All Hail The Little Greene Paint Company
This post was written in 2010 but May 2012 still holds true. May 2014, main text unchanged. Little Greene paint still performing and sourced from Paints and Interiors. Oil eggshell enamel from Tikkurila continues to prove super tough and low sheen. Farrow and Ball Estate eggshell still a lovely finish, some technical shortcomings on specifications for kitchen refurbishment work. Use of oil-based satinwood on furniture – really!
The king is dead, long live the king. I am not referring to the passing of a royal sovereign, but rather the end of my involvement with one traditional paint dynasty, Farrow and Ball, and the beginning of a new relationship with The Little Greene Paint Company.
So why the jumping of ships? I am an old school painter, and my speciality is hand-painted kitchens and furniture. I rely on (and trust) traditional oil paint that comes in a range of traditional heritage colours. The 3 main olde worlde traditional paint suppliers are F&B, The Little Greene Paint Company and Paint Library. For many years, Farrow and Ball has had the highest profile of this group, and has long been my supplier of choice – till now.
Times are a-changing at Farrow and Ball
Over the past year, F&B, assured me several times that despite their move to be good eco citizens, they would continue to offer their traditional paint range in oil, albeit as a niche product. So I kept with the company. That will teach me. Their interior oil eggshell was withdrawn in the New Year, so rather than give in, I moved to their exterior oil eggshell, which as far as I can tell has the same sheen, but is breathable ie same look as the interior oil eggshell of yesteryear. I was happy. But then, in the last few weeks, F&B announce that they no longer offer oil paint of any description. And to rub salt in the wound, they claim there is no difference between their hybrid paint and the traditional oil paint.
In defence of F&B, the whole paint industry has been dealing with ever-tightening environmental regulations, and most oil paints have gradually been modified (made more eco) to meet the low VOC (aka pollution) targets. Despite the tinkering chemists and BS marketeers, to all intents and purposes, oil eggshell from traditional to modern paint suppliers can still deliver what you would expect – body, sandability and flow – with a lot less solvent than of old. A win-win.
However, for some reason best known to themselves, Farrow and Ball, bastions of all that is traditional, have been developing some new fangled hybrid paint, claiming it offers a seamless substitute for their oil paint. Please! Call me old fashioned and unwilling to embrace new technology, but I have tried most water-based trim paints, and not even the Americans with their long history of using acrylic for everything, can formulate water based “enamels” to match oil paint applied by brush. (Getting very very close though)
Truth be told, I actually felt quite depressed, like when you feel you have lost some control over the direction of your life. There have been a couple of worrying paint trends that have steadily been undermining good old fashioned craftsmanship as I know it and Farrow and Ball, champions of much of what I believe in as a craftsman, seemed to have joined the “lowest common denominator” conspiracy, mwahahahaha – a long-standing global move away from oil over to water-borne / acrylic paint, a fixation on health and safety and dropping standards the accepted norm. But I digress.
As far as I am concerned, Farrow and Ball are taking the mick, saying that a traditional painter can expect the same quality finish from their new fangled paint formula. It is not totally dire, I have achieved a great finish laying off Estate Eggshell with a Wooster Ultra Pro Soft, under scrutiny, is it the same as oil? Not yet.
Kitchens painted with traditional oil-based eggshell look so cool, wear so well, and the subtle brush finish is the mark of a painters skill. Maybe the “F&B look” is not dependent on oil content, but high end water-borne finishes require a different set of skills, and a premium quality synthetic bristle brush – or in the ideal world, a good spray technique, which is great for those modernists who want a perfect laminate paint look in a characterful kitchen, but not for those seeking a hand-painted beauty.
Little Greene Paint at Broken Cross
Luckily, the world got better for me when I voiced my concerns about Farrow And Ball’s “traditional water based hybrid” to Mark at Broken Cross Paints, one of the best little independent decorator’s merchant in the western world. He saw Farrow and Ball’s change of emphasis coming a long time ago and has been promoting the more true-to-the-ideals-of-tradition, Little Greene Paint Co.
Another high end painter walked in the store and joined in on Mark’s deconstruction of F&B and added to the eulogies about The Little Greene Paint Company who have stuck with low odor oil-based “eco” eggshell in traditional colours. And when you dig deeper, the oil eggshell boasts a very durable finish, being suitable for interior AND exterior use, and comes with a better colour range than Farrow And Ball with a large selection of English Heritage colours
And from a convenience point of view, the Little Green Paint co deliver next day, another thing F&B have stopped doing in the name of progress.
All’s well that ends well
The Heritage paint arrives as promised, the colours are beautiful, deep and subtle. And it goes on a treat. Sanding, body, workability, drying times, fumes, all were really good, really traditional. I was converted, and it is still rated most highly for hand painted kitchens!
Long live The Little Greene Paint Company.
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