Sustainable Decorating | A Guide To Eco-Paint

24th July 2020

[Advertisement] *Includes gifted and loaned product for the purpose of this post.

Minimal, tonal beige, cream and grey interior styling with boucle wool fabric against an eco-paint backdrop from Graphenstone Paint.
Graphenstone GrafClean in Vintage* | Zumirez boucle wool fabric in ‘Moonbeam’, Zinc Textiles* | Kuru ceramic bowl, Iittala* | Aino oak mirror, Skagerak* | Ridged tea-cup, Rose & Grey*

In recent years the paint industry has been making huge strides to clean up its act in the effort to produce more environmentally friendly paints. We now have so many options to help create a more sustainable home so why shouldn’t the paint we use reflect that choice?

As we move deeper into our renovation journey, I’m more mindful of the products I choose to use as part of our projects. If you’re reading this then chances are you are too. Using accredited eco-paint means working towards a cleaner environment while improving the conditions inside our homes.

Of course, with so many options on the market selling us various benefits all under the umbrella of ‘eco’, ‘organic’ and ‘non-toxic’, it’s hard to know who to listen to. The information out there isn’t always clear as to whether you’re buying into a genuine product or just green-washing. No paint is 100% environmentally friendly but this simple and transparent guide to eco-paint will help clear up those questions when it comes to choosing the right paint for your home. 

Pink on pink minimal styling and photography to accompany a guide to sustainable decorating and eco-paint.
Graphenstone GrafClean in ‘Old Lilac’* | Muuto Dot coat hook in Burgundy Ash | Chocolate bar, Caro Somerset

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SYNTHETIC AND ECO-FRIENDLY PAINT?

Your average tin of paint from the DIY store will contain synthetic, plastic and petrochemicals and VOCs used to maintain its strength of colour, durability and general consistency.

Eco-friendly paint is comprised of naturally occurring materials, based on lime or a variety of clay and/or marble with natural pigments and oils. As a mineral-based product, their micro-porous qualities allows moisture to escape so your walls can breathe, doubling down on mould and damp. Ideal for an older property. 

LET’S TALK ABOUT VOCS

Those synthetic chemicals I mentioned above include VOCs or ‘Volatile Organic Compounds’. These carbon-based substances emit vapours or gases that evaporate at low temperatures. You’ll often find them in other everyday products such as air fresheners and cleaning products and used in paint they’re there to improve the consistency and drying process. 

Current UK legislation states the maximum VOC content in a tin of interior emulsion is 30g per litre.

The effects of these can aggravate allergies or leave you feeling dizzy or nauseous amongst other reactions (and I think we’ve all felt that way at some point with a paintbrush in hand). Synthetic paints contain ingredients derived from plastics and can include formaldehyde and other petrol-chemicals which are known carcinogens. These evaporate into the air as the paint dries but can also exist on your walls for years afterwards, continuing to release into your home. Not a comforting thought.

Tonal green on green contemporary interior styling using green linen, Graphenstone eco-paint in Olive and Kombu green and Hoxton porcelain tile from Mandarin Stone.
Graphenstone GrafClean in Premium in ‘Olive’, small ball painted in ‘Kombu’* | Hoxton ‘Olive’ gloss porcelain tile, Mandarin Stone | Linen blend Azuri fabric in ‘Endive’ fabric, Romo Textiles*

IS THERE ANY SUCH THING AS A ZERO VOC PAINT?

No. It’s impossible to be completely free of VOC emissions – did you know that burning fuels such as wood and coal releases these too? That said, paint can be classed as ‘zero VOCs’ when the level of which is negligible or up to 5 grams per litre. 

WHAT ARE ECO-PAINTS MADE FROM?

There’s no standard recipe as each brand varies but common ingredients include oils such as orange, linseed and castor as well as resins, silicate, lime and chalk. Natural pigments which create the colour are derived from plants, though in some cases these may come from insect or animal bi-products so if it’s a vegan paint you’re looking for its worth checking the list of ingredients first.

Deep blue tonal minimal photography featuring Oxford and Steel blue and fabric from Romo Textiles to show the qualities of eco-paints.
Graphenstone GrafClean Premium in ‘Oxford’ blue with an arch of ‘Blue Steel’* | Ball vase, Cooee Design* | Bergen ‘Smoky Blue’ linen-look fabric, Villa Nova*

DO ECO-PAINTS SMELL?

Having used two different eco-paint brands, I can’t deny that they don’t come with a certain fragrance – they do. On the whole, however, it dissipates fairly quickly and thankfully doesn’t contain harmful chemicals that you’d normally breathe in with standard synthetic paint.

ARE ECO-PAINTS AS DURABLE AS STANDARD PAINT?

Yes, they really are – washable and durable with options for woodwork and exteriors too. It’s no longer a compromise to use ecological paints and you don’t have to settle for a limited colour palette either. It’s a no brainer, right?

BUT it’s worth noting if you love the textured effect from traditional lime paints, these don’t include additives to aid durability meaning if you’re after wipeable walls, it’s not the right one for you. These paints mark easily and will need recoating to cover them.

AREN’T ECO-PAINTS MORE EXPENSIVE THAN OTHERS?

There’s not a huge difference in price between an eco-paint and other premium brands but they are definitely more expensive than a basic range of synthetic paint. What you pay for is the quality of and higher concentration of natural pigments. The better the quality, the more depth and ability they have to absorb light – this creates nuances of tone depending on the light coming into the room.

So is it worth the investment? Having used a range of paints across the board over the years I would say hands down, yes. Health and environmental benefits aside, you will ultimately save time choosing a better quality paint for coverage, consistency and durability.

An Exploration of Graphenstone Paint – A Lockdown Project

In anticipation of painting our hallway, I’ve been getting to grips with Graphenstone Paint’s range of GrafClean Premium colours. Having heard such great things about them, I wanted to explore their range and try to settle on a colour. You won’t find it here though – the result of these images comes from a lockdown challenge I set myself to create four contemporary tonally styled scenes using a selection of colours I think are currently popular or are set to enjoy a moment in our homes over the coming years. From top to bottom you’ll find ‘Vintage’, a subtle beige with lilac tones, ‘Old Lilac’, a slightly aged pink, ‘Olive’ and ‘Kombu’ greens which connect us with nature and a deep ‘Oxford’ blue, contrasting with a lighter shade of ‘Blue Steel’.

Holding 18 certifications and being a popular choice among architects and designers, Graphenstone Biosphere paints absorb CO2 directly from the environment thanks to their high concentration of lime. This air purifying paint removes 40% of CO2 within the first 30 days, continuing over 2 to 3 years. Their products are formulated with a lime base with added Graphene for durability, claiming to be 200x stronger than steel. Three 15litre pots absorb 15kg of CO2. If that doesn’t grab your attention, I’ll eat my hat.

The colours have great depth and excellent coverage- I painted their range of GrafClean colours straight on to plasterboard using a mix of brush and roller, though you’ll get a more even finish with the latter. This product is matt, breathable and washable and rated the No.1 World’s Most Certified Green Brand. Can’t wait to use it for the rest of the house!

I’d love to hear your thoughts – have I persuaded you to take the eco-paint plunge?

These images were created using colours from the eco-paint brand Graphenstone, who provided the paint for the purpose of this post. 

Styling and photography © Tiffany Grant-Riley

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COMMENTS

Tiff this is beautiful! Your styling is stunning and I love the tone-on-tone idea. Nice to discover a paint range I hadn’t heard of before, too

This is so great! I love your eye for pieces! One thing I like about minimalism is that even though it’s only a few pieces, it doesn’t feel incomplete. The sense of togetherness of pieces are there.

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