Founded in 1946 by chemists John Farrow and Richard Ball, the Farrow & Ball paint company has become one of the United Kingdom’s most successful makers of historical paints. Located in Dorset, on the south coast of England, Farrow & Ball manufactures both paint and wallpaper using traditional methods. The company’s paints include natural ingredients like umbers, chalk, lime putty, china clay, and linseed oil. When creating its “artisanal” wallpaper, Farrow & Ball block-prints the patterns, trough-prints the stripes, hand-brushes the textures, and uses its own paints throughout the process.
Farrow & Ball emphasizes that it creates its paints, most of which are based on historic color palettes, “one batch at a time.” Whereas many other British paint companies began making cheap acrylic paints (with considerable plastic content) after World War II, Farrow & Ball refused to alter its product or process. The company’s first big coup was a series of painting contracts with Britain’s Admiralty and War Office. Over the years, Farrow & Ball has also worked with the UK’s National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty to match paint colors in the restoration of historic buildings.
A revived interest in the restoration of historic British buildings in the 1990s boosted Farrow & Ball’s business considerably. Since 2000, the company has seen a significant increase in international sales as well. Farrow & Ball opened a retail location in Los Angeles in 2004 and has established showrooms in London, Paris, Milan, and New York City during the past decade.
Though Farrow & Ball emphasizes historic colors, its paints are hardly behind the times. The company’s ISO14001:2004 certification recognizes its wide-ranging efforts to minimize its negative impact on the environment. Its products meet European Union standards for low volatile organic compound (VOC) levels. Farrow & Ball’s paints are all water based, low odor, and officially classified as low or minimal VOC. They can cover oil paint as long as two or more weeks have passed since the latter was applied.
Farrow & Ball paints are present in a number of notable historic structures. English examples include the Manchester Art Gallery and the 18th century ballroom of the Bath Assembly Rooms. Belgium’s Royal Museums of Fine Art are another excellent showcase for Farrow & Ball’s historic colors.