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  • Anna Proctor

What's in a (paint) name?

Naming things can be tricky. It took months for my husband John and I to agree on our kids’ names. You want to come up with something fairly original, unpretentious and be sure it feels right. Because they'll have it for the rest of their lives. I’ve always been intrigued to know how brands come up with their paint names. It’s a tough call- the name needs to capture the essence of the paint colour without being too obvious, and ideally be memorable. The best paint names are part of our vocabulary now and can summon up that colour precisely, which for someone who works with colour is imperative. True paint colours are always consistent. You know exactly what you’re getting.


I have to kick things off with Farrow and Ball. Their paint names are an intrinsic part of their marketing. My favourite paint names are their animal based ones. They love an animal at F &B. Colours such as Elephant’s Breath and Dead Salmon have become classics. They were born to be name-dropped. I may or may not partly have chosen Elephants Breath for our bedroom in our old flat because I loved the name and wanted to be able to say it out loud as much as possible.


Elephants Breath by Farrow and Ball. Image from Pinterest


Little Greene use a mix of historical names and playful ones for their paints. One of my favourites is Mischief, described as an ‘exciting and glamorous shade mixing magenta and violet to an intoxicating effect.’ I love this lateral style of description; it’s so intriguing and unexpected. The incredible chic Dorchester Pink has a more literal meaning; ’A 1960s article on an interior in the Dorchester Hotel describes the use of this colour: ‘Lilac provides an unusually restful setting for this bedroom. The room is given a gay note by the harlequin effect of the bed drapes and valance.” By the sound of that I’d LOVED to have spent the night there. Indeed lilacs are having a moment right now but I’ve always thought they were a great choice for a bedroom or living room.


Dorchester Pink by Little Greene


Dulux have a very democratic approach to naming their paints. Colour brand Manager Emily Simpson gathers her team for a creative brainstorm. She tries to make sure there are a mix of people as ‘you don’t always know where the creative minds are hiding.’ She’ll use people who work with colour every day but also likes to make sure there are a couple of wild cards in the room. There may be some people working in finance or HR who are really passionate about colour. The colour is put in front of them and they’re asked to come up with as many ideas as possible. Anything and everything that will reflect not only the tone and shade of the colour but also what people want to feel when they look at it. How I’d love to be fly on the wall at one of these sessions! According to Marianne Shillingford, the Creative Director the most popular Dulux paint names are Wet weather or anything to do with coffee, chocolate biscuits, such as Caramel Latte or Cookie Dough. They’re definitely making me feel hungry, that’s for sure.


Tranquil Dawn Colour of the Year 2020 by Dulux


Paint the town green, based down the road from me in Wandsworth, are a high quality decorating service who also make their own environmentally friendly non toxic paints. Founder Phil Robinson used to be in a band and decided to pay homage to his past by naming all the paint colours after song titles. Jo from Paint the town green explains a bit about the process. “It was a very time consuming process that took a lot of thought but was great fun. Phil wanted to come at the colour naming process from a different angle and have a theme that ran throughout. Some came more easily than others, these were mainly the literal ones- Purple Rain (tune!), Powder Blue, Fade to Grey etc. But actually the ones he’s most pleased with are the ones that are a bit more ‘cryptic’ but convey what he’s trying to say with those colours. These include Dignity, Pictures of You and Charlotte Sometimes. Phil likes to think that these names trigger the imagination by describing the colours in a more metaphorical way rather than just saying ‘Pea green.” I absolutely love the story behind their paint collection. So cool.


Nightswimming by Paint the town Green


What’s in a name? Sometimes more than meets the eye. A great paint name does justice to the colour and fires up the imagination. If you could come up with any paint name you liked for any colour you liked, what would you choose?





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