As in-house colour specialist at paint company Farrow & Ball, Joa Studholme has the awesome job of developing (and naming) new colours. She is also works across the globe as the company’s international colour consultant and is author of Farrow & Ball’s ‘How To Decorate’ (with Charlotte Cosby). Here, she gives The Colour File some insight into what colour means to her both personally and professionally…
Can you describe your first colour memory?
Joa: As a child, I did spend an inordinate amount of time rearranging my set of Caran d’Ache crayons to see how different colour combinations worked. My doll’s house was constantly redecorated and I was always experimenting with colour, painting my ceiling bright yellow to try to fill the room with sunlight or creating cosy spaces in cupboards by painting them dark. I was obviously already a half-formed colour geek!
Do you have a favourite colour and has this changed over the years?
Joa: I usually decorate about fifteen houses a week for other people, but I have just had the huge treat of choosing colours for a new house of my own. It didn’t actually take much thought because I knew that I wanted to create jewel like spaces in the smaller rooms (Setting Plaster, Light Blue and French Gray,) while keeping the big main space as light as possible (Shadow White). These are my favourites at the moment – but it could easily change next week!
What is your favourite colourful object/objects and why?
Joa: As if my house is not full enough of colour already, I seem to have gathered a group of brightly coloured plastic dolls from all over the world. The largest one was bought in a car park somewhere in India and I had to get rid of most of the clothes in my suitcase to make room for it – but it was definitely worth it!
How does colour make you feel?
Joa: Of course colour is incredibly emotive. I spend a lot of time talking to my clients about how they are going to use a room. If it is a space that is used only in the evening then I would always suggest making it cosy by using colours like Inchyra Blue or Smoked Trout. Similarly, if you are a morning person who likes to jump out of bed as soon as it is light then it is better to use colours that are not too strong. I personally find it easier to relax in an All White room – but maybe that is because I am so surrounded by colour all day!
Do you have a colour you could happily do without?
Joa: It makes me anxious just thinking about this! Over the last 20 years we have removed several colours from the Farrow & Ball colour card in order to make way for something new. However, all of our colours are always available in our archive collection. But it still makes me feel incredibly sad – like I am turning my back on a child! (Secretly I am not so keen on light citrus colours – and know that this stems from a much hated hospital room from my childhood)
What does colour mean to you in your day-to-day life?
Joa: Well it is how I make my living so I deal with it all day every day. I am only too aware about what a colour bore I am – constantly pointing out the colour of the sky, a flower, food or even a cow (often cows!). My husband and children have been fantastically patient, not only about all the ‘colour talk’ but also because our home is repainted a ridiculous amount of times every year. My fabulously patient decorator Ed told me recently that he has made a small mark inside a cupboard in a room in my house every time he has repainted it – I was horrified to find that there were 11 of these – and in only 9 years!
Do you think there are rules about colour? Or are rules made to be broken?
Joa: I spend an inordinate amount of time stressing that there are absolutely no rules about colour or indeed about the way you use it. And thank goodness for that – the world would be a fantastically dull place if we all liked the same things and decorated our houses in the same way. I love coming across a crazy combination of colours or rooms that have used more than one wallpaper pattern on the walls. I give a lot of talks about how to use colour but these are about hints and tips – definitely no rules!
Do you have a favourite colour story or anecdote?
Joa: In my new house I was so determined to have only one colour in each bedroom that I had the bed linen and curtains dyed to match the walls – which are the same colour as the woodwork and ceilings. I have, however, stopped myself from supplying my guests with nightware to match (although secretly I would love to).
Could you tell me a bit about how Joa’s White came about?
Joa: After I had worked at Farrow & Ball for about five years they kindly named a colour after me – the irony is that I didn’t actually create this colour. Other colours have been named after members of the creative team in a light-hearted appreciation of their contribution to the colour palette. Charlotte’s Locks is named after Charlotte Cosby, our Head of Creative’s flame red hair (not actually that colour obviously). A few years ago Nancy’s Blushes was named after my daughter’s rosy cheeks when she was a little girl – luckily they are not quite that colour now she is nineteen!
If another colour was created in your honour, what colour would it be and what would it be called?
Joa: I think that one is quite enough – I feel very lucky. And anyway I make a major contribution to the naming of new colours so that’s just not going to happen!
If you could give people advice about using colour, what would it be?
Joa: I spend all day every day doing this, but the three most important things to think about are very simple. Firstly, let the light in your room be your friend – work out which way it faces and see how the changing light will affect the colour – making it feel magical and alive. Then make a list of every element that needs to be painted – colour in a room is not just about the walls. Woodwork, furniture, architectural details and ceiling colours are all also ingredients in the final recipe to create the perfectly balanced room. Think about the colours on all these items and what those combinations are going to achieve. Thirdly, and most importantly, stick to what you feel comfortable with, keep to your own style. You don’t have to use Georgian colours just because you (are lucky enough to) live in a Georgian house. You don’t have to slavishly follow fashion and always remember that you are not breaking the law if you don’t paint your house grey!
‘How To Decorate’ by Joa Studholme & Charlotte Cosby is published by Mitchell Beazley