British Colour Standard: Colour expert Q&A

The British Colour Council set colour standards to help regulate official colour use across the British Empire, from flags through to post boxes. The collection was confined to history, until designers Jackie Piper and Victoria Whitbread breathed new life into it and turned it into a brand producing homewards from candles through to vases, mugs and paint. Here they tell The Colour File what colour means to them…


My first colour memory 

Jackie: It is probably a natural green! I was thinking back to my childhood in Kent where I can recall green hills, leafy hedges & lanes. I think it is indelible on my colour-memory as I always feel happy when I’m closer to any leafy green-ness, wherever that is in the world.

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My favourite colour

Jackie: I am a typical designer in that I do love blacks & greys (why!!) even before greys became crazy ‘fashionable’ in interiors & beyond.

I do really like natural colours if that makes sense; things that are the colour they are.

At home we have a Welsh slate patio (dark grey) and we stripped the floors in our house to whatever wood they are; which is scuffed oak look, but I might stain it darker.

Our wooden front door is unpainted as I wanted to see what the weather did to it…Before that it was painted with Blackboard paint so we could all draw on it.

Victoria: Doge Purple – and it’s stayed the same since the days of Donny Osmond’s peak cap.


My favourite colourful object

Jackie: I think it has to be the red Valentine typewriter by Olivetti.

Somehow the strong red colour and the object are combined-that typewriter is a happy object by being that red.

I met the (then) elderly model maker who made the original wooden prototypes for Ettore Sottsass of the typewriter, in Milan when I was working there.

The models were amazing as was his attention to detail and I did not live up to his exacting standards in any shape or form!

Victoria: It has to be the Crown Jewels for me – all that purple velvet and sparkling jewels.


How colour makes me feel 

Jackie: Certainly some of the horrible 1970’s avocado/pink bathrooms with fluffy pink carpet will provoke a strong reaction in me; along with the swirly orange/brown decor that also popped up at that time.

It just does not look good although I admire the more adventurous spirit of that time-followed by decades of Magnolia, which is not exactly saying very much.

Colour is all around us, so it is constantly affecting us, whether we realise it or not. 

I quite like an old, dark green or red library-partly because to be in a room of books is heaven, but also those particular country-house library colours I find soothing & cosy.

Victoria: For me colour is an evocative sense, as strong as scent and weather patterns.

Blue for serenity and sometime coolness. Red for energy; tones of yellow for curiosity and nature.

No one colour dominates for me other than the depths of black. Powerful, think Black hole and Harry Potter….


The colour I could live without

Jackie: White? It seems to be a bio hazard-all the products required to keep white, white seems like a massive waste of the earths resources.

I have a pet ginger Silkie chicken; I could have picked a white one out at the farm we went to but even at the time I thought, ‘Oooh even that chicken is going to look grubby (in white).’

Victoria: No, although there are some horrible coral and orangy Pantone tones in their books that I cannot imagine anyone uses?


How colour affects me every day

Jackie: It, of course, permeates all our lives.

I think we all start to pick out a favourite mug for our morning cuppa; I have some colourful Da Terra table ware from Portugal that I find very cheering at the start of the day. 

When snuggling up in our often drafty living room, I have a pile of blankets made from Indian saris-that are all various colours that are a colourful & comfy way to end the day.

Victoria: Colour is a part of life. Summers are lusher and greener, winters greyer and darker, they can’t help but permeate our lives.


My colour anecdote

Jackie: We painted a living room wall that looked out onto our very green garden a very strong, earthy red.

It looked great and was certainly a bold statement and colour contrast.

I did wonder in later years if it was partly a reaction to having just had two small babies at the time. Some sort of visceral reaction!

Victoria: My wedding party. My only enduring memory of the event all those years ago is of the ravishing up-lighting that was used to illuminate the venue, reds and greens, purples flushed through the vaults of the roof, it was breath-taking.


The colour of my loved ones 

Jackie: My dad went to Japan on business, almost like flying to the moon in the 1970’s-and brought me back a beautiful black shiny lacquer paint box.

It was the most grown-up paint set I had ever been given (I was probably about eight or nine).

It had two soft bamboo brushes, a big, black ink brick which you would scrape to create the black paint and a gooey, gummy pot of bright orangey-red in which to stamp your name block before pressing it onto the paper.

The glossy, perfect black lacquer box was so lovely & special; so that is a strong colour association for me.

Victoria: My son is ‘green’ because he loves it as a colour so, naturally, I have a particular fondness of it.


My colour ‘secret’

Jackie: I became very good at colour-matching as a child when my brother & I broke any antiques or vintage bits around the house.

As the older one I became very adept at gluing, repairing & making things look just as they were…(sorry, Dad!).

I have a feeling these early experiments may have started me on my path to studying product design in later years.

I knew far more about glue than most children my age!


The most colourful place I’ve been 

Jackie: When I was a student in the States I went on a holiday to the tiny island of Montserrat, in the West Indies.

There were lots of amazing flowers, birds & wildlife on the island which made an impression on me as well as people painting shops & houses super-bright, more tropical colours.

Victoria: It was in India during Diwali. They really know about colour and are not one bit afraid to get messy and to make a statement.


My colour advice

Jackie: Go with your gut, for sure.

Paint is the single most transformative thing you can do to a room, including if you strip & paint floors, before you even furnish it with further colourful things.

I would also advise ‘living’ with a space for a bit. Its easy to rush into things, but in any house the direction that windows face and the type of lighting really affect the colours you might paint or the way things like soft furnishings & rugs might look so take your time.

We are also a moveable feast; how a space is when your children or you are younger, is not necessarily the same way you want it to be 10-15 years later.

Keep it simple, but don’t be afraid to change. Our domestic spaces are our haven & we should colour them accordingly-don’t be dictated to by fashion/trend.

If you like Chintz-have it! Just work out how you will use it.

Victoria: My advice with colour is not to be afraid to try something that is out of your comfort zone; you can always change it.


If I had a colour named after me…

Jackie: That is indeed an honour. I think I would like to be the colour of a really dark, night sky where it is so inky & clear you can see the milky way and the stars shining like diamonds.

Victoria: I would have a colour named after my pug Percy, ‘ Barking Black’.

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