Because I always have redecorating on my mind, when offered an advance review copy of “How to Redecorate,” a book just out from Farrow & Ball, the venerable English maker of high-end paints and wallpaper, I raised my hand.
While I expected a book on, well, how to redecorate, as in refresh rooms in your home without starting from scratch, that’s not what this big, beautiful, 270-page hardcover is about. And that’s OK. What the book is about is the fascinating world of color and paint, a subject few could make as interesting as Joa Studholme, color curator for F&B. Studholme takes us by the hand on an exquisitely illustrated (340 photos and drawings) and narrated tour deep into the world of color and paint, and courageously creative ways to use both.
Studholme walks us through such key considerations as light, architecture and style, then squires us around color families of red, blue, green, yellow, darks and neutrals, and ends with a comprehensive look at finishes — from Dead Flat to Full Gloss.
“It was a joy to write,” Studholme told me from across the pond, where she has worked for the Dorset, England-based Farrow & Ball for nearly 30 years. (For the record, of all the columns, articles and books I have written, I never once thought anything was “a joy to write.” It was a joy to have written.)
For those unfamiliar with the brand, F&B is known for its small collection of artisan colors. “We believe that by condensing the options to only 132 carefully curated colors that selection is easier,” she said. (By comparison, Sherwin-Williams offers more than 1,700 paint colors.) Since Studholme came on board, every color the company has added was created at her kitchen table, where she sits with ramekins and teaspoons mixing to make a color that pleases her eye.
The company also goes to extremes for its pigments. India Yellow, for example, is made from the urine of cows fed a diet of mango leaves.
As a lover of words, I’m done in by the evocative paint names: Mizzle, the color of the evening sky when there’s mist and drizzle; DeNimes, named after the French city where denim was first woven; Stirabout, for the porridge Irish children eat to begin their day; Mole’s Breath, I’ll let you imagine that one.
The book, which Studholme co-wrote with F&B Creative Director Charlotte Cosby, is a sequel to “How to Decorate,” from 2016.
Why the update? “Since ‘How to Decorate’ came out, we’ve seen a seismic shift in the way we use color,” Studholme said. “Back then, we were all still enjoying rooms painted in delicate neutrals that we could sort of drift around in. Now we’re embracing much bolder colors.”
Nothing was off limits. She painted baseboards, ceilings, crown moldings, floors, cornices, cabinets, wainscoting, furniture and doors in three dimensions. Fortunately, the dog wouldn’t sit still, or she’d have painted him, too.
“How to Redecorate” reflects the best of those experiments and inspires readers to go beyond white walls, white ceilings and white trim.
She also wanted to give readers permission to harness their inspiration, “so if they have a sudden desire to paint their front door in red gloss, they do.” Here are a few pointers taken from our conversation and the book:
On room size …
Paint color can change a room’s perceived proportions, she writes. “Lighter colors are often best for large rooms, so they won’t overpower them. Darker tones will enhance small spaces and make them feel intimate. Although painting a small room a dark color may seem counterintuitive, the results can be wonderfully theatrical.”
On outside influences …
“Palettes gathered from your travels can be a rich source of inspiration, but be wary of using them in your home,” she writes.
On neutrals …
“Even though I’ve introduced loads of color, I also included a really important section on neutrals organized into six families,” she says of her book.
On painting cabinets, floors and furniture…
Do it. But the key to success lies in preparation.
On what she wishes more people knew…
“That they don’t have to default into using white on ceilings and trim. Personally, I think white baseboards look mean. I would only paint baseboards in the wall color. Why are we calling them out? They are functional not decorative.”
On the title …
“I think people interpret the word ‘redecorate’ differently,” she said. Perhaps. That said, if the book were called “How to Pick and Apply Paint Color in Your Home,” I might never have read it. And that would have been a shame.
Marni Jameson is the author of seven home and lifestyle books. Her newest book, “Rightsize Today to Create Your Best Life Tomorrow,” is due out in January.