Photography, Robin Kitchin
Farrow & Ball’s Charlotte Cosby in her Templeton Pink kitchen.
Photography, Robin Kitchin
Choosing paint colours is daunting. The options are practically limitless. We asked Charlotte Cosby, Farrow & Ball’s Head of Creative, to demystify the process. From experimenting with darker colours and nontraditional applications (hello, ceilings!) to the three (yes, three!) approaches to choosing trim paint, Charlotte’s expert advice takes the fear factor out of this fundamental decorating task.
KL: Fabrics or paint: what comes first?
CC: For me, both have come first at some point. The most successful spaces in my home are projects where I’ve started with something I was really drawn to. In my hallway, it was a paint colour: Tailor Tack. In my bedroom, it was a fabric: The Wave in Mineral by Linwood. And in my kitchen, it was the terrazzo worktop by Diespecker. Building your space around something you love gives you a much higher chance of ending up with a whole room you love, too.
KL: Do dark colours make small spaces feel smaller?
CC: The key here is removing points of contrast. If you use a black on your walls with white on the ceiling, your eyes will be drawn to the point where the colours meet, which gives the impression the ceiling is closer to you than it is. However, if you paint the ceiling black as well (or a colour close to it), your eyes cannot instantly find the edges of the room, giving the illusion it’s larger than it is because it appears to keep going – this principle applies to both dark and light colours.
It’s “lights out” in this dark and dreamy Hopper Head painted bedroom.
KL: What do you think about focal walls in dramatic colours versus painting the whole room?
CC: I’m a big fan of painting the whole room, but that doesn’t always work for everyone. Painting a single wall can help focus attention, delineate a specific area and even change the shape of a space. For example, using a dark colour on one of the shorter walls in a long white room will visually bring that wall towards you and make the room appear squarer. However, if the issue is needing the confidence to use colour, start in small rooms you don’t spend large amounts of time in, like a bathroom or hallway. You could also try painting the lower half or two-thirds of a wall a more dramatic colour, with a softer colour on top.
KL: Many North American decorators paint trim white. Is white the correct choice or can alternative colours be used?
CC: There are three ways of decorating when it comes to trim, and I’ve used all of them in my home. The first, painting them white, is the more traditional route. It’s a classic way of decorating that feels clean and fresh, but it is important to pick a white that suits your wall colour. The second is to go darker than the wall colour, which is a slightly unexpected twist [that’s sophisticated] and can make a room seem bigger and airier because the larger surface of the wall above the trim is lighter by comparison. Lastly, you can use the same colour everywhere, which brings a sense of calm and simplicity. It’s also very useful for hiding trim you’re not fond of!
Stirabout 300, Templeton Pink 303, Hopper Head 305
All PAINT, Farrow & Ball, farrow-ball.com
KL: Should ceilings always be white? What alternative colours might work?
CC: The simple answer is no, not always. Using the right white for your space is what’s important. We’re asked so many questions about which white to use, we now detail the perfect complementary white for each of our colours on the back of our colour card!
In many cases, brilliant white – so often a favourite – can be jarring juxtaposed with the wall colour. Choosing a complementary white will make a huge difference. For example, if you paint your walls in Templeton Pink, Stirabout would be a perfect neutral for the ceiling. You can also be more adventurous on a ceiling, using the same colour as the wall or another in the same tonal range. My daughter’s room has thick Pink Drab stripes on the ceiling with School House White walls, making the room playful and interesting without going over the top.
The two-tone wall features Farrow & Ball’s Templeton Pink on the bottom and Stirabout on top.
KL: Many Farrow & Ball colours are historical. Why do they work so well and how can they be used in modern interiors?
CC: The tiniest pinch of black gives our colours the muted, understated look associated with historical properties. This gives them an instant level of familiarity and softness that’s easy to live with. Colour is one of the most versatile elements of a room, so historical or otherwise, the same colour can look just as good in a traditional or modern interior. It’s what you put with a colour and where you use it that makes the difference.