My Love Affair with Elephant’s Breath

Sure…it doesn’t sound sexy…but I’ve been in love with Elephant’s Breath for years.

It was on a trip to England 16 years ago that I felt the first tingles of love for Farrow and Ball Paints. Such wonderful, muted, historical colors. In fact, I was so smitten that I was one of the first stores around the New York area to carry their sample pots. I have to admit, as far as their paint colors (or should I say “colours”) I have also been a bit fickle. I’ve been in love with String, Pointing, French Gray  and as I’ve already confessed… Elephant’s Breath.


What's in a name?

Though Farrow & Ball are well-known for their eccentric names for their paint colors, Farrow & Ball director Sarah Cole admits that Elephant’s Breath is “one of our most quirky paint names.” However, it’s interesting to note that its use as a color name has some history.  It was used by the legendary 20th-century English decorators John Fowler and his partner Nancy Lancaster.  Still other instances go back as far as 1874 when the color was described as “a beautiful shade of blue with a sort of mistiness about it.”  Since then Elephant’s Breath has been described as  “a pale olive-green” then a “cool purple gray” and finally Farrow & Ball calls it a “warm purple-gray.”

So, you can imagine how thrilled I was last week to discover while reading one of my favorite English blogs ( that they did a whole story about Elephant’s Breath!
One of the things I most love about Farrow and Ball paints is that they take on various hues in different rooms, on different walls, at different times of day.  Elephant’s Breath sometimes looks greyish…sometimes slightly lilac…sometimes pink…sometimes purple.  It is a color all of its own and I adore it.  I have used Elephant’s Breath in my own home…in our stores (see below)….in the Gatehouse at Hammertown and right now in the Main House renovation in a bedroom that is paneled…we’re painting the entire room (over the paneling) in Elephant’s Breath.  It looks fantastic.  It’s so calm, so simple, so beautiful…what’s not to love?
(above) Elephant’s Breath at Hammertown: On the walls of our Gallery in Rhinebeck & I love this upstairs bedroom in the Gatehouse in Elephant’s Breath. 
You’ll also see it in “Wanda’s Room” upstairs in the Barn.

Colour Study:  Farrow & Ball’s Elephant’s Breath