‘Not cheap… but cheaper than a divorce lawyer’: Why it pays to hire a consultant to choose the perfect paint colour

Driven to distraction by paint charts? A colour consultant could be the answer for anyone befuddled by choosing the right hue, says Giles Kime.

The infinite nuances of a paint chart never fail to trigger a shudder deep within my solar plexus. Add a couple of charts from other brands and the anxiety dial cranks up a notch or two on the Richter scale. Cuisse de Nymphe or Setting Plaster? Calke Green or Hopper? Dead Salmon or Old Trout? Help!

Then there’s the stress that choosing paint puts on relationships already left a little threadbare by a stressful building project. Consultants come at a cost: Farrow & Ball charges from £140 an hour for a virtual consultation, so it’s now cheap. But it’s cheaper than hiring an interior designer — or, indeed, a divorce lawyer. You’re also less likely to run the risk of making a mistake that will undermine a project.

As well as a network of consultants in its showrooms, Farrow & Ball boasts a pantheon of colour deities that includes Joa Studholme and Paddy O’Donnell, who advise customers on their choices.

“It’s akin to handing the keys of your car to a chauffeur who has notched up a few decades behind the wheel”

Mr O’Donnell is an alumnus of the Pardon School of Specialist Decoration with deep experience in his field and Mrs Studholme has been developing new Farrow & Ball colours (and advising on their use) for more than 20 years. She’s also the author of two invaluable books on the use of paint in decoration for those happy to go it alone.

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Using an experienced colour consultant of this pair’s calibre is akin to handing the keys of your car to a chauffeur who has notched up a few decades behind the wheel; it’s slightly unnerving at first, but then you settle back luxuriously in the back seat to enjoy the unfolding view. But you aren’t travelling to a mystery destination; consultants work with the aesthetic cues they find when you discuss a space and prescribe accordingly.

For anyone unsettled by the nuances and apparently arbitrary nature of choosing colour, it is reassuring to realise that there’s a science to it; the magical symbiosis between suggested colours reveals itself as they are applied to walls, ceilings and woodwork.

In an ever-more open-plan world, consultants understand the challenges of achieving coherence between adjacent spaces. Some might see taking advice as a dereliction of aesthetic responsibility, but, having experienced it first hand, it’s a burden I’m more than happy to relinquish.