Oh, the dilemmas cause by the combination of a reno to finish and the love of a damn good paint colour. You know the score if you’re an interiors addict who’s embarked upon a renovation of your own or let’s face it, just a simple room makeover. Costs spiral and budgets shoot up faster than a Friday night Prosecco cork. Anyone in the 2017 know is yearning for Stiffly Blue and Yeabridge Green but here’s the painful truth: Farrow & Ball paint is more expensive than other brands like Valspar or Dulux. The questions I see popping up over and over again on Instagram, in forums and in blogs – “Is it worth it?” and “Can it be copied?”As background for you, I’ve been decorating properties for over 20yrs, both for myself and clients, and for those with regular budgets and higher than average ones. The Moregeous paint brushes have been dipped into most high street paint brands, plus into Farrow & Ball and also into ‘copies’ of the aforementioned. You know what I’m talking about right? It’s not a total secret anymore that independent and DIY store paint mixing services will ‘copy’ F&B colours into their brand of paint et voila!, who needs to buy F&B if the budget won’t stretch to it. Why buy Alaskan Dead Salmon when you can have Farmed Dead Salmon eh?
Only that’s just it. They’re not identical. In the same way that the rich, muscular red of icy sea salmon doesn’t really compare to the slightly greasy and flaccid pink farmed stuff, one would imagine that the deep pigments of F&B cannot be cheaply, easily or exactly copied. The simple fact is that this brand of paint is very good quality, with less water and more pigments in it than cheaper paint on the market.
This past few weeks we’ve been decorating a guest bedroom and the main bathroom here at Moregeous Mansions. As the house will be used for events and location shoots, I’m keen to make the interior something special but I don’t have an endless pot of money. One of Theresa’s Magic Money Trees. I haven’t been able to grow one of those. Most of the house is Dulux Super Matt in white offset by outrageously lush wallpaper, but where there is colour (well, I say colour, but mostly I mean black and grey), it’s going to be deep and dramatic. Much of the outside is F&B’s Railings, with Pitch Black for some of the internal window frames and main bathroom, and a splash of Pavilion Grey in the guest bedroom. So far so costly. Mr M went mad when we estimated the final amounts as it’s a Edwardian house with high ceilings and large rooms! To save a bit of cash, I decided to do some cheatin’ and have copies as the undercoats.
On the exterior fence woodwork I used a grey primer & undercoat, then the F&B copy colour, then the F&B ‘real’ colour. For anyone only doing a small amount of painting and wanting the real McCoy, it’s far better to use two coats of the real thing, but I have metres and metres and metres to do here. I simply cannot afford F&B all the way. This top coat method is a way of getting F&B colour on a large reno without breaking my budget. Who am I kidding, my budget is already smashed to smithereens but you know what I mean. Breaking it *even* more.
This sort-of-cheating has worked well for us outside with all the fence panels and garden trellis.And so to inside. On the guest bedroom ceiling, coving and walls, I first used a white, water based, bare plaster paint, then a coat of the F&B Pavilion Grey copy. The original is a classic mid-grey described as “reminiscent of an elegant 18th century Swedish colour” and perfect with my Designers Guild wallpaper. I decided to do a little experiment and painted about 1/3 of the ceiling with a second coat of the copy and the rest with the real stuff, wandering off to do something else whilst it dried.
Blimey, what a surprise when I returned. I didn’t actually expect there to be much of difference on such a neutral colour and assumed the contrast would be much more subtle. In the image above both paints are dry, even though the F&B on the right looks wet. It wasn’t ‘shiny’ in real life, just much more luminescent, bouncing the light around beautifully. Whereas the copy, well, didn’t. It was flat and unappealing when compared to the real thing, even though beforehand it’d looked perfectly acceptable, quite nice even. Like farmed salmon does. Before you taste wild.
It was exactly the same if not more noticeable with the Pitch Black. I’d painted all the bathroom panelling and window frames in the copy and it initially looked really dark, when there was nothing to compare it to. It looked black, in fact. Part of me wondered whether to take the F&B back but bearing in mind the Pav result, I started to lather on a Real McCoy layer. Wow. I’m not kidding, it suddenly made the copy look like a washed out charcoal, there was an astonishing difference. Even with my past experience, it was a proper eye opener. I failed miserably to get a really good picture as it was a super bright day and my iPhone couldn’t cope with the light/dark contrast but here’s the best one I got:
Plus, I made a little video which sums up my findings:
I was genuinely taken aback. That there was such a huge difference in the real stuff and the copies, with the copies looking so washed out in comparison.
Nothing changes the fact that Farrow & Ball is more costly than regular paint but there is a huge difference between the genuine article and the copies available through mixing services. Please don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I’ve read some very arsey forums posts from decorators saying Dulux and Crown copies are just as good as the real thing. Nonsense. They might be good paints, but they will not be ‘copies’, either in colour or finish. Some people say F&B isn’t as durable as other paints designed specifically to be hard wearing, Dulux Endurance for eg., and that’s as maybe. If you need that finish, I’d suggest buying a Dulux Endurance paint and associated colour. Mylands are also a smashing brand for tough paint, they use it on film sets, dontcha know.
In conclusion, if you know you can’t afford this brand, my advice would be…
- Don’t get a sad pastiche.
- Choose a fabulous colour from a different, more affordable range and love it for what it is.
- Or save up some pennies.
- Or cut your budget elsewhere to afford the real thing.
Would you wear a saddo snidey Rolex or a pair of fake Choo’s? No, course you wouldn’t, so don’t do it with paint.
Upside of The Copies:
- Overall similar colour.
- You can tell your pals you’ve used a F&B colour and most won’t know the difference.
- You could use a copy as the base coat if you’ve a large area to do. F&B probably won’t like me saying that, but I don’t work for them and this isn’t a sponsored post!
Downside of The Copies:
- They are not the same colour: less rich, less pigmented and less vibrancy.
- Cheaper paints are more prone to fade and change colour over time.
- Try paint matching to a F&B copy in a couple of years – good luck with that.
- It’s almost impossible to get an identical wood paint if you’re going for a complete floor to ceiling look.
- They’re just that, copies. And who wants copies right?
I hope that’s been helpful if you’re in a paint dilemma as to what to do and please feel free to fire any questions my way x