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three paintbrushes with three paint samples in brown tones

The Art of Paint

Paint is one of the hardest elements of design to visualise and I am so often asked for advice on this subject. The most common issue is that people choose the paint colour first rather than choosing fabrics, furniture, rugs and accessories, and then choosing a paint colour to fit in with the whole scheme. My view is that you can find a paint colour more easily to match your interior scheme.There are myriad different paint shades from many different suppliers;  from Farrow & Ball and Little Greene to Dulux and Johnstones.

Paint is particularly tricky as it is affected by so many other elements in the room; the floor surface and colour, reflective glass in the room, the size of the windows, the aspect of the room, the amount of artificial light, and the colour of your light bulb. This makes for a confusing process of decision making.

Where to start

Rather than painting samples on the existing surface in the room, I would take yourself away from the situation. Gather together samples of the fabrics and surfaces in the room and lay them out near each other, preferably on a black piece of card.  Paint up samples on an A4 sized piece of white card and when dry offer them up next to the fabrics. You can then revisit the samples during different times of the day and light.

Basic paint tips:

  • use emulsion for ceilings and cornices; use eggshell for all woodwork (windows, doors, architraves, skirtings, cupboards/joinery)
  • use emulsion for walls (except in high traffic areas where eggshell is more wipeable, or areas such as bathrooms and boot rooms which may be damp/dirty)
  • I am so often asked what colour to paint woodwork (doors, architraves, skirtings, windows). For a classic look, you could paint this in a uniform shade of white through the house. Bright white gives a crisp finish, particularly against stronger coloured walls and wallpaper.


interior design detail, door and dining room chair blue and white paint
Farrow and Ball woodwork in Pointing, walls in Oval Room Blue
interior design - study detail, green painted shelves with campaign desk
Farrow & Ball Calke Green walls and woodwork

For a more enveloping, cosy feel, all woodwork could be painted in the same colour as the walls. This isn’t appropriate for every situation, but I would for example consider doing this in a study for a cosy, Gentleman’s Club style, using a strong green or deep red.

interior design - detail of chest of drawers and white painted woodwork
Woodwork in Farrow & Ball Shaded White

In some situations it may be appropriate to choose the woodwork colour specifically to go with the scheme in the room. I did this for the guest bedroom above.  With a line of cupboards around the bed brilliant white woodwork would have been too stark, and would have detracted from the delicate wallpaper, so I chose a more subtle colour, Farrow & Ball Shaded White.

If you do choose to paint woodwork in different colours in each room you need to consider carefully where the woodwork colour finishes in one space, and then changes in the next.  For example, the door may be in white on one side, and grey on the other side, so you need to choose where the divide is and whether it will detract from the room if the door opens into the room showing a different colour.

Favourite brands

I love the palette for Farrow & Ball – they also have an inspiring range of images which help to visualise how the paint would look. They’ve been instrumental in the industry in bringing strong, brave, characterful colours to the home.

I also use the Sanderson range. In particular they have an excellent selection of blues, which can be a tricky colour to use.

Earthborn Paints

I also love Little Greene Paint and Paint and Paper Library.

Responding to the increase in demand all the major paint brands now do environmentally friendly paints, however, Earthborn Paints was awarded the first UK licence of the EU Ecolabel for environmentally friendly indoor breathable paints.

Sanderson Velvet Blue paint
Sanderson Velvet Blue

A Final Word on Paint

I often use paint to simplify a space. For example in an old house where the beams aren’t particularly noteworthy, these can be painted out and ‘lost’. I did this in my own drawing room as the beam was not a feature I wanted to highlight.  It was a little too rustic for the style I wanted to create, so I painted it the ceiling colour.

Less is sometimes more. It’s often tempting to include too many paint colours in the room to make a statement, for example doing a contrast colour for a bookcase to make it stand out, however if you introduce too many colours this can look too busy.

Finally, three of my favourite colours that I come back to again and again.

All time favourite: Farrow & Ball Oval Room Blue
On trend: Earthy tones such as Farrow & Ball Jitney and Sulking Room Pink

For more information or advice please do not hesitate to contact the studio at

Lucy X