Decorating Tips from Farrow and Ball

Calke Green Dining Room by Farrow & Ball

Something super exciting has happened for my husband and I over the past few weeks. We’ve gone from thinking we would never get onto the property ladder to being home owners. I can’t begin to tell you how happy we are to finally be living in our own home! One thing that I am particularly excited about is being able to decorate exactly how we want to. After six years of living in rental properties, we are well and truly over magnolia paint. However, having only lived in rental accommodation we have never had to decorate so being faced with the endless possibilities of what we could and should do, is all a bit daunting. I wanted to make sure we are fully informed before embarking on this redecorating adventure so I decided to consult the experts in order to get some top tips and advice for anyone in the same position as us. And who better to consult than Sarah Cole, Director of Farrow & Ball.

Sarah Cole Director of Farrow & BallWhen decorating your home, what are the main things to consider when choosing between wallpaper and paint?

Whether the aim is to create the illusion of more space, evoke a dramatic atmosphere, or create a cosy living area, both paint and wallpaper can be used to achieve the desired effect. When choosing your scheme, it’s important to consider three things: light, architecture and use. Choose a colour that works with the direction of the light source, is sympathetic to the architecture, but most importantly will suit the use of the space and make you feel comfortable and inspired – it’s largely about personal taste.

Wallpaper is a great way to add character and personality to a room. Bold patterns and interesting finishes work well for creating great feature walls, which really help to liven up small or dull spaces. Try our bold Bamboo wallpapers for an oriental feel or Tessella for a confident yet elegant look.

Tessella Bp 3604 Wallpaper by Farrow & Ball

What about if people want to use wallpaper and paint in the same room? How would you suggest they do this?

Paint and wallpaper works fantastically well together, creating interesting and beautiful spaces. Our hand crafted wallpapers are made using our paint giving them a unique texture and beautiful appearance. It also means a seamless colour match is achieved.

A good way to use the two together is in rooms that have a dado rail, by using wallpaper and paint on the lower and upper sections. Which ways round you use them is up to you!  Try Lotus BP2051 with Pale Powder for a subtle look, or with Green Smoke for something more striking.

Again, a feature wall using wallpaper against a matching paint colour on the remaining walls can create a really striking statement. Combine Silvergate BP 852 with Pavilion Gray and Pointing for a fresh, clean feel.

Green Brown Wallpaper Bathroom by Farrow & Ball

Not many people can afford to decorate and furnish their home from scratch. What advice can you give for choosing wallpaper or paint that enhances and complements our existing furniture and belongings?

Adding accents of colour is a great way to update a space.  Choose colours that complement your existing wall colours and use them on furniture, fireplaces or in the backs of bookcases creating a whole new look and feel in the room. Strong colours such as our new tones, Yellowcake and St Giles Blue, are great for adding a pop of colour to rooms that feature a more neutral backdrop.

Yellowcake by Farrow & Ball

When it comes to choosing wallpaper or paint, are there any techniques that can be used to help make small or narrow rooms look larger and wider?

Many people think that painting a small or narrow room in a bright white will make it appear bigger; however this isn’t always the case. Be brave and use a bold colour like Rectory Red or Charlotte’s Locks to make it more interesting and dramatic.

If a small room features a dado rail, use a strong colour below the rail and the lighter colour above. This gives the impression of the room ‘opening out’ and appearing larger than it is.  If the stronger colour is used on the top area it can feel as if the walls are closing in on you.

To widen a narrow room, feature a strong, dark colour or dark intricate wallpaper on the shorter walls to give the illusion of the wall being closer than it is, resulting in a squarer looking space. This works particularly well in long hallways to make them feel less tunnel-like.  Try painting the end wall of a hallway in Purbeck Stone with the other walls in Ammonite.

Bold Red And White Dining Room by Farrow & Ball

What about making large rooms appear less spacious and more cosy?

Warm, strong colours all help to make a room feel smaller. The stronger the tone the greater the impact. The dark, rich tone of our new colour, Stiffkey Blue, is great for creating a smaller, more intimate feel in a large space.

Stiffkey Blue by Farrow & Ball

For people who want to be more adventurous with colour choices and perhaps use more than one colour or shade in a room, what advice can you offer for making this successful?

The opportunities for combining colours are vast. Contrasting colours on the walls and woodwork makes for a more adventurous look. Try either strong coloured walls and white woodwork or lighter walls and darker woodwork. For example, if you use Cornforth White on the walls, Mole’s Breath contrasts well against it.

A popular way of using multiple colours in one space is to paint the walls using strong dark tones like Railings, Black Blue and Pitch Black as a backdrop, then introduce flashes of graphic colour such as Charlotte’s Locks, Yellowcake and Arsenic.  Think about using these colours on bookshelves or inside cupboards. It really makes the room come to life!

Office by Farrow & Ball

What about the ceiling? How can the colour choice affect our perception of the size or height of the room?

To gain height in a room always choose a sympathetic white for the ceiling when you’re using colour on the wall, so you’re less aware of where walls end and ceilings begin.  For example, when using a red on walls choose Dimity or Great White, their underlying red tones will complement the scheme. To make a high ceiling appear lower choose deeper and warmer off-whites like String. And to make it seem higher choose a more definite white like All White or Wevet.

Mole's Breath by Farrow & Ball

How can paint be used to add more interest to a very uniform, box-shaped room with no architectural features?

A bespoke headboard painted directly onto the wall will create a real talking point! Painting a Pale Powder headboard onto a rich London Clay wall will stand out. Or for a more subtle look try painting a soft lilac Calluna headboard onto a Brassica wall. Be inventive with colour, painting a fake dado rail onto a wall will also add interest to a room.

Are there any tricks that can be used in rooms with picture rails to make the ceiling appear higher and the room larger?

Don’t be afraid to take the paint colour of the walls all the way up over the picture rail. This will add height to the walls. Choosing a sympathetic ceiling colour that flows well with the wall colour will also help to create the illusion of height and space. Off-White on the ceiling and Old White on the walls work well together.

Brassica Study by Farrow & Ball

When you have settled on the paint colour or paper you want to use, do you have any advice for checking this to ensure it works in the room before committing to decorating the entire room with it?

Using sample pots in the rooms you are planning to decorate is a must! Paint it on a piece of paper and place the sample in the area you’re hoping to feature it. Watch how the colour changes throughout the day in different lights. If you still like it the next day, go for it!

For those of us who need further guidance, do Farrow and Ball offer an advice service with regards to choosing paint colours or wallpaper for your home?

A Farrow & Ball in-home Colour Consultancy service is available to provide you with Farrow & Ball colour schemes and decorative advice, all in the comfort of your own home. Trained Colour Consultants will visit you to discuss your plans, favourite colours and any specific ideas you have in mind as well as well as make an assessment of the room, space, lighting sources and what the room will be used for.

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  • Hi
    I’m planning to revamp my dining room with a bold exotic birds wallpaper. We have 10ft ceilings with skirting, dado and cornices. I’d like to paper above the dado and have a really dark Matt blue below. I’m happy with the dado and skirting in the dark blue but unsure what to do about the cornice and the ceiling. Should they both be in the dark blue? Or should the cornice be in the blue effectively framing the wallpaper and the ceiling be in a more mellow neutral which is also a prominent colour with the wallpaper?
    Would so appreciate your thoughts and advice.

    • Hi Samantha, I guess it depends how daring you want to be and how much natural light the room gets. I would suggest looking on Pinterest for similar designs and comparing the two. Having a dark blue feeling could feel cosy, but could equally feel oppressive. As you have high ceilings you have more leeway to play with dark colours but it depends on how you want to feel in the room.

  • I am redecorating my living room in an Edwardian house. It is currently red, with pale striped wallpaper below the dado rail. I am sticking with red, introducing some Racing Green and need advice for below the dado rail

    • Hi Sue, your plans sound very exciting. Unfortunately, though it’s not something I can advise on without seeing the room. So many factors come into play like the size and orientation of the room, the light, the furniture etc. If you intend to use Farrow and Ball paints they do offer colour consultations and I believe they are doing them virtually now. Might be worth looking into.

  • Hi hope you are well
    I am thinking of painting my bedroom navy with the back wall panelled and navy to
    1should I do coving around the edge of the Celling
    And can I use the same paint on the walls on the skirting board to
    Sorry for so many questions

    • I think the coving question is down to preference. Maybe have a look on Pinterest to see what other people have done with a panelled wall and see what you like best. I’m not an expert when it comes to paint but it depends what paint you are using. You often need something a bit more hard-wearing for the skirting boards than for the walls. If in doubt ask where you buy the paint. Someone there should be able to advise on the best paint for the job.Good luck with it all.

  • I love the shade of green in first photo in “decorating tips from Farrow and Ball”. Could you possibly share the name of the color. I’m thinking of using it on accent wall in North facing living room. I would love to share a photo of room and would value your opinion. Please advise if that is something you would be open to.
    Thank You.


  • I must say your color combination is very nice and attractive, I saw all photos and feel that how perfectly you decorate and paint every room all are so beautiful.

  • Great advice from a professional. Your choice of colour does make sure a difference to the overall look, and some great tips here. Good luck decorating your own home Stacey!