“The bank col-ouuur is ‘Lulworth Blue,’” declares Aidy Bryant during the “Saturday Night Live” skit, “New Paint.” Leaning into a camp British accentuation of “color” she continues, paint-splaining that the adumbration is alleged afterwards the, “swirling British mists of the admirable Lulworth Cove.”
“What a col-our!”
After advertent that Bryant’s admired “Lulworth Blue” costs $110 a gallon, adolescent actor Beck Bennett — who plays her visiting brother — is aghast. He can’t appreciate why anyone in their appropriate apperception would absorb so abundant on a pot of paint, but his sister is adamant:
“It’s not aloof paint,” Bryant cries.”It’s Farrow and Ball!”
Famous for its alien adumbration names (“Rangwali,” “Elephant’s Breath” and “Dead Salmon” amidst the best hauntingly eccentric) and abundant amount tags, Farrow & Ball is accomplished for parody. Yet, it is additionally badly successful.
The celebrated British brand, founded in 1946, has had its paints splashed on endless high-profile walls, from New York’s Museum of Avant-garde Art to Queen Elizabeth II’s weekend residence, Windsor Castle. Despite actuality headquartered in Dorset, on the UK’s south coast, Farrow & Ball’s rural operation has an acutely catholic appeal.
It’s been acclimated on the sets of acclaimed TV shows like Netflix’s “Sex Education” and has been name-dropped by celebrities from Padmia Laksmi to Shay Mitchell. In 2014, “Mad Men” brilliant January Jones was photographed abrogation a Farrow & Ball exhibit in Los Angeles, her latest purchases attractive added like artisan handbags than one-gallon cans of paint.
The aggregation has an anniversary about-face of over 100 actor euros ($118 million). In May, Farrow & Ball was acquired by Danish coatings architect Hempel for £500 actor ($692 million), according to the Financial Times, admitting the abutting would not affirm the appear sum.
So how did a gallon of almighty alleged acrylic become the ultimate aspirational statement?
In the after-effects of World War II, the West was chaotic by a do-it-yourself boom. IKEA was founded in 1943, with its aboriginal flat-pack appliance archive appear aloof a few years later. By 1954, Time annual had committed its August awning adventure to the phenomenon, declaring DIY “the new billion-dollar hobby.”
Color bedeviled the decade. Gaudy, primary hues were all the rage, but acceptable linseed oil paints bootless to bear the adapted vibrancy. As a result, the acrylic industry began affective appear abstracts fabricated from petroleum and acrylic resins, which were bargain to accomplish and encapsulated the bold, post-war optimism that had infiltrated autogenous design.
Farrow & Ball, however, steered bright of acrylics, afraid instead to simple linseed oil, which was antiseptic and alloyed with aerial pigment. In acrylic paints, solvents are added to ensure the accomplishment is fast-drying and added durable, but at the amount of baneful chemicals. Farrow & Ball’s adjustment was solvent-free, and remained banausic until 2009, back the aggregation switched to a water-based recipe.
“They pioneered the ‘chalky’ matte attending for walls and a bendable eggshell attending on woodwork (that) is beneath ‘plastic’-looking and agleam than avant-garde paints,” said Victoria Wormsley, an autogenous artisan and buyer of London-based French-Brook Interiors, in an email interview.
But it wasn’t until the 1990s that Farrow & Ball accomplished the bartering success it enjoys today. The Dorset acrylic abutting got its big breach in 1992 back Tom Helme, an interiors adviser to the National Trust — a not-for-profit alignment that conserves celebrated barrio and adorableness spots beyond Britain — took ascendancy of Farrow & Ball with accumulated financier Martin Ephson.
Farrow & Ball began alive on cultural ancestry projects, accouterment the National Trust with colors that were “sympathetic” to aeon adornment rather than historically accurate. From affected august homes to arresting cottages, exceptional estates up and bottomward the UK were adequate to their above celebrity with a beginning lick of anxiously curated Farrow & Ball paint. Once the absolute hue had been created for a property, it was canned and awash as allotment of the brand’s Ancestry range. “Picture Arcade Red,” for instance, was aboriginal developed to redecorate the annual arcade at Attingham Park in Shropshire, England.
“Farrow & Ball are apparent as the aboriginal artisan paint,” Wormsley said. “They were one of the aboriginal companies in the UK to bazaar acrylic as an aspirational artefact by abutting it to Britain’s admirable architectural heritage.”
Florid adornment had bedeviled the 1980s, and alarum for fuss and basic connected able-bodied into the 1990s. Busy bittersweet wallpaper, busy chintz upholstery and gilded bizarre administration consistently fronted the covers of magazines like Architectural Digest and World of Interiors — the added antiquated-looking the better. It was the ideal chump mural for a cast like Farrow & Ball, which congenital its angel about the abundant iconography of British august homes.
Amid growing burden to embrace avant-garde accomplishment technology — Australian acrylic maker Dulux’s production, for instance, has been absolutely automatic back 2017 — Farrow & Ball’s branch operation still relies on animal captivation at every step. Pigments are hand-poured, again anniversary accumulation is swatched and anxiously inspected by a Farrow & Ball chemist. This adroitness may partly annual for the brand’s artisan cachet — and explain its absurd amount tags.
The acrylic was positioned as affluence by association: If it was acceptable abundant for the acquiescently maintained mansions of yesteryear, it was acceptable abundant for anybody (providing, of course, that you could bottom the bill).
Farrow & Ball has become all-over in flush neighborhoods (the cast has 61 showrooms beyond the US and Europe and over 220 stockists in London and Manhattan alone) while still authoritative barter feel as if they are allotment of an absolute coterie.
“It’s the array of actuality that is discussed over banquet affair tables,” said autogenous artisan Sophie Richardson in “Inside the Posh Acrylic Factory,” a documentary about the company’s operations. “And I anticipate if you can say you’ve got Farrow & Ball it agency you’re in with the air-conditioned club.”
But not anybody sees Farrow & Ball as the apotheosis of luxury. The celebrated acrylic architect alike begin itself on an abominable tongue-in-cheek list, created by high-society autogenous artisan Nicky Haslam, account the world’s best unbearably “common” ( a aloof British appellation for article that is unrefined or unsophisticated) things. Haslam confidently, if not arbitrarily, placed Farrow & Ball amidst entries including self-pity, ATMs, swans and barrier funds.
Nonetheless, Farrow & Ball has a loyal chump base. One of the Facebook groups committed to the acrylic cast boasts 55,000 associates and is acclimated to allotment appliance tips, blush admonition and appreciative photos of users’ own handiwork.
The appropriate adumbration names advice advance a faculty of community, said Wormsley, allowance to actualize a faculty of actuality in-the-know. “I anticipate (the aberrant blush names) gives Farrow & Ball barter a faculty of actuality cognoscenti,” she added, “as the colours can’t be best from the names.”
Joa Studholme, a blush babysitter at Farrow & Ball for the aftermost 25 years, agreed that the adumbration names are “very, very, actual important.”
“People anatomy an adapter with a blush and the belief they acquaint you,” she said in a buzz interview. Take “Sulking Room Pink,” a arenaceous rose blush advised to arm-twist the baking allure of European bedrooms. “When we fabricated it anybody was like, why is it alleged that?” Studholme said. “And it’s such a simple reason.”
“Sulking Room Pink” was aggressive by the French “boudoir,” which actually translates “to sulk.”
“It was so intriguing,” Studholme said, “And it builds affection. I anticipate that’s the capital thing.”
The arbitrary names are talking points, too, said Studholme. Colors such as “Slipper Satin” or “Stiffkey Blue” (be warned: the actual accentuation is “stook-y blue”) are memorable absolutely for their catchy pronunciation. “Although I don’t anticipate we would advisedly go out and acquisition a difficult word.”
While added period-inspired British brands accept collapsed by the wayside — aftermost year, ancestry bolt and appliance characterization Laura Ashley was affected to abutting all 155 UK food amidst crumbling sales — Farrow & Ball has consistently managed to abduction the aspirational acuteness of the average classes.
“All of its business photography is done in the best admirable homes,” said Richardson. “Georgian houses with shutters and cornicing and aerial ceilings and all kinds of architectural detail and yet, accustomed bodies in accustomed houses accept been absolutely aggressive by their look.”
Mural artisan Rachel Spelling has alike animated the accepted aggregation blush blueprint into awful approved bank art. Spelling’s customized adaptation of the Farrow & Ball advertisement retails for £150 ($207).
But as able-bodied as capitalizing on its cultural cachet the cast is additionally developing a faculty of amusement to account its acceptability as the market’s poshest paint. The acutely self-aware Farrow & Ball now embraces jokes fabricated at its expense, as approved in the company’s aboriginal anytime TV commercials, aboriginal aired in 2020, in which aberrant decorators go to acute lengths to assure their big-ticket and aerial acrylic work.
In acknowledgment to the Saturday Night Live sketch, the acrylic manufacturers took out an ad in the New York Times actualization a appropriate copy col-ouuuur, “English Roast No.30.”
“A affluent and acceptable hum-oured hue with attenuate hints of barren banter and a abiding aftereffect of broiled British beef,” apprehend the description. “It’s not aloof paint, it’s Farrow & Ball.”
Top image: A kitchen corrective in the Farrow & Ball adumbration “Bancha,” alleged afterwards Japanese tea leaves.