think about where you want the color to be, if you are painting walls, the ceiling, millwork, window frames, and what texture you want. It will all begin to tie together," she says. Simultaneously working on the new Downtown LA Proper while launching this collection, Wearstler painted some of the rooms in her new palette, playing with combinations and immersing herself in them. She likes the results so much that Farrow & Ball's new colors will be part of the decor when the hotel opens.
But, for those who still can't decide which color to choose, her palette is meant to be foolproof. Wearstler and Cosby went over each color painstakingly with light boxes to ensure that the colors held up in all types of light, from "gray England to bright California and even New York, which casts a greenish light," according to Cosby. Like a well-edited capsule closet, Wearstler's palette works well together or alone. As Cosby says."You honestly can put any combination of these together, you can't mess it up."
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