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I’m a decorator of 19 years, and first of all, I must confess, not all decorators hate Farrow and Ball. In fact, decorators have very split opinions when it comes to F&B paint. Many of them prefer to get a colour match in an alternative brand.
It is strange really, because the depth of colour and longevity of finish are second to none with both the Estate and Modern emulsion products. Farrow and Ball eggshell, although it will only stand up to the Great British Weather for a short period of time, is one of the best water-based eggshells on the market for any interior work. Farrow and Ball wallpaper, although not the topic of this blog, is both stylish and extremely high quality.
Coupled with the seemingly great quality of the Farrow and Ball range, we have their colours, which let’s face it, are stylish and modern, (although the names are, shall we say, slightly out there). Oh, and then we have the colour consultancy service. Although expensive, Farrow and Ball will send an experienced and qualified interior designer to your home to you talk through your vision and help you create the best space imaginable.
It is easy to answer this question. Decorators are a practical bunch, who’s sole focus is the application of products. Style and longevity rarely come into our way of thinking, and both the estate and modern emulsion come with a couple of drawbacks at the application stage. The other Farrow and Ball products rarely get spoken about.
I thought I’d talk about the drawbacks of each product individually, starting with Farrow and Ball Estate Emulsion. This is a chalky, flat emulsion used for interior walls and ceilings. The drawbacks? Well, it normally takes 3 coats of emulsion if you’re changing your wall colour. Estate emulsion tends to scuff easily too, particularly if the emulsion hasn’t had a proper cure time. You can get around this by coating your finished walls with Polyvine Decorators Varnish. Picture farming and roller marks can be a pain in the deeper colours, meaning you must take greater care if you are to achieve that perfect finish.
Again, Farrow and Ball Modern Emulsion is a 3-coat system if changing a wall colour. The sheen level is high too, which isn’t ideal if you’re aiming for a contemporary finish. As with the Estate Emulsion, care must be taken to avoid picture framing and roller marks. This doesn’t sound great for a premium priced emulsion, does it?
It is dead easy to get a Farrow and Ball colour mixed in a different brand of paint. Johnstone’s Trade Centre, as well as a few others, keep Farrow and Ball colours on file. Just tell them what colour you want, and they’ll mix it in whatever finish you like. I recommend a website called The Decorating Centre Online, which are brilliant at colour matching. You can get any Farrow and Ball colour mixed into any other Trade option (click here to view).
Will it be better paint? At the application stage, yes. A good quality trade paint will normally require fewer coats than Farrow and Ball. Trade paint can be easier to use too, as you won’t have to work as hard to eliminate flashing and picture framing.
You will lose something though! The depth of colour in Farrow and Ball emulsion products is fantastic. You notice subtilties which you won’t achieve with any other brand. As the light changes throughout the day, as will the feel of your emulsioned walls and ceilings. Plus, the colour matches are never exact.
I have given you a truthful account based on my own experience and opinion. Decorators have a valid reason to hate Farrow and Ball, but then they’re only job is to apply the product. You are the one who will live with it. If you want to save money, go with a colour match. If you want a luxurious finish, either stick with Farrow and Ball, or go for a different designer paint brand, but stay away from colour matches.
Why do Decorators Hate Farrow and Ball? – by Pete Lane
Decorators are not their target audience and their eggshell paint being fantastic. We had it in our old home and even after 5 years it still looked the same as when it was applied, also love their wallpaper. I'm actually a freelance colour consultant and normally find that most clients like the colour palette of Farrow and Ball but some of them will go off and get it colour matched. I've never colour matched their paint, and have actually put in my terms and conditions that I can't be held responsible if I've suggested a designer brand and the colour isn't what the client expected if they've colour matched it.Jane Holland Was Thacker Tweet
As a decorator….. Price is a factor but, in my eyes, irrelevant as the client is paying not me. It doesn’t matter if it’s £30 a gallon or £100. The main factors for me personally are durability with the estate emulsion is far too low, almost non-existent, and the sheen level on the modern emulsion is too high and quite hard to touch in after if there’s been any snags/damage. The opacity isn’t overly great and it’s very hard to obtain a flawless, consistent finish as it tends to picture frame where the rolled surface leaves a different finish and colour to the brushed edges. Overall, when it comes to a professional standpoint there are many, many paints out there that top it and we all much prefer using. Personally, I don’t get the hype but then there’s others out there that swear by it, but I guess it’s horses for courses.Brendan Brendubz Sheppard-Allen Tweet
I think if Decorators used Farrow and Ball in more recent years, they would be pleasantly surprised at how well it covers. Also, the cost of the product is the same price to all (no trade discount), which may go against the grain for some Decorators, as they like to make profit on materials. Farrow and Ball has, after all, been making paint in Dorset since 1946 and are now owned by one of the biggest paint manufacturers in the world. Yes, there are better paints out there, but you will pay more for those in the long run, not less. The quality of Farrow and Ball’s exterior paint systems work and last. We painted two properties with the exterior eggshell, one eleven years ago one nine years ago. Both properties are only now getting a top up this summer. It is all down to applying the correct number of coats on the surface for the longevity of any paint to perform and the micron film build of the paint. Hope this helps.Mike Tucker Tweet
I’m a Decorator, and I won’t use Farrow and Ball. I’m happy to explain why:
I used Farrow and Ball emulsion recently. I used it in cream, and it didn’t cover a lighter cream. Then when it did finally cover, I found it picture framed. I complained to Farrow and Ball, but they wanted to take core samples over the whole house, not just one wall. Would any of your clients let you do that? Mine just want their house decorated. I took the 20 cans of Farrow and Ball back to Brewer's and got the money back. I then used a different brand, no trouble at all.CPM Decorators Tweet
Let’s be positive here. Hate is a strong word. People are buying a lifestyle when ordering Farrow and Ball. OK, it’s full of marketing 'puff' and they make advantage by tapping into the aspirational market aimed at people who are well off, who like the perception of quality things and are willing to pay top dollar. Yes, there are flatter products and other top-quality pigment-rich paints (silicate mineral for example) and more robust paints, but what really gets me is the decorators who think they are "smart" by getting Farrow and Ball colours mixed in cheap brands. They think they are doing the customer a favour!!!! If F&B must deal with this day-in, day-out I am not surprised they get all defensive and angry. I would! I don't know why a lot of decorators do not understand the whole Farrow and Ball concept (a few good ones do of course). They could easily explain to the clients that they must charge appropriate fees for using F&B as it is a complicated paint to apply. All they have to do is to follow the specifications, charge for what they know and not just for "chucking up some paint". They have a chance to market themselves off the back of Farrow and Ball's colossal marketing spend, take advantage and become a niche specialist in F&B. With that said, I have been asked the question so I will answer it, yes, in the scheme of things in my little world it is common to see failures (not ours I hasten to add). I just wonder how many are down to application error / application attitude.Kevin Foot Tweet
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