Farrow and Ball "Hague Blue" via

My favourite thing to do with a spare five or ten minutes is to busy myself on Pinterest. For those of you who are not on Pinterest, it is much like Facebook or any other social media in that you follow people, and they follow you. You can see what people pin, and they can see what you pin… and then re-pin away at will. One thing I see an awful lot of are Australian pinners obsessively pinning paint colour pins for US or English only available paint brands. These are usually Sherwin Williams, Benjamin Moore and Farrow and Ball paints. There is also one blogger that I'm aware of who has imported paint from the US to get the colours that she fell in love with in a magazine or on the internet.

Farrow and Ball "Pavillion Grey" via

There are a few reasons why thinking about importing paint is not a good idea, aside from the obvious cost involved. Firstly, paint colours change according to light. In Australia, we have extremely strong light - colours that work overseas do not work in the same way under our lighting conditions, the colour will alter from what you thought you were getting. This also holds true for the performance of the paint. Australian paint is made to hold up to extremely harsh UV levels. Pigment in a paint will fade (just as everything else does), so having paint made here for our conditions is better if you want a colour that still looks the same in a few years time. A third consideration is that many builders and painters will not warranty work that is done using a paint brand they are either unfamiliar with, or that they have no ability to go back to the source if something goes wrong (like the paint flaking off) due to a lack of warranty from the company.

Farrow and Ball "Down Pipe" via

The next point to remember is that the vast majority of photographic images you see that you like enough to pin (or in a print magazine) are professional photos, and they have had the colour saturation amped up, or dulled down, or photoshopped in some way. If you're viewing the image on a computer screen it will also have settings that change the way things look on it, and that may be different from the settings the producer of the image uses, so a colour you love on screen is not necessarily what will arrive in a pot from overseas.

Farrow and Ball "Hardwick White", Plain English Kitchens via

I know a lot of people bemoan the lack of paint colour choice in Australia - however unlike many other things we lack in terms of choice,  we do have boutique brands of paints (Porter's and Murobond amongst a few others), and several big name brands (Dulux, Haymes, Solver, British Paints, Taubmans) with the bigger brands having thousands of colours in their ranges. The problem is that you won't necessarily see these colours when you go to a hardware store and choose a paint colour. Just like anything fashion related, Colour forecasters will put together a range for the paint chips you see in the stores from the very large range of individual colours within their brand.

Benjamin Moore "Beach Glass" via 

Some of this relates to what they think people like (i.e. the majority of people tend to be attracted to 'clear' colours - I'll explain what I mean by this further down), and partially this is set by what the colour and trend forecasters internationally say will be popular. Every era has its own particular paint colour story to define it, browns/ neutrals were the early to mid 2000's, currently its greys and linen colours, the 70's orange, yellow and dark brown, the 80's were peachy pinks, corals and turquoise, the 90's yellow and blue. So you'll see a lot of choice in those fashion colours on sample chips, and maybe not so much in a colour you like but that is not currently on the radar.

Benjamin Moore "August Morning" via 

The colours you'll see in the Hardware store relate to all these things - if they were to put out all their colours on sample chips, you'd find there would be over 5,000 sample colours from Dulux alone.

Benjamin Moore "Wythe Blue" via

Back to the colour factor. Generally speaking, the reason why a lot of people love the overseas paint brands, like Farrow and Ball, is because they are a little 'dirty'. They have a bit of black pigment mixed in, and this gives the paint colour a sophistication and depth. You can in fact replicate their paint colours using Australian paint, it's just that if you're trying to do that off the chips in the Hardware store it's unlikely you're going to find the exact colour you're after. As I mentioned upthread the biggest sellers are 'clear' colours. They have a bit of a primary element to them, even if they're quite pale pastels. There's not a lot of depth and dimension to them, but these are the colours the average person will be attracted to on a tiny sample chip. My late Mother made a bit of an error with a yellow paint colour that she painted their casual living room in. Unfortunately at the time she was choosing paint colours, I was tied up in a meeting at work. I texted her back that I'd get out the Atlas and choose a yellow for her after the meeting was over, but it appears that when she said she needed a yellow straight away, she meant absolutely at that moment. So by the time I got the Atlas out and rang her to give her a name, she'd already instructed the painter and bought the paint. It's quite a bright yellow with a lot of white mixed in, so in my view, it doesn't have a lot of sophistication to it in terms of depth of colour, and isn't particularly period correct for the house. It's been a tricky colour to work around, as curtains etc came after the colour had already been chosen and applied, and it can look a little sickly under low light levels. But as my Mum said "It looked good on the chip". And this is another tip - get a sample pot. I never choose paint colours off a tiny chip. As a designer I can order A4 sized samples for projects, and frequently find it's often not the colour you were thinking it would be when it's in a larger sheet. So if you're thinking of choosing a colour try painting a larger sample first to see if it is what you thought it was.

Farrow and Ball "Blue Grey" via Tone on Tone blog

There are so many variables as to how a colour will look when its applied to a wall - geography and light levels for that particular room are the biggest. So if you fall in love with a paint colour in a magazine and you'd like to replicate it, try finding it locally - you can definitely find that colour in Australia, it's just not necessarily going to be displayed on the rack of a paint chip selection in a hardware store. If you naturally don't want to hire a Architect or Interior Designer to assist you in picking a couple of paint colours, you can always have a colour consultant come to your home from one of the paint companies (I linked to Dulux, however the other companies may offer this too if you check their website) and show them the images of colours you'd like to replicate. For a small cost outlay you'll end up saving yourself a lot of potential heartache and will find the colour you fell in love with in a magazine or Pinterest on your walls, without having to freight it over with all the potential pitfalls that may bring.

34 comments:

  1. I never thought about this but of course paints and the way they behave on the walls will vary from place to place. I'm sure our colours here in Canada would look very different in Australia.
    My entire house has just been repainted and the colours are so perfect, it has been the first time I had them chosen by a designer (who can see shades in colours I don't pick up on at all).
    Our painter will only use Dulux paint, he claims it is the best available here. Of course the colours were chosen from the massive colour cards for all the paint companies, a few of the colours are Benjamin Moore replicated by Dulux.
    Fascinating and informative post Heidi. Interesting about "looks good on the chip" re your mother's choice, and yellow is a difficult colour to live with anyway, don't you find? xo

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    1. They definitely would look different here Dani, our light is so harsh. I can't wait to see photos of your finished home, I'm sure it's looking fabulous. I use Dulux all the time as well, mainly because they are so good to the Designers with the samples, so it just makes it easier to use… but also their paint is probably one of the best in Australia for exterior paint - they can produce bright colours that don't fade (like Red or Yellow), which a lot of other brands cannot.
      Yellow is a difficult colour to live with I think - interestingly I remember from doing some colour theory at University that apparently adults have a tendency to argue more in a yellow room than other colours! Green in a dining room will suppress appetite too… funny how colour can affect mood so much. xx

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    2. Dulux is the standard go-to here in Australia, and the preferred choice of paint by designers and professional painters. IMO there are far better choices such as Resene (NZ-based eco-friendly paint), Porters Paints, Sherwin-Williams, and Wattyl. The application of these paints gives smoother coverage. I think it all boils down to preference, but in the case of the professionals, they get great discounts and perks from Dulux which means that nearly every magazine you pick up, is likely to push Dulux in every spread! My husband will not touch Dulux with a barge pole. His paint of choice is Wattyl, Resene or Sherwin-Williams, not necessarily in that order!

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  2. It was annoying when I would go thru mags and it was Benjamin Moore or something I couldn't get here. But funny enough there is a tried and true paint that I have used for 20 years. Calico by dulux but in my top room it looks so different bc I was not used to that much light so even if you used a paint many times I forgot to test it in a new exposure! I am keeping it bc it's ok but a lesson learned...

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    1. You know the annoying thing is that the Dulux paint colour names in the UK are not the same as in Australia! We have a Calico here, but I'm not sure that it would be the exact same shade as your Calico. It's funny it's so separate…. and interesting that you've found your old faithful is not working in one room, light really does affect colour so much! x

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  3. So interesting Heidi! Our light is so different in canada with its much shorter days and winter that lasts forever.... Never thought about the uv issue in Australia but it makes perfect sense. The very first blue up on top has been the colour of my bedroom for 5 years, but am considering going lighter now... the story about your mum is a hoot!

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    1. I love those dark colours in rooms like bedrooms Wendy - make it feel very cosy, but if you've had it for a while, sometimes a change is good. The thing with that yellow Mum chose is that it's unlikely to get changed - Dad certainly won't bother until it's desperately in need of a repaint, but it irks me every time I go in there!

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  4. What a wonderful primer on choosing paint colors, thank you. I agree with everything you've pointed out with regards to finding a color locally. I've painted with F&B here in America simply because I was able to lay my hands on a small sample pot, and thank goodness I did as the first of the two colors I was toying with did not work out at all. Are such small sample pots available in Australia from the local brands? I've also used Benjamin Moore successfully for the same reason (those sample pots save one a lot of costly mistakes). Painting a square of sheetrock and moving it about the room at various times of the day and evening will also give a good idea of how color reacts to light. If I have found a color from outside of the United States that I simply must have, I have found a local painting company that can "match" the color for me, but not all of them will do that.

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    1. Yes, we can get the small sample pots too - they're also handy for doing a quick touch up if a wall is damaged! You're also fortunate that you've found people able to match so successfully - often the local paint companies here will claim they can colour match something from a photo or piece of fabric, but it's never quite the same. There's a definite skill in it!

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  5. I am hopeless with paint. My talent's lying elsewhere. Maybe one say all those foreign brands and colours can run free here in Oz and paint people who reno can gets their hands on them.

    I am not on pinterest cause I can't figure it out.

    Have a great day Heidi xxxxxx

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    1. Not sure if they'll ever make it to Australia - we're a small market a long way away for a lot of the big name brands. But who knows? Other things have made it here so you never know.
      You just haven't tried hard enough on Pinterest! It's not hard, but in the end it's just another thing to waste time on. xxxx

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  6. Wonderful post Heidi! So helpful and informative. Having a husband who is a hobby painter who has lived in different hemispheres means I have something of a colour expert at home. We always have chosen paint colours very carefully, including buying a small pot of the one we think we want and trialling it out first. But it's probably easier for us as we only choose something that works as background never as a feature as we have so many paintings on walls that it has never seemed to be the priority. That said though, can see from some of your pics how the unusual colour choices can really be quite impressive and far more sophisticated than our own.

    The other thing I've become very aware of in more recent years is the need to choose a low voc (volatile organic compounds) paint for health reasons. They're not available in all colours/types so it does need a bit of thought. As you'd be aware, low voc paints and finishes are much better for your home environment (and office environments) as they don't give off as many of the nasty chemicals as most old school type paints. Except on really cold or wet days we always open our windows wide first thing in the morning to let fresh air stream through the house to clear out the usual household gases (from paint, furniture, carpets etc) that might have built up over night. Pammie

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    1. Oh yes, the VOC free paints are a whole other kettle of fish Pammie. I think the larger brands have all got versions freely available now, which is great. I remember years ago doing a commercial 6 star Green building, and trying to find paint available in quantity for a project the size it was was almost impossible.
      Sometimes I think the darker colours can work really well to make the artwork pop against them - it can end up looking quite gallery like… but you're so lucky G is so talented with his painting that you have lots of things to hang on the walls!xx

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    2. In more recent years worked as a consultant on an environmental management project for a big government department, on and off, for a few years, including getting head office site certified as compliant with ISO 14001 (not easy to do as you'd be aware). As part of that, finally succeeded in convincing management and consultant architects to use low voc materials, including paints, on all refurbishment and building jobs. Many of these changes cost little or no more than more usual conventional methods/materials and some in fact saved money. It also made it a much healthier building to work in as well as better for the environment generally.
      Yes, quite handy having a hobby painter around. Have also been collecting odds and ends of art works over the years, often from travels (which means they have to be pretty small). One small wall in dining room has my icon collection, another wall has portraits of women. The portrait wall started out with a large female nude G did at a life class. My mother used to object to having to look at a nude woman when she was having a meal in our little dining room so we gradually added different paintings so the nude was less obvious (two are Picasso lithos, one is a turn of 20th century goache of a woman playing tennis bought in a market in Antibes, another is a young Mexican girl's take on a Frida Kahlo self portrait, etc - all bar the nude are small). Some rooms have paintings from his early teen years that I'm not so keen on, but that's the thing with a painter in the family, you have to try and find wall space, regardless. Pammie xx

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  7. So interesting. I so love the vivid color of Australia and would just love to visit. I have a good eye for color and my rule is just to never overthink it. I have regretted my paint choices that stemmed from weeks of thought. The colors I've chosen on the spot are usually best! Your comment on my blog made me laugh :)

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    1. You need to come here for a holiday! We'd welcome you with open arms Stephen.
      Agree with you about not over thinking things - if you have a strong reaction first time, it's usually correct. Although this didn't necessarily happen with my Mum…!

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  8. Greatly timed post for me ! I love your advice Heidi.

    I am about to paint our tired old lady, inside and out.

    Vivid white in the kids rooms and a damask (Beige Royal) in the sitting room.
    I love whiter than white... and was very pleased to see that Anna Spiro agrees !
    The outside I am struggling with - we have so much Edwardian frippery and a slate roof so needs careful consideration. Thinking a very light taupe grey with white trim and charcoal on the roof line bits - I feel as though the greys are on their way out and don't want it to date too soon

    I am going to get a colour consultant - anyone recommend a good one in Melbourne??

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    1. There's nothing like a new coat of paint Ann! You could try Dulux in Melbourne for colour consultation, or look at the National Trust if you want to be period correct (but I suspect you don't necessarily)… but another way is just to do a lot of walking in your area, or areas that have a lot of houses with a similar look to your own and find something you like.... Then just copy what they've done. Have you thought about doing the very dark brown/ copper colour on trim instead of grey? I know that sounds maybe a bit weird, but I've seen it on a few houses in Melbourne and it looks fabulous against the brickwork and slate roof. White for exteriors are also tricky, I can't tell you how many people knock on our front door asking what our white is - they can be too stark or too creamy (it's Dulux Lime White in case you're curious!). Good luck!

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    2. If you haven't decided yet Ann, try Kathy Demos (kd@supermaquette.com.au) in Melbourne for excellent advice.She has helped us with sofa colours in a bluestone villa in Adelaide and exterior colours for a beach house on the south coast.
      Elizabeth

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  9. Thanks Heidi - I may have to go to Dulux - we are completely weatherboard so no bricks to match to but I do like that dark brown look you mention. I love the look of your Lime White... Stay tuned !

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    1. It does look really good Ann - try going for a drive around Middle Park/ Albert Park/ Armadale / Prahran though - lots of weatherboards in that area that have usually got interesting colour schemes.

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  10. I am going to add my uneducated $0.02 and say I luff the Hague Blue.

    Have not really thought about Paint. Not having done a major reno and all.

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    1. Love that blue too Cilla. Your time will come though! I see a not too distant future with you with a paint brush in your hand...

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  11. Great post, Heidi. Very interesting points. I always fall in love with colors featured on magazine pages and end up being disappointed with the actual paints. Thanks for including my photo. Cheers

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    1. How could I not include it Loi?! It's a perfect illustration for the blog piece. Your colour selections have been just perfect.

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  12. Oh my goodness that 'Hague blue' with the yellow is just an amazing blend. Now I just need the right space in my house for this striking colour

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    1. It is a really lovely combination - I find dark colours like this can be really fab in a room. Very elegant...

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  13. Aren't the names of the F&B paints great!
    Never use pre-mixed paint though, as I always have a colour specially mixed to my requirements with the right base. And then I can name it myself : )

    Love Pinterest, it's a fantastic creative resource!

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    1. I know that there is someone that is employed by Dulux just to come up with the names. I think it would be harder than you'd think when faced with 1000 shades of blue to name for instance!
      Ah, but you are a true Artist Si! I've not ever mixed my own, although I have taken it back and had more black added once.

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    2. I think it must be a bit tricky. We have Lime White on the outside which is white and Limed White inside which is a taupe/greige. Very confusing and I have to always double check i asked for the right one :D

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  14. I think I'd love the look and feel of that F & B 'Down Pipe'. The first thing I focus on when attending an Art Exhibition is what colour they made the walls and study the interaction with the works. I find it highly instructive as seldom can you have access to such well trained eyes using the absolute perfect shade of colour in the CORRECT amount of light as GSL would entertain in...if he had digs suitable....and friends desiring his hospitality...

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    1. It's always interesting to see an exhibition that has travelled and they've created a room type feel with colours that are period appropriate… puts it all in context.
      As for friends desiring of your hospitality GSL….. I think you've got Claire on a hook and are ready to reel her in if the comment banter of late is anything to go by!

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  15. Hi Heidi I'm a bit late to the party. My excuse is I've been help paint my sons house for the last 6 weeks so paint is on my mind he's painted everything white. Walls, ceilings and woodwork white straight from the tin no tinting. It looks very fresh and clean. But I can't help but think it would have looked so much better with just a hint of colour and definition between the walls and ceiling. White to me also looks tired more quickly than a tint of white oh well. I worked for Dulux for several years colour consulting and demonstrating there products what that taught me is everybody sees colour differently.

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    1. Gosh you're good!! 6 weeks??!! Dedicated mum! You're right about everyone seeing colour differently - that recent thing that swept social media about the gold/white or blue/black dress that people saw as different colours was pretty interesting http://www.wired.com/2015/02/science-one-agrees-color-dress/

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