Redecorating? Check out our guide to the best British artisanal paint manufacturers.

Are you using the summer holidays to give your home a little overhaul? Switching up your paint colours is one of the quickest ways to breathe new life into a home. Gone, however, are the days when a quick trip to the local mega hardware store would answer all your paint needs – and thank goodness for that. For over the last couple of decades, artisan independent paint companies have either sprung up or resurged in popularity, bringing with them rich colours with deep, natural pigmentation as well as a wealth of non-toxic, eco options. It’ s no wonder then that so many of these companies have built huge followings on Instagram thanks to their gorgeous shots of inspiration – from zingy bright colour pops to dark, brooding earthy shades in ‘traditional’ colours.

If you’re in the market to find the elusive perfect shade, we highly recommend you check out some of these wonderful paint manufacturers – from the one-man-bands to the Royal Warrant holders to the ubiquitous Farrow & Ball.

Plain English




Most people know Plain English for its unparalleled cabinet making and interior design (notably in the kitchen, but also throughout the house too). Not everyone knows that it also has its own paint range – great news for those of us who love the muted shades used in its kitchen schemes, which are redolent of life below stairs in the bygone days of grand country houses.



There are three collections: Collection No 1 was created in homage to the painted cabinetry in industrious kitchens of yesteryear; Collection No 2 ‘draws inspiration from the linoleum corridors and the wallpapered parlours, breakfast rooms and nurseries of an imagined 18th century home’; and Collection No 3 is a collaboration with the great Rita Konig. Not surprisingly, we especially love these colours in the kitchen – especially the unexpected bright pops of colour, like ‘Boiled Egg.’ Explore the whole lovely collection here and follow Plain English on Instagram here.

Neptune




In a similar vein to Plain English, Neptune is best-known as a British furniture maker. It also happens to have a beguilingly beautiful selection of paints for the home. There are twenty-eight shades to choose from, all available as matt emulsion and eggshell, plus there are new colours added to the collection each season.



There are too many gorgeous shades to mention here, but perhaps our runaway favourite is its rendition of Sage, a shade that we’re on a constant but often disappointing quest for. This is the perfect blend of soft grey and green. For more ideas, follow Neptune on Insta here.

Little Greene




Little Greene began life in 1773 in the Little Greene Dye Works of Collyhurst Wood just outside Manchester. Granted the right to operate as a ‘house producing colours’ by The Earl of Derby, it was headed up by one Joshua Rowlands, who oversaw its development of traditional paints for domestic and industrial use. They say: ‘The early paints would have been based on natural resins and pigments, similar in many ways to those used by the great artists of old. The development of synthetic compounds for the colouring of materials during the 19th-century provided faster and more efficient production; however many of them were proven not to be as safe or as good as the ones they replaced.’



Using many of the original materials today, Little Greene’s paints are unusually high in pigment. We love browsing the gallery of inspiration, as well as following Little Greene over on its irresistible Instagram feed. It is perhaps that onus on quality that has led to partnerships with two august institutions: The National Trust and English Heritage. And if it’s good enough for them…

Edward Bulmer Natural Paint




Edward Bulmer is an artisan paint maker who, with a team of experts, creates extremely high-quality eco-friendly paint. They explain, ‘To make truly eco-friendly paints, we believe you need to use renewable raw materials, create the lowest possible carbon footprint – positive if possible – and adopt the highest standard of ethical trading, with particular reference to modern anti-slavery policies and tracability of raw materials.’



Don’t be fooled by often disingenuous eco labels, the website warns; by contrast, EB Natural Paint declares everything that goes into every one of its pots, which invariably contain the most stunning of colours. Explore the glorious gallery of completed works here, its collections here, and follow on Instagram here.

Paper & Paint Library




Paper & Paint Library launched twenty years ago, the brainchild of interior designer David Oliver. Since those nascent days, it has gone on to develop a palette of some 180 beautiful colours, as well as garner accreditation from RIBA, the Royal Institute of British Architects.



All paints are available in five finishes for both interior and exterior use and are divided into three collections: Original Colours Paint, Architectural Paint and the Monochrome Collection. We could browse the inspiration page forever, as well its exquisite Instagram grid.

Farrow & Ball




No list of independent paint companies would be complete without Farrow & Ball, which has long since become a byword for good taste in certain circles, pretty much to the point of cliché (the price of conspicuous runaway success). The story begins in Dorset in 1946, when John Farrow, a trained chemist, and Richard Ball, an engineer, met at a local clay pit and ‘together shared a passion for making rich colours to original formulations using only the finest ingredients.’ There have been twists and turns in the F&B tale since, but suffice to say that during the 1970s and 80s, when acrylic paints were becoming the norm, F&B stuck to its guns and continued to stick to traditional methods.



Today it is a high-tech operation with global demand and impressive colour consultancy. We love the earthiness and chalkiness of the paints, which are available in some eight finishes. Explore the full range here, and find some inspiration here, as well as on F&B’s little squares.

Earthborn




Eco paint company, Earthborn, was founded in 2002. And, as it explains, ‘What makes our paints different is their high quality and high performance; the result of carefully selecting the right ingredients and using technologically advanced manufacturing processes and formulations. You won’t find any acrylics or oils, but you will find a full list of ingredients to help you make a more informed choice.’



There are three collections: the Classic Range with 72 shades; Ecopro, an interior emulsion; and Ecopro Silicate for masonry. Browse the collection as well as gorgeous completed projects here. Its Instagram account is awash with loveliness too.

Colour Makes People Happy




Founded by Simon March in London, the brilliantly named Colour Makes People Happy has now moved to the most beautiful shop in Lewes, East Sussex. Unfolding organically, the idea was to create a place that would be dedicated to, as the name suggests, the love of colour, taking those conversations out of the often-uninspiring context of chain hardware shops.



This is a company with the full force of the founder’s considerable personality behind it. As it states brilliantly on the website, ‘When visiting the many paint and DIY stores and choosing colours for customers, [Simon] couldn't bear to see yet another colour name evoking the past with some spurious bullshit about Napoleons pantry... or Marie Antoinette's boudoir... then finally having to quote a colour name that sounded like sugary deserts, or a description of a mawkish sunset, names that stuck sickly in the throat. Being quite a contrarian, he wanted to resist the dictatorial force-feeding of paint companies extolling the virtues and questionable taste of the gaudy Victorians and Edwardians - and, god forbid, the louche 'Romans'. Do we all live in stately homes, Citadels and pavilions with drawing rooms or loggias overlooking olive groves? No, we don't.’

Simon helps his customers to make decisions through chatting to them – something simple that happens way too infrequently. Simply sit at his paint bar and he’ll even make a shade just for you. Plus, the paint is natural, uses local materials and completely beautiful. We couldn’t love this company more. Explore the website and follow on Insta here.

Mylands Royal




A Royal Warrant holder, Mylands was established in 1884, making it the oldest family-owned and run paint and polishes manufacturer in the UK. As it explains, ‘Our story begins in 1884 when ‘Honest’ John Myland set up his modest shop in the heart of Lambeth. Unlike some other paintmakers of the day, John was absolutely in thrall to the art of the colourman, insisting on only the very best materials that would allow him to create colours that were lustrous and flawless, with guaranteed quality.’



Four generations later, it still operates from Lambeth, quietly creating beautiful shades and finishes. Get inspiration on Instagram, and peruse its colours here. We also love its gallery of finished projects, which you can view here.

By Nancy Alsop
July 2020

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