Every company has its own set of paint colors, and different designers consider different sources as the standard. Many turn to , which was originally founded in 1883 and offers some 3,500 colors. Others prefer , which has a much narrower range of 132 current colors that are inspired by the past. Still others look to , which has adopted a number of third-party color systems, including Pantone, British Colour Council standards, and the European RAL color collection. And there are many more.
To help make sense of it all, paint manufacturers often curate collections of limited colors based on historical precedent or on emerging color trends.
At Farrow & Ball, "Most of our colours are historically rooted and their unique names are chosen to reflect the heritage and inspiration behind the color," says director Sarah Cole. For instance, one of the company's newest hues, Lancaster Yellow 249, was "inspired by the silk on the walls of the yellow room at Kelmarsh Hall, Nancy Lancaster's mid-20th-century home in Northamptonshire, England."
also offers an excellent range of historic colors in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which reflect the colors used in legendary American homes such as Lyndhurst, Belle Grove, and Filoli. "Those colors run through the history of our time and are very well loved," says Valspar's color trend and forecast specialist Sue Kim. "A lot of people also have historic homes that they're renovating and want to stay true to the time period."
For those who want to live like George Washington, Fine Paints of Europe has the Mount Vernon collection, which includes 30 paint colors copied directly from his historic home (shown above) near Alexandria, Virginia. Click here to see inspiring paint colors from Mount Vernon and other historic homes.
To identify "trending colors" from its vast selection, Benjamin Moore's team of color experts look for inspiration everywhere—from furniture showrooms to fashion runways. "It's an ongoing cycle," says Sonu Mathew, the company's senior interior designer, noting that the team is always looking two years ahead. "We're traveling a lot, looking at trade shows and at what's happening inside and outside the design industry. If I go to the Milan Furniture Fair, I'm not only looking at the fair, but also at the streets of Milan and at fashion." For 2011, Benjamin Moore's key concept is "balance"—a calming influence for a hectic, disorderly world—and the star color is 2116-20 Vintage Wine, "a comforting, smoky purple shade." follows a similar process. "We want to be sure that as trends shift and change, we have the colors to support them," says Jackie Jordan, the company's director of color marketing. "We look at what is driving the color change—whether it's the economy, what's happening globally, what's happening in our own backyard, or what's happening in fashion—and interpret it." For 2011, the company has identified four key palettes, including one featuring "very bold, very bright, vibrant colors" inspired by graffiti and Latin-American and Chinese art.