Interview with Charlotte Cosby, Head of Creative at Farrow & Ball

charlotte cosby
Robin Kitchin

Charlotte Cosby is Head of Creative at Farrow & Ball, one of the most renowned English manufacturers of luxury paints and wallpapers. Their vast catalogue of wallpaper designs and paint colours have become synonymous with stylish interiors, and their paint names have become iconic in their own right from Elephant’s Breath to Stiffkey Blue. We wanted to find out what it is like to work at such a colour institution and how new colours and designs go from inception to finished product. Charlotte tells us below, alongside sharing her top tips on how to add colour to your home…

What is the process for creating a new paint colour or wallpaper design – how long does it take from initial inspiration to finished product?
All our wallpaper designs are inspired by archives, like our newest papers which are all taken from nineteenth and twentieth century French fashion designs. We search in archives around the world to find the right patterns, rooted in the past, but with a contemporary feel.

We only introduce new paint colours every two or three years, so the whole process takes around that long! There is a small team that consider long term decorating trends, talk to our colour consultants and customers to see which colours we feel need to be added to the card. We only ever have 132 colours on our colour card so each and every one has to really earn its place. When looking for inspiration we look to the colours we find in historic houses, nature, and our Dorset home.

What is your favourite Farrow & Ball paint name – and if not the same, your favourite colour?
My favourite paint name has to be Elephant’s Breath, both iconic and quirky, it’s everything that we love at Farrow & Ball. On the other hand, my favourite colour changes every week! This week it’s the beautiful nude shade of Setting Plaster but last week it was the rich tones of Stiffkey Blue.

charlotte cosby
Robin Kitchin

How would you describe the interior style of your own home and what colours or wallpaper styles have you used throughout?
The overall look is an eclectic mix of contemporary and modern with a restful colour palette backdrop. I spend a lot of time around colour and am always busy so I opted for a simple, restful palette so I could properly relax. My bedroom is painted Wimborne White which is a great backdrop for the 8ft high green banana leaf print I have on the wall! The living room is painted in the soothing Dix Blue which is extremely calming and the guest room is a combination of Ammonite and Purbeck Stone.

also have some bolder colours and patterns, for example I have Lotus 2051 though my hallway, being a first floor flat, this covers two floors from the bottom of the stairs. For my kitchen, I wanted something a little more dramatic so opted for rich Stiffkey Blue. My bathroom is also painted in Dix Blue and Pavilion Blue but with the addition of a giant pink Aubdon flamingo on the tiles!

What advice would you give to someone who was looking to add more colour to their home interior but didn’t know where to start?
I would always recommend that you start with accents. Painting a piece of furniture or a photo frame is a brilliant way of introducing colour to a room. Try bright shades like Yellowcake, Nancy’s Blushes or St Giles Blue. Another way is by adding a piece of art to the walls or some brightly coloured scatter cushions to your sofa. This way, you’ll be able to test how you feel about a certain colour without it feeling so permanent!

Another good tip is to start in the room that you spend the least time in. A rarely used dining room or bathroom are great placed to test a colour palette as it won’t overwhelm you straight away and will give you time to get accustomed to it gradually. A small bathroom painted in a bold shade like Brinjal, Pelt or Rectory Red will quickly become a talking point!

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in your career at Farrow & Ball and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge I face is that because creative is so subjective it’s highly likely that some people won’t like what I have produced. However, I’ve learned to accept this, as on the other hand, there will be other people who absolutely love it!

charlotte cosby
Robin Kitchin

If you had today off work what would you be doing?
Painting my boyfriend’s new house! But in an ideal world it would be summer and I’d be on the beach near my flat barbecuing the mackerel we’d caught that morning!

What is your most prized possession and why?
A pair of mole grips which my dad gave me while we were renovating my flat together. My dad does not give tools away lightly so it meant a huge amount and they always remind me of him and the months we spent fitting my kitchen, plastering and painting!

What are your top trend predictions for colours & wallpapers in the home this A/W?
The colours we’ll be looking to decorate our homes this autumn will promote a sense of calm and wellbeing. Sophisticated pastels shades that can be used in isolation or combined with classic greys will continue to be popular throughout the year. The smoky, silvery Light Blue, a colour that is neither blue nor grey but mysteriously somewhere in between and works brilliantly when combined with some of our cooler neutrals such as Dimpse, Blackened and Lamp Room Gray.

Warm Pink Ground reflects the desire to turn away from the more sweet and sugary pinks and towards a more soft edged colour that while remaining pretty, exudes a sense of class. Combined with the darker tones of Charleston Gray and London Stone, Pink Ground is the ultimate sophisticated chic pink for the year ahead.

In terms of wallpaper, it’s an exciting time as there are lots of different designs available. Leaf prints like Feuille and Jasmine will continue to do well as a way of getting green and organic natural shapes into the home.

Why do you think Farrow & Ball continues to be a go-to brand for consumers – and how do you think they will remain a successful brand in the future?
We have very loyal consumers who are looking for a quality product and great customer service. To help our customers we created an edited colour palette of 132 colours, meaning that they aren’t overwhelmed with choice. Every colour on our colour card has earned its place as we only introduce a shade if it’s really needed.