Sundance Times - Continuing the Crook County News Since 1884

Ths Side of the Pond

Notes from an Uprooted Englishwoman


November 28, 2019

Few things make me happier than crossovers between my culture and yours, but this week’s combo is the most bizarre I’ve seen in a while. It involves house paint, spellings and the nation’s favorite sketch show – oh, and a newspaper, because all good things need to involve newspapers.

The paint in question is a luxury brand called Farrow & Ball, which hails from my home county of Dorset and has been churning out wall coverings since 1946 that are based on historic archives and the natural world.

It’s not for the budget decorator, let’s just say. The brand works with prestigious British organizations such as the National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty, with whom they come up with matches for the original colors used in historic buildings, which is a great help when it comes time for a restoration project.

It’s spoken of in Paris, lauded in London and praised by royalty, but for me Farrow & Ball is one of those strange situations where I can’t take the product’s aristocratic presumptions too seriously because I know it’s all been mixed in a building just to your left when you go through the industrial estate to get from my parents’ house to the big supermarket down in Poole.

I also can’t help but wonder if the employees of Farrow & Ball have a habit of sniffing their own paint fumes. It’s not that their choices of color are unpleasant; quite the opposite, in fact, as I’d be happy to use their entire 132-strong collection on the walls of my own home.

It’s just the naming that baffles me: what you see is often not even close to what you’re going to get.

Some are pretty standard; “Snow white”, for instance, does exactly what you’d expect it to do, while “Radicchio” does have the hue of the vegetable in question.

Others, though, are too whimsical to really tell you at a glance what’s in the tin. Calling a damask shade “Sulking Room Pink” tells me far more about their creative process than it does the finished look of my decorating efforts, while I’d love to ask them about the research that must have gone into identifying a certain brown-grey shade as “Mole’s Breath”.

Sometimes they appear to have run out of imagination, such as for “Orange Colored White”, but then they rush off to the other end of the lunacy scale with “Mouse’s Back” and “Dead Salmon”.

Some are even a lie. “Broccoli Brown” was apparently designed in collaboration with the Natural History Museum to match the head of a black-beaded gull. I can’t for the life of me figure out what that’s got to do with broccoli and I certainly shan’t be accepting any offers of lunch at the Farrow & Ball headquarters if they think rotten vegetables are worthy of commemoration in paint.

“Lake Red”, meanwhile, is definitely pink, so that’s a lie already. I’ve also never seen a hot pink body of water and, indeed, this color is based on a tulip. There’s a logic thread here I’m not seeing, isn’t there? They’ve become as famous for their names as for their colors, so it’s clearly working.

A few have direct links to my county of birth, which of course makes me happy. “Purbeck Stone” is a mid-gray that matches the rocks found on the Isle of Purbeck, which is incidentally where my childhood Yorkshire Toy Terrier pup was born.

Wimborne White is named for the quaint market town that my parents currently call home, while Lulworth Blue is named for the color of the sea at Lulworth Cove, one of my favorite beaches and also one of the sights I mentioned in last week’s column.

It’s fancy paint and beautiful, but I had no idea it was available on these shores. I think the business was almost as surprised last week when its name turned up in a sketch on Saturday Night Live. That’s sort of like Taco John’s appearing in an episode of Monty Python – brilliant, but very odd.

I didn’t see the sketch, but our local newspaper back home was excited to tell us all about it. Apparently, Aidy Bryant describes it as the “high end British paint company that offers unparalleled depth and col-our”, pronouncing the last part of the word as “hour” because, of course, we Brits love our quirky spellings. The rest of the sketch is a play on pronunciation, with the actors talking about how they don’t want to live in “squal-our” and so on.

Farrow & Ball wasn’t about to let this opportunity pass, so they took out a full page ad in the New York Times to announce their brand new “Saturday Night Live special edition col-our!” It’s called “English Roast No. 30” and I am naturally eager to snap some up as soon as possible.

Particularly because the description appeals to me so deeply: “A rich and good hum-oured hue with subtle hints of bone-dry satire and a lingering aftertaste of charred British beef.”

I was concerned at first that it would be like splashing brown gravy all over my living room walls, but on reflection I think I can make use of it. They really are very good at picking their palette, so perhaps they’ll come out with a “used teabag” I could use as an accent col-our.


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