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On the Sofa with COAT Paints

It’s not every day that we have such maestros of colour to ourselves! We were glad to sit down with COAT co-founder, Rob Abrahams to talk interiors, sustainability, and the beauty of colour. He brought up a treasure trove of intriguing insights on using colour to change the mood of your home, the joy of collaboration, and how to leave a positive impact on the planet. We’re so pleased to be in conversation with a brand that’s doing paint right, through-and-through - and we hope you’ll find as much value in our discussion as we did!

What’s the story of COAT? What attracted you to the world of colour and drove you to start a paint business?

We set up COAT nearly two years ago for two real reasons. One, it seemed there was a huge gap for a real conscious, sustainability-focused brand in paint and that’s something that means a lot to both of us. Similarly, we’ve renovated houses over the last ten years ourselves and based on our experiences buying paint, choosing colors, navigating DIY stores and all the back and forth, we thought there was a real opportunity to do something different and make that experience better. So, COAT's about being a better experience for the customer in a way that's really kind to the planet as well.

If you have no clue what wall colour to go for, where should you start in making that decision?

There are so many resources out there now: Instagram, Pinterest, magazines…Start there. A good thing about colour, paint, and furnishings is everyone's got an opinion! So, find what resonates with you and draw the pieces out. Say you love this picture of a living room. What colour is on the wall? What fabric is on the sofa? Refine your colour ideas from there. Then the next stage is sampling. Once you've got an idea what you like, you should order fabric samples and paint swatches. It’s so key to see them in your space - see the colours in your light and watch how they behave.

Another great way of refining colour is choosing a feeling before you choose a colour. So, say you’re working on a bedroom. Ask yourself, ‘How do I want to feel when I'm in this space?’. If it's cosy and relaxed, certain colours will lend themselves to that mood more than others. The same is true if you want to feel energised and vibrant. Flipping the process on its head and thinking about mood before colour is quite a nice way to figure out what you're looking for.

What are a few of your favourite original ways of using colour in the home?

There are really creative ways to bring colour into schemes without thinking, “I've got to go really bold and paint the whole thing yellow”. I think a lot of people err towards neutrals, which can be more timeless and last longer. But a lot of interior design professionals will talk about this 60-30-10 rule when creating colour palettes. Think about 60% of the room, which is likely to be the walls or the main colour. If you're more comfortable with a muted shade there or a neutral, that’s great. You can then find the colour from your 30% and 10% accent. So 30% could well be the ceiling, for example, and your 10% could be the inside of an alcove or the back of a door. That's a really cool place to use pops of colour that create contrast. So, don't be afraid of using colour in small ways.

Sofas are another great way to add a real pop of colour to a living room with something that’s the center of attention in the space, while maintaining a more muted backdrop. It’s important to introduce colour because it creates contrast, rather than leaving you with a completely neutral scheme. Just use it carefully in smaller ways if you're a little bit nervous about it.

What are your favourite colour combinations of the moment?

There are a few key colour trends we’ve seen consistently cropping up with our customers. There’s been a move towards earthy, organic, grounded colours. All of them do have that brownish undertone to them, moving away from the freshness of blues and things like that and instead, looking at browns and greens as well as isolated pops of colour.

There’s a really nice pinky undertone to our Coldbrew colour. This is actually my favourite colour in our palette at the moment. It’s a real deep taupe but it’s got a pink under it. So, pairing it with blush pinks or almost pastel lilac colours will really pick up that pink undertone for a nice, cohesive palette.

I think a consistently good approach is finding a colour which allows you to either link the undertone or create a complete contrast. That’s how you create a scheme that works. Either it’s a complimentary scheme of colours of similar hues and similar tones or a contrast scheme, which will create a sense of drama in your space. So, you can’t really go wrong if you stick to one of those categories when you’re pairing.

How do you find lighting affects colour and what are your best tips for navigating that?

Lighting can definitely have a big impact on how a colour feels in a space. Whether your space is north-facing and a little bit darker, or completely light-filled, that will really change the way that colour shows up. One good thing is that you don’t have to guess anymore. We encourage people to move our peel and stick swatches around the room, from wall-to-wall so they can spot differences in how the light hits.

We also recommend getting the compass out to establish which way a room faces. As a general rule, north-facing rooms have a cooler light, so you can afford to pick out warmer colours. So, look at something with a bit of yellow in it or slightly brighter colours that will contrast that light. Whereas in light-filled, southern rooms you’ve got the yellowness of the sun, so you might want to knock that out with a little bit of grey or something a bit cooler because it will work well with the light in that space. So, I’d say get your compass out, get some swatches, and observe how the colours behave in the day.

Non-natural light is also really important. Think about if it’s a living room or a bedroom, odds are you’re going to be in those spaces in the evening, lit with lamps and bulbs and so on. So, don’t just think about colour in the day. Consider when you’re going to use the space, how you want it to feel, and how that works with the colour as well.

You’ve just received B Corp certification – congratulations! How does environmental and social responsibility guide your business?

We're really happy to have been recognised in that way. COAT is the first paint company in the UK to be accredited by B Corp and we feel it's a real testament to how we've built the business over the last few years and the effort we've put into creating a regenerative and low-impact system.

Myself and Rob as the founders had the beauty of a blank slate when we started the company. Given where the world is in terms of environmental pressures, it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that we felt it was our responsibility to take this approach. We had the chance to build the business how we wanted to. So, every single decision we made came back to asking ourselves, “How does this impact the world? How does this impact society as a whole?”.

Similar to Arlo & Jacob, conscious production is a big piece of that. We’re careful to ensure we’re not overproducing, so we make everything to order. That's a huge element at the bottom of the supply chain, which reduces waste overall. We built our production systems like that right the way through to end of life with our 360 tin and paint recycling programme as well as carbon neutral shipping. Every touchpoint that we had control over, we grabbed and we did things in the right way. This sort of mentality is still a big part of how we lead the business.

How have you felt that colour affects your mood? Are there certain hues that tend to make a space feel more energetic, more calming, more dramatic?

Color can have a huge impact on mood and I think starting with how you want the space to feel is a great way to choose color. The basics of it are rooted in science. So, say, you pick a red. That's a color that's associated with energy. On the flip side, it can be associated with anger. So, red is going to give you a certain mood and a certain feeling in a space. Blues, on the other hand, can be calming. Green is really popular at the moment as well and I think that’s largely because people are going back to nature and biophilic design, bringing greenery and nature into the house.

On the slightly more subtle scale, the tone that you choose is really important as well. Blue, for example, can be a really calming color if it's in a paler shade, which is slightly more muted, maybe with a bit of gray in it. Though, you could also use blue to lift energy if you go with a more saturated, bright shade of blue. So, not only is the color important, but so is the tone of that colour.

We talk to a lot of people at COAT about home offices, for example. That’s somewhere you want a bit of energy, but you also want to foster a calm mode of thinking at times. So, green could work really well for that. In the case of living rooms, most people are there in the evening. So, it’s often a matter of creating a cosy atmosphere. How do you create that mood? You can choose darker colors, which work really well with lamplight, building a sense of atmosphere.

So, colour can have a huge, huge impact. Thankfully there's such a wide spectrum of colors to choose from so whatever mood you want to go for, you're going to find something that will support it, that will make it happen.

What key colour trends do you see emerging? Are there any particular paints that have been exceptionally popular?

Greens and earthy colors are what we've seen a lot of over the last year or so, and definitely over the summer. There have been lots of olive greens and nice sage greens. I think as a color group, green is perennially quite timeless. So, those will continue to stick around.

I think taupey colors are also interesting. Colours like our Coldbrew that have a taupe undertone with a bit of pink are also growing in popularity. It's a slight and subtle nuance. It works well because people want to use pink in the home without it being, you know, baby pink or piggy pink and other very bright hues. We’re definitely seeing those subtle pink undertones in taupes and neutrals becoming more and more popular.

Yellow has been cropping up a lot as well. That’s quite a tone-dependent choice. I think we've had years of mustard yellow and now we've been moving into quite nice, subtle, lemony yellow shades over the summer. I think there are ways to use yellow to create really nice, fresh, happy spaces. That’s definitely the sort of energy that people seem to want to bring into the home.

Can you tell us more about your latest collaboration with Laura Jackson?

Right from the start our approach to color has been really collaborative. Neither myself nor Rob wanted to sit in a room and develop our palette in a vacuum. So, our range does evolve and flex with what our customers want, what they're buying, and what they're telling us we need.

It's a constant process of iteration. We add and change colors on a more or less monthly basis. One great part of that has been the collaborations that we've done along the way. We really enjoy bringing other people in to help us refine the palette, creating certain moods and edits.

Our latest collaboration with Laura Jackson is a great example of that. Laura’s a well-known broadcaster, journalist, and tastemaker with a really strong style and sense of taste. We created a range with her based on 24 hours in Paris, which was just awesome. The team went to Paris with Laura. We explored, we picked colors out of nature and out of that Parisian environment. Then we created this edit of six colors that have a real story behind them. Laura’s used them in her house so that people can see both the inspiration behind them, and how they can be used in practice.

I think those kinds of collaborations are great, for one, because they have these great stories behind them. Though, they’re also very practical ways of showing people how they can actually use these colors with someone that's going to help them along the way. They've been really, really great - and a big part of how COAT has grown over the last couple of years.

For more inspiration on how to use colour in your home, head over to COAT’s Instagram.

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