Whether she's crossing continents to conduct home transformations or sitting at a table in Dorset concocting our latest collections, Joa Studholme can always be found putting her legendary flair for colour to good use. This year has been no exception, as Recipes for Decorating, the brand new book by our homegrown colour expert, hits the shelves.
We sat down with Joa to discuss the inspiration behind the book, the comforting influence of colour, and the difficulty of keeping new shades under lock and key.
01: This is your first book since 2016’s How to Decorate – what would you say has changed in the world of interiors since then?
There has been a seismic shift in the way we are using colour in the home. The huge popularity of the neutral home is somewhat on the wane. When the world is in turmoil, what better way to comfort ourselves than embracing stronger colours that have an air of nostalgia and nourish not only our homes but also our souls. The case studies in this book reflect that change. These homes belong to people who delight in surrounding themselves in colour, although of course, I have still included one very neutral and one fully grey property, so there should be something that appeals to everybody
02: We love the concept of colour and finish combinations as ‘recipes’ throughout the book – what prompted this idea?
Many years ago, I began to think about how the architectural elements within a room are just like ingredients in a recipe. The colours need to be combined and balanced in just the same way as ingredients in a dish, combining them to form something far better than the sum of their parts. How to Decorate was named in tribute to the great culinary masterpieces How to Eat and How to Cook, and so Recipes for Decorating felt like a natural progression. In this book, we take the same basics and show how they are used in real homes.
03: What is your favourite case study from the book?
Gosh, that’s a really difficult question – I favour many of them but for totally different reasons. I love the Modern Family case study because it is a house that most of us can imagine living in which has been enhanced by the use of colour in all sorts of wild and wonderful ways! But then Deans Court, the home featured in the Quintessentially Country section, is fabulously dreamy and romantic. And who can help but admire the Art House in Copenhagen for its fabulously bold use of colour? I loved working on the Templeton House in Understated Grandeur, too, and despite my reservations about including such a monochrome grey space, Manhattan Chic has turned out to be one of my favourites. Oh, and am I to include my own house?
04: As well as tips for combining Farrow & Ball colours, Recipes for Decorating reveals some of the stories behind them – are people often surprised by the inspiration behind certain shades?
I have to admit that some of them are pretty surprising! But they are not there just for effect – each name has a resonant story behind it. When we named one of our latest colours Sulking Room Pink it did cause a bit of a stir – the truth is that this colour was inspired by the shade used for traditional boudoirs, but ‘Boudoir Pink’ just didn’t sound like a Farrow & Ball name. So, we spent time considering the boudoir and how it got its name, only to discover it comes from the French bouder, meaning ‘to sulk’, hence Sulking Room Pink. As true colourists, we often take inspiration from original pigments, sometimes with surprising consequences. India Yellow is famously named after the pigment collected from the urine of cows that had been given a special diet of mango leaves
05: What is it that you think keeps drawing people to Farrow & Ball?
The colours! And I would say that without doubt that it is also the unmatched depth of colour. When you paint your walls in a Farrow & Ball Estate Emulsion you get a look that is quite different from any other commercial brand. The walls feel rich and velvety, as if you could almost dive into them!
06: What’s the most fascinating property you’ve been able to visit as a Colour Consultant?
I have to say that I find every job as fascinating as the last – it takes just as much skill and imagination to decorate a diminutive basement flat as it does a palace. But I do feel lucky to have met so many interesting people, all of whom want different things from their homes. I firmly believe that the world would be a much duller place if we all wanted the same thing.
07: How difficult is it to keep new colours to yourself leading up to launch?
These colours have a very long gestation, so I have to keep quiet for nearly two years! In 2018 I made the mistake of painting most of my house in our new colours six months before the launch. My family and I loved them, but it then meant that I couldn’t let anyone else in the house for fear of them spilling the beans. It was a bit of a lonely time!