Good week for Farrow and Ball

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I think it’s actually been a good week for Farrow and Ball.

Farrow and Ball in The Week

There’s a really great publication called The Week which some of you may read. For those who don’t have time to plough through the news every day, The Week summarises reports from the world’s press in a weekly digest. It’s also great for teenagers who ought to know more about world affairs.

One of its regular slots is the “Good week for …, Bad Week for …” piece where it picks 2 or 3 stories that may not make global headlines but are of interest to some. The most recent edition featured a “Bad week for Farrow and Ball”. It reported that F&B is changing its paint recipe “… in response to long-standing complaints that it is hard to apply…”.

But this is good news, surely… for Farrow and Ball and its customers.

paint pots

If I were going to dublin, i wouldn’t start from here

Obviously, F&B didn’t want to be in this situation, but the problem arose a long time ago. Now they’ve done something about it, and we hope they start to win back some of the trade that had moved on.

Years ago when we were studying interior decoration, our mentor was very positive about F&B. In our early projects, we always specified Farrow and Ball, partly because of our tutor’s recommendation, but also because the brand oozed quality for our clients. One of our very favourite colours is Cornforth White – others come close, but F&B’s particular shade is a clear winner.

However, when we started to hear grumbles from our decorators, we quickly realised how unpopular F&B was with many in the trade. In fact, I’ve stood in queues at trade centres overhearing paint professionals passing disparaging comments about the products. If you look on-line, there are similar remarks. Rather than upset our regular decorators, we moved on to Little Greene which offers great products at the higher end of the market, along with Dulux, Crown and Johnstone’s trade for many of our other projects.


Farrow and Ball have improved their recipe

After seeing the article in the week, I researched it further and found the Telegraph’s original report. It cites F&B’s technical staff who reportedly added 20% more pigment to improve opacity; one of the complaints was that of coverage, needing several coats to achieve a satisfactory finish. The fact that F&B has taken positive action is great news for everyone.

Why buy a high priced paint at all?

A 5litre tin of F&B emulsion retails at around £75, whilst a similar quantity of trade paint might cost £25-£30. This difference is significant. The age-old question is why pay the extra.

Paint comprises binders, solvents, stabilisers and mould-resistant additives; pigment gives the quality of the colour and more pigment generally means better coverage. It is the quality and quantity of these constituents that you are paying for. You want the paint to apply easily with good opacity. When dry, you want a good, even colour, well-adhered to the wall and that won’t fade, blister or peel. I’ve used a DIY shop’s “trade” white emulsion before, and I might as well have been painting with milk. I’ve also seen an experiment with F&B and a budget copy, side by side on a wall – the F&B won hands down when viewed in different lights and at different viewing angles.

sample paint pots

In theory, whilst a quality paint will cost more, you should make a saving in labour because the decorator should only need to apply fewer coats. I’m not convinced that there is a significant saving, if any, when compared with a quality trade paint from a Dulux, Crown or Johnstones trade centre. But there should be a significant saving against a budget DIY paint.


Clients also expect their painted walls to be durable. We’ve never had a problem using any interior emulsion on the grounds of durability. As long as the decorator prepares the walls correctly and follows good practice, the paint will do a good job. We have found that Little Greene in particular touches up scuff marks and blends in very well. This suggests that the paint also has good fade properties, often not noticed unless you look behind a picture or a piece of furniture. We’ll see whether the new Farrow and Ball recipe does the same.

bedroom decoration

Good news from Farrow and Ball

So this is all good news. Clearly, in the high quality paint market, F&B needed to listen to its customers; it looks like they’ve done this at last. Hopefully, decorators with give the brand another chance and we’ll see if F&B takes back some of the market share that has drained away over recent years.

If you are interested in painting a room, we’ve written a number of guidance documents on home decoration. You can read about decorating with accept colours in one of these articles.





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