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    Farrow and Ball estate eggshell – handle with care

    Farrow and Ball are masters of marketing. The public who appreciate traditional paint colours are eating out of their hand. Unfortunately though, they seem to be using sleight of hand to disguise a couple of flaws in their Estate eggshell.

    If you buy and / or use Farrow and Ball eggshell, here’s a couple of details you should be aware of.

    You HAVE to use Farrow and ball primer-undercoat on any surface before painting with Estate eggshell.

    1 – If you want to use Farrow and Ball eggshell on a piece of pre-primed furniture or a kitchen, you first have to re-prime that expensive and high performance factory coating with Farrow and Ball primer.

    We didn’t, we followed a fairy common practice among kitchen painters of applying 3 coats of finish over a sanded down primer. The first coat of eggshell didn’t dry properly.

    So if the specification is Farrow and Ball eggshell on factory primed furniture, be prepared for an extra coat and get ready to pay for all the extra labour and materials that comes with that.

    2 – If you are re-decorating a glossy door frame and it is peely or a knot is staining through, before applying eggshell, it is good trade practice to sand and prime with a high performance problem-solving primer (think Zinsser BIN or Coverstain or Classidur Universal Primer or Mythic primer etc.) These products work, and if you double prime, you are ready for topcoats.

    But if you want to finish off with Farrow and Ball estate eggshell, then make sure you apply a coat of F&B primer undercoat over the high performance basecoat first. And if you don’t, you are on your own if anything weird happens.

    Hopefully you see the glaringly flawed logic and ridiculous jumping through hoops required when applying Farrow and Ball estate eggshell on pre-primed or previously badly painted woodwork?

    Estate eggshell is a hybrid frankenstein paint that has no history in tradition, and hopefully no future in eco.

    Farrow and Ball Estate eggshell is a hybrid water-borne alkyd paint ie oil resin living in water. That is quite a deviation away from traditional paint, but nobody seems to care that the self-appointed masters of traditional have gone off on a tangent that hardly any other paint companies seem to be following.

    On the plus side, they say that this water-borne paint is an advance on their traditional oil based eggshell. It has the advantages of water-based paints – which I take to mean it is quick drying, cleans out in water, no odour – but retains the old world properties and look of oil paint.

    Funny that. A coat of estate eggshell over beautiful water-based factory primer took longer to dry than the oil based eggshell we used from Little Greene. (36 hours before F&B was hard enough to gingerly sand, whereas nasty horrible old fashioned Little Greene oil eggshell was perfectly fine by the next day.)

    Estate eggshell has a funky smell too! But to be fair, you can clean brushes out in water.


    Don’t get me wrong, I am not a Farrow and Ball anti-snob, who dislikes them just because! I used to love their flat oil wall paint, their oil based eggshell was great on kitchens, and I am completely won over by the idea of chalky flat wall paint. Their colours ARE fab too, and somewhat historical, and the flat emulsion finishes are distinct from modern sheeny shiny paint finishes.

    However, when it comes to Farrow and Ball paint for traditional looking walls and woodwork, they seem to play down one key factoid that for me makes it very difficult to recommend – the eggshell (and the emulsion by the by) requires a primer-undercoat. And worse, it needs a primer-undercoat over a reliable primer. This hybrid idea is almost the worst of both worlds.

    (If you paint acrylic eggshell over old oil paint or factory primer, you should bridge the gap with a primer first – but it would dry fast and away you go with your finishes. Or if it were formulated like a traditional oil paint, you should be able to paint away on any decent primer without worrying if it is going to stick or dry.)

    So I am not saying you cannot produce a lovely finish with Farrow and Ball estate eggshell, because it does lay off really nicely. I am not saying it isn’t suitable for kitchens or high traffic areas, because I presume it is up to the job. And I am sure the interior primer is perfectly fine as a basecoat, as long as there is no problematic surface to worry about. But if you want to follow really top trade practice and use the best primers, and you don’t want to be straight jacketed by hybrid eggshell, I would give the Farrow and Ball Extra Coat Eggshell system a wide berth.

    Little Greene products do everything that F&B do – but well. From heritage colours to history to totally reliable, predictable and beautiful results in oil or water-based paint, with no jumping through hoops. Or use one of the other paints that appear on my hand-painted kitchens painting page for less aggravation.

    (And thanks to Colin at Plush Painting for letting me loose with Estate eggshell, plus I enjoyed his insights on how F&B seem to focus on retail clients ahead of the trade who actually apply the paint. Smart.)

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    2 comments to “Farrow and Ball estate eggshell – handle with care”

    1. Chris

      I have some F & B original oil based eggshell which I bought to paint the kitchen and now want to go ahead with it. Have yo u got a link to old ‘how to’ articles using this paint – I need to know about primers/sanding and coverage.


    2. Andy Crichton Andy Crichton

      Not specifically I don’t believe so. This site started in earnest around the time that it was discontinued.

      It is very liquid, flows really well, 750ml tins, so that would have been around 10m2 per coat. Don’t recall issues covering the appropriate F&B oil based undercoat (they had a few colours for basecoats that were approximate to several topcoat colours either side.)

      I didn’t have any qualms using the system on kitchens. Suitable primers would be Zinsser special high adhesion or stain blockers depending on the current surface.

      Sanding to prep the surface would best be Abranet grades to suit, the denibbing betwen coats, 320 grade.

      No great problems, it was a decent oil based system and not a dissimilar look to the new hybrid, so they tell us :)

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