Beyond a tree-lined avenue in Pasadena and dressed up in honey-colored cedar shingles lies a home that not only boasts turn-of-the-twentieth-century roots but a praiseworthy design ethos elevating the original structure to new heights. So praiseworthy, in fact, that U.K.-based paint manufacturer Farrow & Ball decided to host their most recent “Colour Talk” event at the 1908 Colonial Revival, attracting an overwhelming number of designers, architects, local business owners and curious neighbors from Los Angeles looking to see how the residence was transformed with pattern and colour.
That transformation began twenty years ago when owner and designer Maura Stewart moved in with her family and, by way of her creative eye and penchant for preserving the past, began to lovingly-restore the home to its former glory bit by bit. In the same vein that a chef chooses to cook with only the freshest and purest of ingredients so, too, did Maura choose to only employ the finest materials when composing her body of work—a directive she follows on all of her projects for her company, The House In Your Head. For the Long Island-born designer, that meant incorporating Farrow & Ball paint, its superior pigment—displayed in art galleries and museums worldwide—a nod to her home’s esteemed pedigree.
We thought we’d catch up with Maura to learn more about her professional courtship with Farrow & Ball and how paint can help bring the walls of any home to life.
PT: Describe your very first reaction to opening a can of Farrow & Ball (F&B) paint.
MS: It resembled ice cream, thick and velvety, and in that moment I intrinsically knew that I wouldn’t be able to work with any other kind of paint. Later on I learned that one of the paint’s key ingredients, titanium dioxide (a powdery substance), gives the paint its quintessential chalky finish which I love.
PT: What makes F&B superior to other paints on the market?
MS: Let’s see, where do I begin…For starters, they offer a color palette of only 132 interior and exterior hues, making their product extremely user-friendly and navigable. In addition to being eco-friendly, their paint has zero VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) and contains biocides that are intended to kill any kind of mold or fungus. Rather than using synthetic binders and extenders, F&B paint uses natural resins and binders and has 30% more pigment than its competitors. Put simply, their paint is beautiful and durable.
PT: After deciding that their aesthetic aligned with your own, what was your next step?
MS: I knew that I wanted to paint my entire home using F&B paint and proceeded to select which colors I would be working with. “Ammonite”—sourced from the fossils found on the Dorset Coast—became my signature paint color and I built the remaining interiors around that ethereal color, using “Elephant’s Breath” for the kitchen and “All White” in Modern Eggshell finish for all my interior trims and doors. When I moved to the home’s exterior I used High Gloss finish for trims and the front door—coupled with the natural shingles, the result is exquisite.
PT: How did you decide upon the pattern of wallpaper for the dining room?
MS: As the dining room is central to the home—in between the kitchen, living rooms and den—I wanted something very specific for that room…something that suggested movement and compelled you to stop and take a deep breath. I found that sentiment in F&B’s Peony wallpaper (the white color of the Peony flower is called “Pointing” and the grayish background color is called “Skimming Stone”). I also installed a picture rail—prevalent in many East Coast homes—just below the existing Crown molding so that the wallpaper would not get damaged when artwork was hung.
PT: Why did F&B approach you about hosting an exclusive tour of your home?
MS: After the paint dried, I employed French photographer Pierre Galant to capture the outcome which, in turn, caught the attention of F&B. They asked me if I’d like to host an in-home event as part of their “Farrow & Ball Colour Talk” series. Our motives for collaborating were really one in the same: to showcase a rare Colonial Revival in California and to demonstrate the superiority of F&B paint and wallpaper.
PT: How successful was the event?
MS: It was an absolute smashing success that exceeded expectations and was wonderfully received by 150 guests! My entire home including the outdoor patio was bustling with energy, live music, hors d’oeuvres, and French wine and champagne. The success of the evening was really a result of extraordinary pieces coming together: great paint, great design, a great photographer, and a breathtaking historic home.
PT: As you prepare to return to the East Coast, what will you miss the most about living at 1211 Avoca Avenue?
MS: I believe that a home has it’s own life. This formidable one at 1211 Avoca Avenue in Pasadena, California has held me and my family in her embrace for over twenty years. A handful of other families have had the privilege of knowing her, too, yet she has another calibration to make in her destiny. As I prepare to reunite with my adult children all residing now on the East Coast, the moment of departure will be bittersweet. I anticipate it being joyful, allowing for a new story to begin at 1211 Avoca Avenue, and I am grateful and honored to have been a part of her journey and she a part of mine.