Before I jump into the “is farrow and ball paint worth the money” debate I want to add I’m not singling Farrow and Ball out here, we’re looking at all designer and premium brands of paint.
So the questions on most people’s lips when talking about premium brands of paint are… What is so special about Farrow and ball? Do painters like farrow and ball? Is Farrow and Ball paint better than others? Is there even a difference?
So let me try and help answer all of this.
Let’s just start by saying that paint is a highly complex subject.
Not that I expect you are, but if you were in the market for space shuttle exhaust paint that can withstand ultra-high heat, you’d likely head to Jotun (who also produce elastic paint that will physically stretch in your hands).
And if you’re looking for bomb-proof adhesion, you’d head to Kein mineral paints who produce a paint that chemically bonds to the surface.
I think it’s perhaps a fair statement to say that not all paints are created equal.
However, a question I frequently get asked and see argued so much is…. is farrow and ball paint worth the money?
It’s a question that brings out quite a bit of resistance and design snobbery…. (As any of you who witnessed #lickgate in the group will know)!
When I first started as a designer in 2010, I was a Dulux devotee.
Hundreds of premixed colours of the rainbow in thousands of tints, tones and shades, and a wall of paint chips that I could spend hours investigating under those lamps.
Why did you need to pay double for fewer choices??
I didn’t understand the difference.
It also seemed there were quite a lot of differing views. Some decorators loved Farrow and Ball and Little Greene Paint. Some despised it.
It took me a while to get my head around and work out who was right.
See, here’s the thing….. Everyone comes to the ‘is farrow and ball paint worth the money’ discussion from different viewpoints depending on what is personally important.
Perhaps coverage (and the least amount of coats) is important. Perhaps cost-effectiveness on your project (as a decorator or homeowner).
Maybe it’s the choice of colour. Or it’s where you get the best discounts. Perhaps it’s a paint you find easier to apply. Or it’s quality and durability.
Maybe it’s colour complexity. Perhaps it’s eco credentials. The list goes on.
The truth is that there is a difference between a designer and standard paints (quite a few big ones actually) that, when known, close that gap somewhat.
But there is no right or wrong here.
I’m not here to say you should always use high-end paints or you should never. I am here to give you an understanding of what is different and why so that you can make your own decisions based on what is important to you.
So when we’re talking designer paints, first of all, what brands do we mean? We’re talking about brands like Farrow & Ball, Little Greene Paint Company, Coat Paints, Myland and for our American friends, Fine Paints of Europe, Benjamin Moore.
So let’s find out the truth about farrow and ball… Is Farrow and Ball paint worth the money? and some of the differences….
Spoiler alert: it isn’t even the price!
1. Is Farrow and Ball paint worth the money? Let’s look at higher levels of colour pigmentation
So the first and most glaringly obvious difference between standard brands and designer paints is the pigmentation levels.
Little Greene Paint Company paints contain 40% more pigment than ordinary paints.
What does this mean for your walls? Much more colour complexity. You’ll experience greater depth in the colour. Even on lighter neutrals, you’ll see this. As the light changes through the day, so will your colours, and it’s lovely to see the rich tonal variance.
2. Is Farrow and Ball paint worth the money? Let’s Look At Higher coverage rate.
Here is one element that is so often overlooked. Premium brand paints will cover more area, so you get more for your money.
First up is the actual price….
5L of Valspar v500 matt emulsion will cover 10m2 and costs £38 (v700 is £47 still 10m2), so £3.80 per m2 (or £4.70 per m2).
A 5L tin Little Greene Absolute Matt Emulsion will cover 14m2 and costs £85, so £6.07 per m2.
To get the same coverage using Valspar v500 paint, you’d need 40% more paint, so £3.80 x 14m2 = £53.20 (and v700 would be £65.80), reducing that initial additional difference and now not such a huge variation.
And then let’s not forget about the added time and labour. It will mean you (or your decorator) spreading around 7 litres of Valspar paint to achieve the same coverage as 5 litres of Little Greene Paint, which will take more time and cost more money.
If cost and time are considered, the differential is negligible and often a false economy.
Let’s Look At higher quality materials
So this is quite a scientific part but stay with me. Designer paints contain high-grade ‘titanium dioxide’. It’s a pure white powdered pigment that covers really well.
Many lower-grade paints use cheaper alternative fillers, such as synthetic silicates, polymers, clay, talc and carbonate. The problem with these types of fillers is that they do not cover nearly as well. Depending on the brand, to achieve a comparable opacity, you may need up to 8 times more paint! These cheaper fillers, therefore, reduce the quality.
One common untrue objection is that designer paints have limited colour choices. Although it’s not widely known, a visit to a Little Greene paint company stockist, such as my favourite interiors showroom in Nottingham, William Robinson interiors, you’d find Little Greene’s extensive colour collection of around 2000 premixed colours to choose from.
So does premium paint now seem quite so expensive? It is a genuine case of you getting what you pay for. Sometimes it may be your bank balance that’s the most important consideration, and that’s totally fine.
But if you want good quality, durable paint finishes that can be cleaned, last longer, have greater coverage and look amazing on your walls, head to Little Greene Paint Company.
Is a colour match going to be an identical colour?
So let’s just pretend for a little second that you haven’t read this post, the cost is your driving factor and you simply have to have Cornforth White Farrow and Ball in your living room.
So you’re looking for the best alternative to farrow and ball paint, comparing farrow and ball vs Dulux (or for our American friends’ Farrow and Ball vs Benjamin Moore) and you finally decide that you’re going to colour match at Valspar or Johnstones.
It’s going to look identical right? No, no it’s not.
I’ve tested this on several colours (light through to dark) and a colour match is rarely accurate or the identical colour.
Why? The bases are different.
They use different materials and resins in their bases. Most brands create their own colour pigments which differ from brand to brand.
And that’s just the product, typically spectrophotometers (the gadget that measures the colours) are about 90% accurate when variations in sample colour, the amount of light that’s entering the spectrophotometer, and the amount of sheen even, can all affect the colour you get.
Many are lured into colour matching on lighter colours, thinking it is the safest colour-matching option. In my experience, the lighter colours give you more headaches. The lighter bases are more yellow at Valspar, so throw the lighter hues off. But it’s not limited to lighter hues.
So if you take all of the above into consideration and ask yourself Is Farrow and Ball paint worth the money? Yes, yes, it is.
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I hope this has helped clarify things and given you a clear understanding of the differences other than cost.