As a woman with enough tester pots in her cellar to paint the Forth Bridge and still have a bit left over for touch-ups, I know from bitter and expensive experience that choosing the perfect wall colour is no easy task. Colours you like on the card often just don't work – either with must-keep furniture, the space you're painting or as a wall colour as opposed to 'just' a colour. So, where to start and how to maximise your chances of getting it right first time?
We thought we'd ask the experts, so spoke to Sarah Cole, Director at Farrow & Ball and asked for some tips:
Wall: Manor House Gray No.265; Door & Ceiling: Cooking Apple Green No.32; Desk: Red Earth No.64; Chair: India Yellow No.66; Stool: Fowler Pink No.39; Frame: Arsenic No.214
What are the most common questions that customers ask when choosing the perfect colour for their decorating project?
One of the most common questions we're asked about is finding the right sympathetic white for a colour - it's so important to pick a neutral with the right tone. For example, the correct complementary neutral for Picture Gallery Red is Joa's White as it has a red base. To help customers make their colour selections, they can view complementary neutrals and schemes for each paint colour and wallpaper on our website
Are you seeing any major colour trends at the moment?
The colour orange is very 'hot' right now – particularly popular in fashion and home interiors. It's a versatile colour, with powerful, warm undertones and works wonderfully as an accent colour in an interior scheme. Our new colour – Charlotte's Locks - is a fiery orange, widely used as an accent colour in the minimalist decoration of the 1950s. It's dramatic yet retains that very special 'Farrow & Ball' look by virtue of the inclusion of black.
Pink is also proving very popular this year – its warm tone helps to create a casual, relaxed feeling in any room. It can also be uplifting and good for use in rooms with lots of natural light. The most chic colour to contrast with pink is definitely a warm grey - the fabulous pink punches through the elegant grey to create something really magical. To achieve this look, try Cinder Rose paired with one of our new greys, Dove Tale.
Neutrals are incredibly versatile and are always popular. We've recently launched some new colours including a new neutral Oxford Stone, which has a warm, red base.
Wall below picture rail: Mizzle No.266; Wall above picture rail: Dix Blue No.82; Table top: Manor House Gray No.265; Table legs: Porphyry Pink No. 49
What is F&B's all-time best selling colour?
Farrow & Ball is famed for its neutrals with some of our most popular colours being Pointing, Wimborne White, All White and Elephant's Breath.
Woodwork. Contrasting vs same colour as the walls - discuss!
There are no right or wrong ways when it comes to decorating, it's all about personal choice. For a more traditional look one colour can be used on the walls with white gloss on the woodwork, often the same white as that on the ceiling. This is a very clean, but sometimes hard look. To soften the contrast select a white which is more sympathetic to the colour on the walls; this will make the contrast more gradual and you become less aware of where things stop and start, so the confines of the room disappear and it will feel bigger. A scheme combining Off-White on the skirting and Blue Gray on the walls would achieve this.
Alternatively, using one colour on both the walls and woodwork is very popular in contemporary settings as it creates a very strong, clean look. This look can also feel extremely calm and make a room feel much bigger, as there are no contrasts to draw the eye.
Wardrobe: Cabbage White No.269; Wall: Saxon Green No.80; Ceiling: Blue Ground No.210; Bed: Dimity No.2008; Chair: Churlish Green No.251; Lightshade & door: Pigeon No.25
Are there certain colour combinations that you just know won't ever work or is it always space-specific?
Colour is very personal – it reflects our character as well as creating emotional responses and atmosphere, so it's important that you select a palette that feels right for you. Different colour combinations will work in different rooms and when it comes to choosing colour, there are no strict rules but there are many factors to take into consideration. Architecture, the purpose, shape and direction of a room and above all light, should always be taken into account as they will contribute to the changing appearance of colours.
It is important to understand how colours work together – stronger contrasts are created by the use of a red with a green, for example, or a blue with an orange – each making the other appear brighter and more intense.
Weight of colour can also be important when considering colour combinations. If you want a house to flow from room to room, choose paints that have the same weight of colour within them. For example, a Stone Blue hallway leading into a Rectory Red living room will work well because the weight of colour is balanced.
What is the largest number of tester pots you've ever heard of a customer of yours having?
This is generally dependent on the number of colours being used in a customer's chosen scheme however on occasion we have heard of customers purchasing sample pots for each of our 132 colours!
Doors: Dove Tale No.267; Wall: Arsenic No.214; Ceiling: Churlish Green No.251
Farrow & Ball's Top Tips on Choosing Colour:
Tip 1: When it comes to choosing colour, there are no strict rules but there are many factors to take into consideration. Architecture, the purpose, shape and direction of a room and above all light, should be taken into account as they will contribute to the changing appearance of colours.
Tip 2: Before making your final colour choice, test selected paint colours in the room to be decorated. Paint onto a piece of paper or card and place it in the room to be decorated looking at how the colour changes at different times of the day. This is particularly useful when you are decorating a room which you will only use at certain times of day. For instance, if you are decorating a dining room which is mostly used in the evening, check the colours in evening light to ensure you get your desired look.
Tip 3: Start by thinking how light moves through your house and the effect it has at different times of the day.
Consider the period of your property and whether this also influences your choice.
Tip 5: Think about the colours you are comfortable with - look at your clothes, your car, furniture and fabrics. Decide on a palette that feels right to you.
Tip 6: Don't be tempted to use too many colours on architectural features as you may distract from the very thing you are trying to enhance.
Tip 7: The traditional approach to decorating is more colour on the walls than on the woodwork; however, reversing this can be equally effective.
Tip 8: Monochromatic schemes are particularly good for irregular shaped rooms as they help to iron out any visual faults.