Introducing Patrick O’Donnell

Written on 16th July 2019

For many with a long-standing interest in Farrow & Ball, Patrick O’Donnell will need no introduction. As Colour Consultant, brand ambassador, and occasional leading man in our colour videos, he’s someone that many will already associate with our palette. But now, as we prepare to kick off a new series of interviews with some of the most exciting interior design talent across the UK and US, we thought it only right to have a few words with the man responsible for bringing them to our attention.

We sat down with Patrick to talk Farrow & Ball favourites, whose work he’s loving right now, and what film, TV and floristry have taught him about design.

Can you tell us the story of how you originally come to work for Farrow & Ball?

I first started working for Farrow & Ball at the start of 2012. I live in Ireland but struggled to find a role that suited my skill set, so I had to look across the water. When I saw what Farrow & Ball were doing there, I loved it. I thought ‘I want to be part of that’, and nearly eight years later, here we are!

As International Brand Ambassador, you’re working with designers across the UK and North America – have you noticed any big differences in design trends between the two countries?

There are two differences that stand out to me. Firstly, North American design uses significantly more gloss paint than the UK market, and in wonderful ways, too. Rather than being reserved for trim, it’s also sprayed on walls or ceilings to create a lacquered effect. The second difference is that British interiors can often feel less ‘decorated’ than their American counterparts. The details feel quieter and spaces more lived-in.

How are you working to bring Farrow & Ball and designers together?

Essentially, I act as a conduit between Farrow & Ball and interior designers, building relationships with them, listening to their needs, and advising them on how they can get the most out of our palette. At the heart of it, our designers want to create beautiful schemes for their clients’ homes, and we want to help them achieve their vision. Figuring out how best to support them is a big – and very exciting – part of my role.

Let’s talk colour consultancy: Is there any one project that you find particularly memorable? An impressive property, a difficult brief, or a finished result that you’re especially proud of?

I’ve had the good fortune to work in lots of beautiful homes both big and small, but one of my favourites was a glorious country house in Oxfordshire. We used – pretty much exclusively – our archive palette and went for quite a strong look throughout. The icing on the cake was the drawing room in Pantalon, which is a beautiful deep brown with a hint of green through it.

You’ve held some pretty diverse roles over the years – how have these influenced your work?

You could say it’s taken a while to find my metier, but every role I’ve had has taught me something invaluable about the world of design. After studying A-level History of Art, I went on to complete an ISVA in Fine Art and Chattels at the University of Southampton, and then to study specialist paint decoration at the Leonard Pardon School in London, so I had a pretty good theoretical and practical grounding early on, learning all about colour, texture and form. I’ve also taken some forays into film and TV at the BBC, and floristry at Moyses Stevens. The former taught me discipline and teamwork, both absolutely necessary in design, and the latter taught me the importance of having something living in a room, even better if it’s scented!

Is there a particular Farrow & Ball colour that you always turn to? What’s your current favourite?

As mentioned earlier, I love Pantalon from our archive collection. But my go-to colour is usually Light Blue – it just always works! The colour I am having a moment with right now is India Yellow. Yellows, sadly, seem to be somewhat out of fashion, but they can really lift a room and hopefully will have a renaissance in the next couple of years.

Whose design work are you loving right now?

This is super tricky, there are some extraordinary interior designers working at the moment! My personal bent would lean to more traditional influence – I really like Pierce & Ward, who are creating beautiful spaces throughout the US in a brilliantly relaxed way. Over in the UK, you can’t help but be inspired by Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler – the number of British decorators who have cut their teeth there is phenomenal.

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