Here at GS Decorating, we had the opportunity to use Farrow and Ball Dead Flat for an extensive London hotel project. We thought it would be helpful to share our thoughts and experience of using this particular specialist paint here on the blog.
Farrow and Ball Dead Flat is a delicate, water-based interior paint that gives you a superb, high-quality and elegant flat finish. Classed as a specialist finish, it’s best suited to historic properties that require a traditional paint finish designed to preserve the quality of period features. However, it can also be used on interior woodwork, plaster and metal in modern homes too.
Dead Flat is made from an alkyd resin which works to recreate that 18th-century paint finish that’s so desirable and on-trend at the moment. With just a 2% sheen, Dead Flat appears just as it sounds – completely flat and matt.
Because this paint is water-based, it has a relatively quick drying time and contains a minimum level of VOCs (nasty toxins), making it environmentally friendly and safe for use if you have kids at home. Dead Flat dries in two hours and has a four-hour recoat time.
Farrow and Ball Dead Flat is available in 132 timeless colours, including ‘Railings’, ‘Ammonite’ and ‘Elephant’s Breath’, three of Farrow & Ball’s most popular colours, according to Homes and Gardens.
There’s no doubt that this paint provides an amazingly smooth and flat finish, as you would expect. And it looks spectacular. Farrow & Ball paints have a distinctive look; a way of bringing walls to life through deep, richly pigmented colour – and Dead Flat doesn’t disappoint in this regard.
*Image courtesy of Canva.
The finish itself is very forgiving, as you’ll find with most flat paints. It absorbs light, which means that imperfections on walls and ceilings are less noticeable than they would be if you were to use a finish that reflects light, such as eggshell.
Now for the caveat. Dead Flat isn’t for the average DIY enthusiast. Like some other designer paints, this is an unforgiving paint to work with, so if you’re planning to use it yourself to paint your home, our advice is: don’t! It isn’t easy to get a perfect finish with it, so unless you know what you’re doing with a paintbrush, it’s best to bring in a professional decorator.
If you are going to complete your decorating project yourself with Dead Flat, be sure to check out Farrow and Ball’s specific instructions on how to apply the paint properly. Here’s the product datasheet for ease – you’ll see that there are different directions for applying on particular surfaces when using a brush or roller.
For example, when painting trim by brush (e.g. wooden skirting boards, dado rails or window frames), you should apply a generous first coat, brushing initially in a vertical direction and then horizontally, until you get an even coat. There’s a specific way to lay off the paint, and it shouldn’t be overworked as this can cause excess brush marks.
In short, not very. Farrow and Ball Dead Flat is a beautiful-looking paint, but practicality isn’t its strong point. The paint marks easily, so it’s not suitable for areas of the home that are subject to heavy footfall, like the hallway or stairs.
Dead Flat doesn’t stand up well to fingerprints or mucky marks from waggy tails. So if you have pets or little ones running around at home, you’re probably better off looking at a paint that’s more hard-wearing and wipeable. If you were to scrub a surface painted in Dead Flat, you’d most likely end up with patchy spots, and the paint would inevitably wear down.
As an alternative, Farrow and Ball Modern Emulsion is much more durable, being washable, wipeable and scuff and stain-resistant. It still has a matt finish, but it’s not ultra-flat with its 7% sheen level.
At the time of updating this article (January 2021), you can expect to pay £28 for a 0.75-litre tin, £66 for a 2.5-litre tin and £109 for a 5-litre tin. These are the standard retail prices which you’ll find directly at Farrow & Ball and independent stockists. If you happen to have a loyalty discount with a local independent paint supplier, you may be able to get Dead Flat a little bit cheaper.
Of course, the answer to this depends on the size of your room. For argument’s sake, an average size living room in the UK is around 17.09 m2. The coverage rate for Farrow and Ball Dead Flat is up to 12 m2 per litre. So technically, to apply two coats of this paint in this size room, you’d need at least 3 litres.
With most modern brands, you can usually get away with painting walls and ceilings using two coats of paint, unless you’re painting over dark colours or difficult surfaces. That said, when using Farrow and Ball paints, we recommend using three coats, even four, to get that top-class finish. In the case of four coats applied in the average size living room, you’re looking at around 6 litres of Dead Flat paint.[HH1]
Don’t forget; you should consider the current state of the surface you’re planning to paint and also ensure you get enough of the recommended primer that works best with Dead Flat for that particular surface.
Farrow and Ball Dead Flat paint is undoubtedly an investment, so to help you get the best out of it, we’ve put together some top tips to help you with the application process:
- Use Owatrol Floetrol – this is a paint additive that can be used with all water-based paints to help reduce brush marks. It maintains the wet edge to make the application easier and improve the overall finish.
- Sand in-between coats – use some good quality fine-grit sandpaper to sand off your surface in-between coats to get rid of any lumps or debris.
- Work quickly – there’s no standing around when it comes to Dead Flat! Be on your toes when applying to avoid the paint drying too soon. Otherwise, you might get overlap marks or patches.
- Use a good quality brush or roller – this is really important. The quality and type of brush you use will significantly impact the finished result of your work – and the speed at which you can get the job done.
As a general rule of thumb, don’t go for cheap paintbrushes. These often have loose, stiff or limp bristles or they’re poorly designed and will give you aching hands. Go for a trusted brand, like Harris, which is well known for high-performance paintbrushes that won’t shed bristles.
Where rollers are concerned, these have different pile lengths and fibres. A microfibre roller works well with water-based paint, whereas woven rollers are better suited to solvent-based paints. A short pile roller is best for smooth surfaces and allows an even coverage and long pile rollers are better for rough surfaces.
- Be tidy – ensure you keep your work area clean and protected as much as possible to ensure a dust-free finish – and also to prevent damage from the paint and other substances getting onto areas where it shouldn’t. Read our guide on how to prepare a room for decorating. If your decorating project is likely to take a few days, tidy up each night so you can start in a clean room the following day.
If you’re going to use a designer paint like Dead Flat, be sure that it’s the right paint for the job in hand. If you happen to own a historic property, which would benefit from a fine quality paint, or you want the sought-after look of saturated, velvety walls in your modern home, Dead Flat is a great choice. But it’s not suitable for kitchens and bathrooms (which are often prone to moisture), furniture projects or external surfaces.
Remember that this paint isn’t all that hard-wearing, and it’s not washable or wipeable, so you may need to think about ongoing maintenance, more so if you have a young family at home. While it’s environmentally friendly and child-safe regarding VOCs, it won’t resist sticky fingers and hand-drawn creative displays! Dead Flat is altogether better suited to areas that aren’t busy, like bedrooms, living rooms and home offices.
Also bear in mind that Farrow and Ball Dead Flat isn’t the easiest of paints to apply. For a top-notch finish, you need to know your way around a paintbrush or be prepared to hire a professional decorator. Providing Dead Flat is applied properly, we’re confident you’ll be happy with the finish – it should look amazing.
GS Decorating – experienced commercial and residential decorators
If you’re looking for a reputable and professional decorating contractor to help you transform your home or commercial property with Farrow and Ball Dead Flat, look no further than us at GS Decorating.
We’re rated the number one commercial painters and decorators in Central London. We cover all areas of London (North, East, South and West) as well as the rest of the UK and have a wealth of experience in using Farrow and Ball paints for both residential and commercial decorating projects. Our commercial jobs include restaurants, leisure centres, schools, clubs, hotels, bars, offices and luxury apartments.
Interested in learning more about Farrow and Ball? We’ve written a detailed review about this designer paint brand, based on our extensive experience. Check it out here.