You can’t enter the crowded paint market without making sure your product is vegan, water-based and low VOC at the very least. But how do you stand out? We asked three new and up-and-coming paint brands to share their perspectives on launching during lockdown, innovative product design and the importance of community when it comes to a new generation of decorators.
Yes Colours founder John Stubbs loves to find solutions – ideally sustainable ones – to the irritants of everyday life. ‘We were moaning about paint tins,’ he recalls, ‘and how annoying they are to open, store and recycle. We’re talking about 50 million tins in UK homes being stockpiled, 55 million litres of paint going to landfill each year. Everybody has tins in their shed, but nobody’s thinking about solving the problem.’
The answer? A pouch – the sort used in food and cosmetics. It is made of recyclable plastic, but John has plans to develop a sugar-cane-based version. A window shows what is inside, while a screw-top lid keeps out moisture and dust. The pouch holds one litre of paint – less than the norm – but, as John explains, ‘a lot of our customers aren’t painting rooms in one colour. They’re using different shades in smaller quantities.’
And when it comes to new hues, he has a secret weapon: his friend of 20 years, Emma Bestley. Emma has grapheme-colour synesthesia, whereby people experience numbers and letters as colours. ‘I grew up thinking everyone thought three was yellow and Monday was red,’ she says. ‘I knew it would come in handy one day!’
Finding inspiration in memories, such as the terracotta bricks outside where she grew up, her colour palette is quite a personal experience. She’s delighted that her all-time favourite, ‘Electric Blue’ – inspired by both Yves Klein and Marrakech – is a bestseller. ‘People are using it for a whole room or for little details. It’s optimistic and makes you smile.’
The pair are careful not to claim they have it all figured out. That, says Emma, ‘is almost impossible’. But they promise to keep tackling our decorating dilemmas. yescolours.com
The creators of Coat, Rob Abrahams and Rob Green, found the process of decorating their homes frustratingly disjointed: ‘Endless aisles in DIY stores and so many choices that it was overwhelming, to say nothing of sustainability credentials.’
The duo wanted a more intuitive and eco-friendly experience so, in September 2020, they launched their collection of trend-driven colours to make choosing simpler. ‘We didn’t plan to do it during a pandemic, but I don’t think the rest of the world had a plan, either,’ quips Rob Abrahams.
But for many of those who took lockdown as a chance to redecorate, Coat’s innovative peel-and-stick swatches were a game-changer. Each uses just eight millilitres of paint to reduce waste, is free from solvents and adhesives, and is fully recyclable.
All of the brand’s paint is mixed to order, so it only produces what people actually need. It’s all part of a ‘climate positive’ approach. ‘The paint industry is a big contributor to waste and it has to change. There was no way we would launch with anything other than carbon neutrality,’ explains Rob Green. The pair also decided to double-offset their carbon figure by contributing to forest-preservation projects, meaning the brand gives back more to the planet that it takes.
But what colours are their customers buying? ‘Dark, rich greens like “Ditch The Tie”, or dark blue-greens like “The Drink” have been favourites this past year,’ they tell us. ‘Richer, taupe shades like “Sunday Soul” and warm off-whites like “Pampas” are popular, too.’ For 2022, they’re tipping ‘Factor Fifty’, a plaster pink, as a rising star.
And the two Robs have a top tip for beginners: ‘Use a mini foam roller on skirting boards, doors and wood panelling. It gives such a smooth finish – once you’ve tried it, you’ll never use a brush again!’ coatpaints.com
Lick co-founder Lucas London is building a community as much as a groundbreaking paint business. ‘Decorating can be a high-anxiety process,’ he explains, ‘and many lack the confidence or information to select the colours for their home. Our community is inspiring others to decorate and be bolder and braver.’
Colour plays a crucial role in creating a home that makes its inhabitants feel good. ‘It can make a huge impact in a relatively affordable and accessible way, lifting moods and influencing everything from art to furniture,’ says Lucas. Social media is crucial for growing Lick’s community and identifying how its products are being used in homes.
And people are being inspiringly playful. ‘We see many painted ceilings in strong colours, as it is being considered a fifth wall,’ Lucas tells us. ‘There’s also been a big trend in DIY panelling, scalloped edges and split-colour walls.’ Lick’s customers are keen on greens – ‘Our bestseller is“Green 02”; it’s a beautiful colour, calming and restful for the eyes’ – as well as teal, ‘a close cousin of green’.
Like his contemporaries, Lucas is determined to keep sustainability at the heart of his brand and make Lick a positive place to work. ‘Every employee has equity in the business and we are remote-first,’ he explains, meaning his employees have more time to enjoy their homes.
Lick has also partnered with charities such as 4ocean and One Tree Planted, has localised its supply chain and sells eco-friendly brushes, rollers and paint trays. ‘We have made massive improvements since launch,’ he adds, ‘but we still have a lot of work to do.’ lick.com/uk