Why the Hate for Farrow & Ball?

Farrow & Ball paints are popular with those who prefer quality of finish over price but it’s also a brand which evokes a negative response from many.

While it is certainly true to say that Farrow & Ball owes much of its success to savvy marketing, this doesn’t mean their products don’t also deserve some merit.

Here I look at some of the common criticisms and offer an alternative and qualified response.

‘Farrow & Ball Paints are Expensive’

This is, without doubt, correct when compared to many other premium paint brands but are you comparing like for like?

For instance, Dulux is one of the most well-known brands that doesn’t have a reputation for being cheap but is their Vinyl Matt Emulsion a comparable product to, say, F&B Estate Emulsion? If you take the view that both are just basic wall paints then yes, but there is more to it than this.

With Dulux Matt you can expect good coverage with 2 full coats and a satisfactory finish. The colour range is pretty much unlimited and the overall quality is very good.

With F&B Estate Emulsion you get a reduced choice of colours but a far superior finish – if you accept that it is a different kind of paint altogether and not just formulated to be the best of all worlds in terms of value and ease of coverage.

All paints are made of a few basic ingredients, there is no magic, but the ratio of one ingredient against another has a huge overall impact. Every formulation is a compromise of one quality versus another, there is no way around this.

One paint can not be superior in every way. As with many things in life, you get what you pay for…

‘Farrow & Ball Doesn’t Cover’

Pigments in paint are what give us the colour and obliteration , or covering power, and they are by far the most expensive ingredient.

However, cost aside, it simply isn’t possible to make a paint that has the maximum amount of pigment because it would be so thin, or lack body, that it would be impossible to use.

Adding more of one ingredient, again, means you have less of the others.

Nearly all paint brands add extenders to the pigment content to bulk it up and give the paint body.

Extenders are simple compounds that add bulk in the same way you may add flour to a cake. They add nothing to the quality of finish but displace other ingredients that do.

Some brands will add more extenders than others and, for sure, the cheaper the paint the more extenders it will contain.

It is for this reason that you need to use a special basecoat with many Farrow & Ball finishes.

This does, of course, add to the cost and preparation time but if your choice of paint is based purely on saving money then Farrow and Ball isn’t the brand for you.

‘Farrow & Ball Isn’t Scrubbable’

It is true that if you need a hard wearing surface finish that will stand up to everyday scuffs and marking Farrow & Ball is likely not the right choice.

Again, F&B is formulated with its unique finish in mind and inferior scrubability is one compromise needed to achieve this. For a busy hallway or young child’s room then, you may be better off opting for another brand of paint such Dulux Diamond Matt which is especially created for such use cases.

Again, different paints for different uses, no paint is the best at everything!

‘You’re Just Paying for the Name’

There is always a bit of reverse snobbery at play here but, as with any brand, you are paying a premium for the promotion and protection that comes with being a recognised name.

Does this mean you are being ripped-off?

Not if you accept that developing and promoting a premium product comes with added cost. Inferior brands that offer colour matches may be making more money since they enjoy a higher volume of sales without the added material and marketing costs.

So who is ripping you off here?

‘You Can Colour Match Farrow & Ball’

Most recognised brands will offer a colour-matching service so you can simply copy your favourite F&B colour at much reduced cost.

Whilst this may be true to a certain extent you are never going get the same quality of finish for the simple fact that other brands are using a general formula with more extenders, more water content and less pigments which are also of inferior quality.

You should also bear in mind that no paint brand will be able to offer a 100% match with even their own colours, there is always a slight difference from batch to batch.

Like for like, you’re not getting a perfect colour match or the same premium finish.

‘My Decorator Doesn’t Like Farrow & Ball Paints’

OK, lets accept that some decorators don’t have the faintest clue what they are talking about. There are, however, many professionals who don’t like certain brands and they may have valid reasons…

Your decorator may be worried that he/she can’t charge you the right amount that applying a premium paint requires. They know there is an added cost for base coats and additional labour.

They think you may accept a cheaper quote from someone else who doesn’t appreciate this and, sometimes, they will be right.

However, you may also find you’re employing someone who simply isn’t up to the job and will receive an inferior result regardless of the brand of paint being used. The choice is yours.

Featured image: Farrow & Ball Brassica & Stone Blue Estate Emulsion

See Also
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