Talking colour with Farrow & Ball's brand ambassador
“I’m not going to reinvent the wheel, but I am going to talk about colour.” I’m front row at the National Glass Centre listening intently to Farrow & Ball’s brand ambassador, Patrick O’Donnell. Introduced as a ‘magician of colour,’ Patrick stands amongst a plethora of Farrow & Ball samples, books and colour cards — a fitting scenario given that he’s the man behind the brand’s colour consultancy service. The event space is full to bursting with fellow interiors obsessives, all eager to pick up tips on bringing their homes to life with paint and paper.
Patrick begins by talking about hot and cool colours, and about how Farrow & Ball err more towards the cool end of the spectrum. “Cool colours are more suited to the Northern Hemisphere,” he notes, before moving on to discuss in-depth the different groups of neutrals. Traditional neutrals, he explains, are those with green undertones, which provide a sophisticated feel; yellow-based neutrals have an ever-so-soft touch of the sunshine shade, bringing a gentle warmth, and red-based neutrals offer a more dramatic finish. There are contemporary neutrals, such as Elephant’s Breath, which bring cosiness to cool spaces and architectural neutrals, such as Manor House Grey, which are the go-to for “die-hard fans of grey.”
“We’re moving away from grey, though,” Patrick declares, going on to explain that, instead, we are reaching for Neapolitan ice-cream shades — evoking a sense of nostalgia. “When the world is unsettled and restless, we tend to focus our energy on our homes,” he offers.
It’s worth noting that Farrow & Ball don’t follow trends: “We aren’t particularly cool,” Patrick laughs, adding, “We aren’t trend-followers; we’re much more about integrity and heritage.” For those unaware, Farrow & Ball began in Dorset in 1946 when John Farrow, a trained chemist, met Richard Ball, an engineer, at a local clay pit. Together, they shared a passion for making rich colours to original formulations and the rest, as they say, is history.
So, what exactly determines the richness of a colour? Colour weight; that is, the depth of colour or the intensity of pigment. “A lot of people are nervous about colour,” Patrick shares, before revealing his top tip for introducing the C-word into your home: “Consider looking at a more tonal palette; it’s the easiest way to achieve harmony throughout a house.”
For smaller rooms, Patrick suggests switching things up by painting woodwork in a darker colour than the walls, hence “accentuating the larger surface area.” In period properties where, typically, rooms are busier with lots of features (think dado rails, coving, skirting) consider painting everything in one colour. “Using the appropriate finishes in one single, unifying shade means that the room can breathe,” Patrick argues.
Colour is a great tool for changing the proportions of a room, too. For example, by using a darker colour at the far end of a long, narrow room, it’s much less likely to feel so rectangular. And, by considering the ceiling as a “fifth wall,” and foregoing the usual brilliant white, you’re able to create the illusion of added height.
When it comes to decorating a room, it’s a good idea to consider the direction it faces. North-facing rooms, with little natural light, “respond well to darker colours,” whereas West-facing rooms are flooded with blue-tinged morning light, meaning blue-greens will sing. And, if you’re blessed with a South-facing room, you’re in luck: “South-facing rooms are the easiest to decorate; they’re joyous, and flooded with light,” Patrick beams.
I’m glad I ended up sitting at the front, as Patrick’s passion for colour is infectious. He picks up colour cards as he goes, all-the-while animating his speech with his hands, and with the crinkling eyes of someone who loves what he does. He briefly talks us through Farrow & Ball’s wallpaper range, including Tourbillon — the pattern of which was rejected by Coco Chanel in the 1930s — before joking about men failing to understand why a paint company “has so many shades of white.”
The winners of the raffle are drawn, before glasses of Prosecco are drained, and the evening draws to a close. Patrick and his team are swarmed almost immediately by homeowners, but I chat away happily to a fellow Instagrammer about Sulking Room Pink, and finding the time to post alongside a full-time office job.
I’ve always been a lover of colour, thanks to growing up in many a rainbow-hued home. Spending an evening with a colour extraordinaire? It’s only served to cement my passion for the C-word.
An Evening with Farrow & Ball was hosted in association with Brewers Decorator Centres at the National Glass Centre. Did you pop along? Let me know what you thought in the comments, below or Tweet me @nclmullencomms.