W e all love choosing the colours to give our home a fresh new look, and the story of colour in home decor down the centuries is fascinating. World-renowned historical paint consultant Patrick Baty, of the specialist Chelsea shop Papers and Paints , traces it in his new book The Anatomy of Colour , a history of house painting and colours since 1650. He reveals that a 17th-century decorators' handbook included "recipes" for making specific paint colours. Some were deadly, particularly lead-white. Banned from commercial use here in 1992, this loveliest of all whites was a key constituent of most coloured paint, too, going into a vast range of colours from creams and stones right through to deep pinks and pea greens. The chemical bond of lead and linseed oil makes it durable, while lead repels lichen —useful in external paintwork. To make lead-white, coiled lead was set in pots over vinegar, heated by rotting horse dung and left for months. Flakes of white lead carbonate built up, which, scraped off by hand, formed the basis of the paint. The workers died young. Dating back to Roman times, the process was described by Pliny. In the 20th century it was… Read full this story
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