The A-Z Advisory – Paint Colours & Finishes with Little Greene

Little Greene is an eco-friendly family business based in the UK with an archive of 300 years of paints and wallpapers. New collections include ‘Forest’ natural paint colours and a woodland palette of leafy wallpapers, which bring the natural world indoors.

Re:Mix’ is another new range of returned and left-over paints reformulated into a matt finish for interior walls and ceilings. The up-cycling of waste paints prevents as much as 60,000 litres of mineral and organic raw materials going to waste each year.

Image: Remix Sage Green

Ruth Mottershead is the creative director of Little Greene and a fount of knowledge. We ask Ruth all our questions about paint colours and finishes.

What is intelligent paint and where should you use it?

The combination of lasting durability and rich, beautiful colour is epitomised by the family of ‘Intelligent Paints’– a range of finishes designed especially for busy people and lively homes. They are long-lasting, environmentally-friendly, completely washable and available in all Little Greene shades.

Being water-based, Intelligent Paints are quick-drying and virtually odourless. They are also high in opacity, making them efficient, economical and easy to apply with minimal disruption.

They are up to 15 times stronger than ordinary household paints, are stain and mark resistant and are completely washable.

Containing zero added VOCs, they are kind to the environment and with child-safe certification (BS EN71-3:2013), they are completely safe to use in children’s rooms, even on cots, making them the smartest choice for all areas of the family home.

Varying from matt to high gloss, there are four finishes that can be used to decorate most surfaces within the home, including the original finish in the range Intelligent Matt Emulsion, which is a multi-surface matt paint with just 5% sheen. This makes it the first choice for interior walls within high-traffic areas, including kitchens, bathrooms, children’s rooms and hallways. Furthermore, the technically enhanced formulation of Intelligent Matt Emulsion means it can be used on most surfaces, including wood panelling.

Tracery II, Light Beauvais, Loft White
Image: Tracery II, Light Beauvais, Loft White

I note that a range of your colours are National Trust paints. What does this mean?

Since the beginning of 2018, Little Greene has been working in collaboration with the National Trust. As a result, an extensive paint research project has been undertaken in National Trust houses and gardens throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland to find original colours and to tell the stories of the people who first enjoyed them.

Little Greene and the National Trust have a real synergy; conservation, restoration and reinvention are at the heart of both organisations.

What type of paint should you use on walls?

There is nothing more rewarding than painting a wall in your own home. Done correctly, this can be a simple weekend project that transforms the look of a room and provides a new and uplifting ambience.

While selecting the perfect colour might seem like the ultimate factor in achieving your desired look, choosing the correct finish is equally as important. With several options to choose from and countless possible combinations, spending time considering which finishes are available to you and the unique characteristics of each is an essential part of planning your project.

Absolute Matt Emulsion, Intelligent Matt Emulsion and Intelligent Eggshell are all wonderful options for walls, each offering different qualities.

With a ‘barely there’ low-sheen level of just 3%, Absolute Matt provides a sublime chalky finish, often referred to as ‘dead matt’ or ‘flat matt’ paint. It dries to an incredibly flat finish that exudes character. It can be used on a range of surfaces including walls, ceilings and plasterwork. It’s the perfect choice for low-traffic areas such as bedrooms, living rooms, dining spaces and study areas.

Windmill Lane, Arras
Image: Windmill Lane, Arras

Intelligent Matt is ideal for use on walls and ceilings in high-traffic areas of the home. Use Intelligent Matt in kitchens, utility rooms, hallways and children’s rooms. With a low-sheen of just 5%, it combines practicality with beautiful depth of colour.

This water-based paint finish is environmentally-friendly, quick-drying and low odour. So, if you’re planning a project yourself, you can complete it quickly and with little disruption.

The robust Intelligent Matt is perfect for use in well-ventilated kitchens and bathrooms. Any marks can simply be wiped away with warm, soapy water.

Whilst Intelligent Eggshell, with its elegant low sheen finish, is perfect for use on interior woodwork and walls where complete scrubbability is desired, such as kitchen or bathroom walls in the splash zone.

Stock, Travertine Light, Travertin Mid, Travertine
Image: Stock, Travertine Light, Travertin Mid, Travertine

What type of paint is best for woodwork?

A hard-wearing, satin-finish paint, Intelligent Satinwood is suitable for all household joinery, skirting, interior doors and window frames, as well as cabinets and wooden furniture. It has a sophisticated low sheen of 30-35%. The durable Intelligent Satinwood has been specially formulated to withstand the many knocks delivered to kitchen cabinets and items of wooden furniture. This resilient interior wood paint provides a low-maintenance, scrubbable finish. Or for a lower sheen finish consider Intelligent Eggshell – an elegant yet robust, water-based finish perfect for interior woodwork and walls where total scrubbability is required.

Tea With Florence
Image: Tea With Florence

What type of paint would you specify for the exterior of houses?

When choosing colour for an exterior, consider the architecture, the colour of any other wall surfaces, such as brick or stone and the property’s period. Often an authentic colour from the era the property was designed will work well, or in the case of large masonry surfaces, a diluted version of a period colour can fit the bill.

Our Colours of England collection is a range of 128 classic and contemporary paint colours; these include beloved and timeless Georgian, Regency and Victorian and 20th century colours, so there is something to suit every home. Little Greene’s ‘Bath Stone’ or ‘Stone Pale Warm’ are great options for Victorian properties as they were matched to examples of original stone used to paint the facades of London townhouses. ‘Sage Green’, another period colour, also enjoyed by the Victorians, together with ‘Tracery II’ are very sophisticated colours favoured by exterior designers as they can be used with great style to off-set limestone, marble and granite. And for a Regency property, the classic bold yellow ‘Carys’ adds a colour highlight and works beautifully with grey. If you want to add your own personality to your exterior, opt for contrasting colours: deep greens such as ‘Puck’ or ‘Jewel Beetle’ or teal tones such as ‘Tea with Florence’ on woodwork and doors will make for a striking contrast to red brickwork.

Image: Stone-Mid-Cool, Tea With Florence
Image: Stone-Mid-Cool, Tea With Florence

Painting an exterior is not just about choosing the right colours, it’s also about choosing the right paint finish. After all, this finish needs to protect the building as well as decorate it! At Little Greene we offer a family of exterior paints: Traditional Oil Gloss with a classic, deep gloss finish, which looks extremely smart on front doors and traditional joinery; Tom’s Oil Eggshell, which is much loved by professional decorators due to its application and smooth finish as well as being a hard-wearing and fully weather-resistant finish for exterior woodwork and metalwork. Versatile Intelligent Exterior Eggshell, which is a great choice for the practical homeowner, as it is suitable for all exterior woodwork and metalwork and is very durable, water-based, with low VOCs – plus it’s easy to maintain and is totally weather-resistant.

For brick, stone or rendered walls, a masonry paint is required. Our Intelligent Masonry Paint offers a long-lasting, pleasingly smooth matt finish; extremely durable and water-resistant, it offers effective protection from the elements and benefits from being highly dirt-resistant, with its anti-fungal and anti-ageing properties ensuring it looks good for longer – plus, it’s available in most Little Greene colours so you can transform an exterior with colour, adding instant kerb appeal whilst also protecting your home for longer.

Puck_French Grey_French Grey_Mid_Carmine
Image: Puck, French Grey – Mid, Carmine

If in doubt about choosing the right finish for a surface, consider an all-surface primer: our Intelligent ASP (All Surface Primer) provides the perfect preparation for any chosen finish. Getting rid of those confusing issues of which primer to use on your exterior, our water-based primer and undercoat is a solid foundation for all of our exterior (and interior) surfaces, including wood, metals, ceramic tiles, laminated surfaces, glass and uPVC, so you can update your whole exterior scheme including those uPVC windows in a colour palette that you love.

Don’t let decorating the exterior be an afterthought, as well as weatherproofing and protecting your home, it’s a fantastic way to add design personality and curb appeal.

How do you decide on colours for ceilings, cornice, walls, skirtings, doors and architraves? Is there a right or wrong?

The colours you choose to surround yourself with are key to determining how a space will make you feel.  We detect the effects of colour even when it’s a subtle neutral or used as a backdrop for other furnishings and textiles. Paint colours can have a dramatic impact on the atmosphere of a space, with warm and cooler tones evoking very different moods. It’s not just about considering the colour, but also its subtle undertones, and the colours it will be sitting alongside as either painted surfaces or accessories within the space.

When considering your design scheme, including the ceiling has become increasingly important and has a big impact on how the room will feel. Often painted white out of habit, we have seen a move away from the neutral creams and whites for ceilings, with customers opting for bolder colours for a more immersive look. Adding a ‘Sky Blue’ ceiling above the rich green ‘Citrine’ will emulate rolling green hills and blue skies above, a true evocation of nature indoors.

X Citrine, Sky Blue, Portland Stone - Light. jpg
Image: Citrine, Sky Blue, Portland Stone – Light

What colours are best for East facing rooms?

East-facing rooms face the sunrise, with its soft yellow glow, so neutrals with cool green or blue undertones such as ‘Pearl Colour’ or ‘Mirror’ will create balance; or if you want to maximise the feeling of sunshine, perhaps in a kitchen or bedroom, make the most of the morning light with a strong or radiant colour to wake up to such as ‘Harley Green’.

What colours are best for West facing rooms?

West-facing rooms are bathed in warm orange sunset-toned light in the late afternoon and early evening, but may feel cooler in the mornings, so choose when and how you use the space. If it is mainly used in the morning, consider warming the space with a deep neutral such as ‘Clay Mid’, whereas if the space is a living room, where it may be used more in the afternoon or early evening, cooler tones with undertones of green, blue or violet such as ‘Aquamarine’ or ‘Pearl Colour‘ will counteract the warmth of the afternoon light. Utilise bold accent colours on architectural features or woodwork for a strong highlight.

X Aquamarine, Aquamarine Pale, Ambleside
Image: Aquamarine, Aquamarine Pale, Ambleside

What colours are best for North facing rooms?

Many people think of north-facing rooms as cold or dark, due to the lack of warm direct sunlight; to counteract this, you can inject warmth using harmonious light neutrals with a warm base tone such as ‘Stock’ with ‘Stock Deep’ or ‘Travertine’; however, I would recommend considering deeper tones too. Embrace the characteristics of the room, creating an intimate, cocooning feel with stronger tones such as ‘Chocolate Colour’ or ‘Baked Cherry’.

Baked Cherry, Invisible Green, Cordoba
Image: Baked Cherry, Invisible Green, Cordoba

What colours are best for South facing rooms?

A south-facing space is naturally bright throughout the day, but the light will change from morning to evening with yellow tones early in the day, moving into bluer tones and finally warmer orange sunset tones. It’s often a room that will see high contrast due to direct sunlight, creating shadows and giving a sun-bleached feel to very light colours. Consider using colours that work throughout the changing light such as ‘French Grey Pale’ or ‘French Grey-Dark’ for a room with excessive light.

In a room where there is an abundance of light in the evening, warm tones may be too strong due to the orange and red light in the late afternoons. Warmer tones of reds, oranges and yellows in these situations may be too intense. Strong, bold yellows like ‘Yellow Pink’ or ‘Mortlake Yellow’ will radiate warmth, whereas dark blues like ‘Marine Blue’ and ‘Hicks’ Blue’ can be used in place of greys and blacks to achieve a neutral scheme with more character and depth.

Use tester pots and painted sheets of paper to test how the natural light works with your chosen colours throughout the day, this will give you an idea of any tonal shifts that occur, and help you find the perfect shade for your space. Don’t forget to review your colours in artificial light too and focus on the times of day you use the space; is it a room you use in the morning or late afternoon and evening? Ensure the colour feels perfect at those key times of day.

X Yellow Pink, Slaked Lime, Slaked Lime - Mid
Image: Yellow Pink, Slaked Lime, Slaked Lime – Mid

How do you decide on the colour for a front door?

When thinking about which colour to select for your front door, there are many considerations: is the property brickwork or painted? Is it a specific colour or is there a colour within the brick that you can pull out and coordinate with your front door? Alternatively, consider a bold colour highlight to create impact.

In the same way you would pair paint colours alongside fabrics and furnishings, consider the architectural elements of your exterior too; do you have red or yellow tone bricks, limestone or granite walls? What colour are your roof tiles? Build these into your design scheme to ensure your paint choices are complementary; or to add personality, incorporate colour into your outdoor scheme with a bright, impactful choice such as ‘Mister David,’ on your front door – it certainly makes a statement and will put a smile on the face of your guests and passers-by.

X Mister David Open Front Door
Image: Mister David Open Front Door

What are ‘natural’ paints; when and why should you use them?

With decorating products available that have both your home and the wider environment at their heart, there is no need to compromise on aesthetics or limit your design choices to achieve sustainable interior design.

Eco-friendly interior design pairs products that are kind to the environment with beautiful schemes that will stand the test of time.

When buying paint, first look for the VOC content, this stands for Volatile Organic Compounds. These are harmful chemicals that vaporise at room temperature and can continue to be emitted up to five years after painting a wall.

Little Greene’s water-based paints carry the industry’s lowest eco-rating, with VOC content now almost zero. As well as supporting sustainable interior design, low-VOC paints are virtually odourless. The range of Intelligent Paints are washable, hardwearing and carry the child-safe certification (EN 71-3:2019), making them the perfect choice for children’s rooms.

Contributor – Ruth Mottershead, Creative Director Little Greene.

Click here to read more inspiring and informative blog posts from The House Directory members. 

Subscribe to be the first to receive’s monthly blogs and design news.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Social Share Buttons and Icons powered by Ultimatelysocial