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The Power of Paint – Our Dos and Don’ts


At Firmdale Hotels we are known for our padded fabric walls and our love of beautifully patterned wallpaper. However, we mustn’t overlook the power of flat emulsion paint.

Nowadays we are spoilt for choice with a plethora of colours and brands to choose from. You can visit any local DIY store and browse through countless shades and hues of every colour in the rainbow. Below are our suggested dos and don’ts for painting.

1. DO consider the space

First you want to consider the area you are painting and how you want to feel in that space. You might want a restful colour scheme in the bedroom and something more punchy in the living room. Ambient light changes throughout the day and causes colours to transform. In east and west facing rooms, the light changes more dramatically, so make sure you sample in the morning and afternoon.

2. DON’T forget to sample

Your favourite colour might not be the best in your room due to the aspect. Sometimes painting directly onto the wall doesn’t work because the sample paint reacts with the existing wall colour. Instead, paint your sample onto a piece of card or wood which you can move round the room.

3. DON’T be afraid to be bold

We love colour and believe a strong background colour can make a space interesting and give contrast. In Ham Yard Hotel’s drawing room we have used a dark umber colour on the walls. We’ve used a fabric, but if budget is an issue then a strong paint colour can create the same impact. When the colour is going up, keep your nerve. It is important to remember that when you add curtains, artworks, fabric and people to the room, the walls are no longer the only focus.

4. DON’T think white is boring

On the other hand, don’t dismiss white; it can be a very powerful colour. In Ham Yard Bar & Restaurant we have painted the back wall white. Different shades of white appear as the light changes throughout the day. The wall has 32 niches which house Martha Freud’s glowing porcelain pots. The white surface allows the pots to take centre stage.

5. DO consider the environment and your health

Traditional painting methods and materials can be harmful to the environment. Paint brands are now available that are kinder to the world. Earthborn paints are free from acrylics, oils and smells. Their paints help your walls to breathe and they’re better for your health. Edward Bulmer also offer a natural paint range with a gorgeous array of colours – but they come with a price tag!

6. DO mix and match

If you have a dado rail then you could consider combining wallpaper and paint. In this room at Covent Garden Hotel, we combined  my ‘Willow Weave’ wallpaper for Christopher Farr Cloth with a light neutral paint below the dado. This keeps the room from feeling too busy and helps with the cost.

7. DO try specialist techniques

At Charlotte Street Hotel, the panelled walls in the library are painted with a ‘Strie’ technique. This mimics the look of centuries-old paint and the bristle marks are visible. It gives the room a sense of history. You would never know that the panelling is MDF and not the real thing.

8. DON’T forget fun accents

Add a splash of colour. We love to surprise our guests by painting a shocking yellow or red inside of a wardrobe, dressing room or even on the ceiling.

9. DO paint a mural

At Charlotte Street Hotel, we commissioned Alexander Hollweg to paint a mural in Oscar Bar & Restaurant. We were inspired by Duncan Grant’s depiction of contemporary London life. Our mural is of contemporary London life in the year 2000 when the restaurant was opened.

Paint is easy to use, easy to change and there is so much choice out there, so pick up a paintbrush and get creative!

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