Rediscovering Colour by Nature with Roman and Williams

Written on 1st October 2019


When our colour creators paid a visit to the Natural History Museum earlier this summer, they weren’t the only ones who came away inspired.

Among the intricate carvings, cavernous exhibition halls and treasure-filled cases of the museum, the renowned duo behind NYC design firm Roman and Williams were inspired to create their own imaginative installation, an homage to the intrepid spirit of Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours designed to bring our 16 new colours to life.


The firm’s founders, Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch, accompanied Farrow & Ball Head of Creative Charlotte Cosby to the Natural History Museum where, deep in the Special Collections of the Rare Book Library, they were introduced to an early copy of Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours, the original book that classified colour in nature, and the source of each hue in our new Colour by Nature palette.

“For the Farrow & Ball Colour by Nature launch, we were intrigued by the precise lyricism of Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours and how it captures the subtlest of chromatic differences with consistent terminology,” says Robin.

Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours represents an incredible encyclopaedia that provided clarity for colour at a time when that didn’t exist. With the installation design, we wanted to create a similar sense of community by unlocking a common language that explores the natural world around us.”

"Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours represents an incredible encyclopaedia that provided clarity for colour at a time when that didn’t exist."

Inspired not just by the adventurous Victorian zeitgeist captured by the book, but by its painstaking scientific classifications, Robin and Stephen set to work designing their installation, a series of curiosity cabinets designed to showcase the hues of nature.

Taking their cues from the characterful classifications of Werner’s book – which listed colour next to its source in the natural world, whether animal, vegetable or mineral – Roman and Williams have amassed sculptures of birds of all sizes and 18th-century botanical study models. In dipping each one in the hues of the Colour by Nature palette, they forged connections between the historic discovery of the natural world and the installation's contemporary context, revealing the stunning variety of the natural world in more than just colour. Finishing touches of hand-painted signage reveal colour names just as unexpected as their classifications, from Broccoli Brown to Duck Green.

Charlotte also enjoyed sharing creative ideas with the pair: “Roman and Williams were the perfect partners to bring our very exciting collaboration with the Natural History Museum to life in the US. We’re hoping their classic and witty interpretation of the project will inspire people to bring the truly authentic colours of nature into their homes.”

Beginning October 8th, the Colour by Nature palette will be available for purchase at Roman and Williams Guild.

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