Ann Sacks with Farrow and Ball
The two brands end up side-by-side in projects all over the world, so it’s only natural that Farrow & Ball and Ann Sacks formalized their kinship with a proper partnership. Both companies are beloved for their cult-status products: singular and unreplicable. Both are committed to executing beautiful innovations nuanced with richly pigmented color. And both have integrity at the core, drawing on hand-made techniques for artisan-quality products while tapping into technological conveniences for the ease of designers and homeowners alike. This season kicks off a few collaborative projects showcasing the best of the duo, a perfect pairing if we do say so ourselves.
The joy of tile and stone is the nuance, the variation, the never-ending array of ways that natural materials manifest in a product for home. Consider the shimmering, shape shifting colors, natural fossilization, the way a glaze pools around a dimensional tile or veining intensifies across a slab, at first a whisper and then making a raucous. Such beguiling color and depth variations are seen in the world’s finest paints as well. Farrow & Ball, the heritage company based in Dorset, England, is known for how its richly pigmented paints respond to light—nary a designer won’t enthusiastically cite the way time-of-day affects the brand’s colors. Likewise, the handcrafted wallpapers deliver their own charm in the form of a a tactile finish (the secret: printing paint on paper). So it’s no wonder that acclaimed decorators and architects the world over pair up these two brands.
Pairing tile and paint is a challenge, and like all challenges rewards the intrepid with dazzling, memory-making spaces. Read on and learn how to pair perfectly, from unorthodox project-inception tactics to finest finishing-touches.
Before a room scheme takes shape, even before the mood board comes together there are swirls of ideas and threads of inspiration at play in a designer’s mind. Consider launching right from there, says Rachel Morrison, Senior Designer and Vice President at Morrison Interiors in Southern California, a firm that begins each project with a freeform arrangement of samples.
“At that point, it’s simply about finding a cohesive aesthetic and color palette for the design of the entire home — there aren’t any ideas or materials that are specific to a certain space,” she explains. The work takes shape as a big conference table layered with ceramic, stone and slab samples, paint swatches and even fabrics. “We refer to it internally as ‘pulling a smattering,’” she says while laughing at the less-than-technical term.
The idea of pulling together a feeling versus specific room schemes at the beginning prevents homeowners from love/hate or yes/no polarities, and keeps the conversation going.
Houston designer Lauren Haskett asks herself at the outset, “What are the elements of this room that will have color? Is it the tile, the cabinetry, the wallpaper or textiles?” A one-off powder room can take a colorful tile up the walls—and Haskett does this a lot for its design impact and durability—but if she’s choosing materials for a larger space, the consistent thread might be a more neutral-leaning tile or stone, allowing the paint to be the color.
Likewise, Morrison says she’s open to a hit of strong, clear color on a vanity, but she’ll gravitate toward more complex, muddy colors for large spaces. “A classic pairing is something like the Ann Sacks Pistache Flamed pavers running from outdoors to in, and then one of those great, muddy Farrow & Ball colors on the walls, such as Lichen, Blue Gray, and Pigeon are all favorites . Together it’s moody and organic and beautiful,” she says.
Here’s something the pros know to be true: it’s hard to match the ground color of a natural stone or even a glazed ceramic tile with a paint color. Rachel Morrison encourages looking at the entire lot of tile and stone, not just the sample. “There’s so much variation in the color in natural stone and even in tile,” she says. “When choosing a complementary paint color, you need to look at the big picture, not a sample, which might not be indicative of the whole lot.”
Haskett calls it “bridging the gap”. I find that pairing Cornforth White with a Carrara tile is successful because the paint has a touch of gray in it. It isn’t going to fight with the warmer or cooler parts of the stone, it just works.”
Others say your creative energy is better spent elsewhere. Farrow & Ball color consultant and brand ambassador Patrick O’Donnell suggests using the brand’s “medium color book,” a fan deck of larger, single-page color samples versus its accordion of color options. “Instead of trying to match that ground color in a stone, why not look for the green nuances, for example, and match that? It’ll pull out the stone’s most interesting features and really make it pop.” The downside to matching the ground color of stone with a white or neutral is that, “you’ve really got to get it right,” he explains. “Think about choosing a shade of white paint for a gray-leaning marble: If the paint has too much yellow in it, it’ll make the marble appear dingier and the white feel more yellow,” he threatens. The small bit of variation can have an exponential effect when experienced side-by-side.
Frequently, Haskett avoids it altogether. “If there’s a lot of variation in my stone then I’ll just do a richer color — a vanity in lacquered eggplant or wine, for example, then you avoid the whole challenge. Now that’s drama and glamor!”
Morrison agrees, citing a project with expanses of limestone floors. “In those natural stones with a little taupe, a little gray… there’s actually a lot of directions you can go with paint from there; it’s a wonderful place to start!” She names Strong White as a beautiful versatile and nuanced white, but also mentions the firm’s desire to dip into deeper colors. “Right now we’re working on a home where everything — walls, ceiling, moldings — is Farrow & Ball deep gray-green called Downpipe. It’s going to look incredible.”
In Houston, Lauren Haskett designed a jack-and-jill bathroom, i.e. a bath that’s accessible to two rooms, in this case a guest room and a child’s room. “The idea was to create a space sophisticated enough for visiting adults but something a child could enjoy every day,” she says. Classic white ceramic tile walls and an encaustic star patterned floor is playful and refined but it’s the ceiling that takes it over the top. It’s Farrow & Ball Charlotte’s Locks, a deep and dramatic orange that is particularly spectacular when used in small areas with a sharp contrast.
Hasket says she avoids “clear” colors, gravitating instead to something “muddier and dirtier,” words that even Farrow & Ball’s Patrick O’Donnell ascribes to. “Most of our colors have a bit of black in them, adding complexity.”
Follow along as we showcase how several designers pair the brands in exquisite projects throughout the home. Sign up for our e-newsletters to see monthly projects.
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