Six Drab Paint Colors – Should You Try Them?

Hi Everyone,

Oh, my word! It finally stopped raining! Fortunately, no flooding in Boston. But, it sure is nice to see some sunshine.


Today, I’m featuring six drab paint colors.


And, they’re all by Farrow & Ball.


What inspired this post is that I was working on a different color post which I’ll get to later, but I remembered years ago a rep at Farrow & Ball told me about a color she adored. Alas, it had been archived. However, I recall her telling me that artwork looked incredible with it.

I asked her, “What does the paint color look like?”


And, she said, “Uhhhh… well… It’s difficult to describe.”


That’s when I know we have a good one. haha

But, she continued with her attempt to describe what this paint color looked like.

Ummmm… The color is called Pantalon. And, it’s not exactly brown, and I wouldn’t call it gray, either. It changes with the light. Sometimes it looks a little greenish. Yes, greenish, grayish, brownish. Oh,  I’m not describing it very well. Would you like me to order a sample for you, Laurel?


I politely declined as I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my bedroom wall color. This was about 8.5 years ago.


She went on to say, “The important thing is that on the chip, it looks like one of those pretty drab paint colors. But, when it’s on the walls, it’s gorgeous. And, artwork looks incredible with Pantalon as a backdrop.

Fast forward, and several years later, Farrow and Ball sent me an Archive Collection fan deck. I had forgotten about Pantalon. That is, until today.  So, of course, we’ll be looking at it in a bit.


These drab paint colors look wonderful in both old, traditional homes and contemporary or modern homes.


By the way, when I say “drab,” paint colors. Drab does not mean without life or boring. In fact, all of these are rich, complex colors. But, they’re not screaming out. LOOK AT ME! They don’t have to. That’s because they make everything around them look just as stunning.

These colors are not the star of the show, generally. They’re the supporting players.


So, today, I’m going to go over six of my favorite drab paint colors and talk some more about each one.


And, of course, share some beautiful examples of each one used in a residential setting. Interestingly, I did a post on some of my 16 Magical Farrow & Ball paint colors a few months ago.

Okay, two of them are repeats. However, the other four are not.

Five of the colors are quite deep, but one of them is actually off-white. In fact, it’s a color that was archived in the last two or three years. I know because, for some reason, I could only find one Farrow and Ball fan deck, and the color was still in it. But, it’s been archived.


For those that don’t know. Farrow and Ball, unlike other paint companies, rarely deviate from a set of 132 colors.


So, every year or two, they add from six to nine new colors, and that means they have to retire six to nine of the old ones. It doesn’t mean that they’re bad colors. Not at all. It only means that there’s another color that’s fairly close to the old color.


In fact, the first color, CLUNCH, which was recently archived, has one of the highest ratings of all of the paint colors on the Farrow & Ball website.


Farrow & Ball Clunch a slightly drab but beautiful off-white from Farrow and Ball






Farrow & Ball Clunch Chalky Creamy off-white

Kitchen in Farrow & Ball Clunch


Farrow & Ball Clunch - drab paint colors

CLUNCH is a beautiful, soft, chalky, warm off-white with a yellow undertone. That means that in my apartment, it will look YELLOW. lol, Remember that oftentimes, on some walls, even Classic Gray looks slightly yellow in my apartment.


The next color absolutely has to be on any list of Farrow & Ball drab paint colors.



Farrow & Ball Down Pipe






Actually, Downpipe should probably be on just about every top Farrow & Ball Paint Colors list.

Down Pipe has been mentioned on this blog a number of times. It is one of Farrow & Ball’s most popular colors. I can’t imagine they’ll ever retire that one. It’s a charcoal gray with a distinctive blueish, sometimes blueish greenish undertone. It looks like a medium-dark color in some lights, and in others, it can look almost black.


Interior Design - Whittney Parkinson - Sarah and Rachel Photography - hoffman - farrow & ball downpipe bulter's pantry

Interior Design – Whittney Parkinson – Sarah and Rachel Photography – Down Pipe in a gorgeous Butler’s Pantry! What a talented designer!

However, every color looks FANTASTIC with Downpipe as a backdrop.



Matt Carollo-Attic-Fire-Photography-Farrow & Ball-downpipe


Please note. I prefer dark colors in smaller rooms.


It’s harder to pull off deep colors in large rooms. It can be done, but it’s more work, I think, and it takes a lot of skill to make the rooms look good.

However, if using a deep, saturated color like Downpipe in a larger room, I would have lots of crisp white trim and lots of white in the artwork and maybe the window treatments.

Well, as I said, it loves all of the colors. Dark colors like this also LOVE to be paired with pure black as well as gold and brass. And, Downpipe also loves pale blue-grays. It is one of the best Universal colors out there.


A universal color for those who don’t know is a color that goes with all other colors.


Next on the list of drab paint colors is:


Farrow & Ball Pantalon






PANTALON is the aforementioned drab paint color that many of you have never heard of. That’s why I’m here. haha. Of course, some of you have heard of it. If anyone has it in their home or did have it, please let us know in the comments.


Farrow & Ball Colors 2016 Salon Drab


Above is the replacement SALON DRAB. It’s just a shade deeper and a half a hairless green. Or, maybe a quarter of a hair. ;]


salon drab

This is F & B’s publicity shot for Salon Drab.

The thing is, I cannot find any interior shots painted in Pantalon. So, I found a couple of images of Salon Drab, and I manipulated them slightly to look more like Pantalon.


looks like Pantalon-farrow-and-ball-farrow-and-ball - drab paint colors

I believe these are both publicity shots from Salon Drab. But, if not, and you know who they belong to, please let me know, and I will credit the images.


Farrow & Ball Pantalon


Three Benjamin Moore brown-gray-green drab paint colors that are close to Pantalon are:


  • Fairview Taupe
  • Carter Gray
  • Dash of Pepper


The first two colors are in the Laurel Home Essential Paint Collection.


carter gray benjamin moore - drab paint colors

Above is a room created for Benjamin Moore in Carter Gray. I think these drab paint colors are so fantastic!


Maura Endres dark green library alcove - drab paint colors

Above is one of my favorite spaces from Maura Endres’ library alcove.

It’s also in a similar shade to Pantalon.

Please follow Maura on Instagram if you aren’t already. Her posts are always a treat!


By the way, since I don’t know who’s seen what and when. However, you can now purchase samples as well as Farrow & Ball paint AND wallpaper online!








Mouse’s Back is a shade lighter than Pantalon but with a similar tone. It’s another beautiful, warm brown-gray with a slight green undertone.


Gorgeous Interior Colors - Heckfield Place - Farrow and Ball Mouses Back - Benjamin Moore Kingsport Gray

Remember the exquisite Heckfield Place Hotel? I discovered it last year and just had to devote an entire post to it and how to get the look for less.


drab paint colors-Trad Chap on instagram Farrow and Ball Mouses Back wall color

This is the living room, or maybe the old living room of Jack Laver Brister, AKA @tradchap, on Instagram. He’s one of my favorite Instagrammers with the most charming English style ever!



is our next of the six drab paint colors. It is the deepest shade in a line of colors, from pale to deep: STRONG WHITE, AMMONITE, CORNFORTH WHITE, PURBECK STONE, and WORSTED.


Farrow & Ball Mole's Breath - drab paint colors






drab paint colors-Farrow & Ball Mole's Breath Elegant-Stockolm-Apartment-with-character-nordicdesign

Nordic CollectionFarrow and Ball Mole’s Breath


Mole’s breath is another dark, drab paint color, but vibrant and complex. It can sometimes have a slight lavender undertone or, depending on the light, could even go ever so slightly greenish. Or, it could look like a deep, warm charcoal like the image below.


drab paint colors-via remodelista - farrow and ball classic english kitchen - moles breath walls

via remodelistafarrow and ball classic English kitchen – moles breath walls



Farrow & Ball Railings dark, deep, drap paint colors






Railings seems to be one of the current darlings of designers in terms of dark, drab paint colors.

And, I guess I’m one of them because I’ve been a fan of Railings for years and have featured it on the blog numerous times.


The question is:


Is Railings black, or is it blue?

It’s a very soft black with a definite blue undertone. And, sometimes, it’s not so “under.”

Again, it’s this complexity that makes Railings such a beautiful color.


drab paint colors-via @houseandgardenuk on instagram @jamb_london - @farrowandball Railings wall color - Colorful rooms

via @houseandgardenuk on Instagram @jamb_london – @farrowandball Railings wall color


However, like pretty much all navy paint colors, it’s most likely going to look pretty black at night. However, like other shades of dark blue, it looks fantastic with pure black and accents of white.


Railings via Anthropologie

Railings via Anthropologie

(Yes, you can also purchase Farrow & Ball paints and some of their wallpapers through Anthro! I’m not sure if they carry the samples, however)


Railings is a wonderful paint color for someone who’d like black walls but just can’t quite take the plunge and go with pure black.


The good news is that there are so many gorgeous examples of Railings online these days, I wouldn’t hesitate to give it a go.


humphrey munson farrow and ball classic kitchen - railingsHumphrey Munson – classic kitchen – Island in Farrow & Ball Railings

Please check out this post on 12 Farrow & Ball paint colors for the perfect English Kitchen.

Also, if interested this is a conversion of Farrow & Ball paint colors to Benjamin Moore

Farrow & Ball Colors from Nature


Please pin to Pinterest for Reference.


These years as a designer who has specified dozens of paint colors, I have never had a rich, dark space, except for my old bedroom. And, I’d love to do one of these dar, drab paint colors someplace in my apartment.


spiral staircase living room

The little vestibule where the living room, den, and upstairs bathroom intersect, I think, would be a wonderful place to do an accent dark, drab paint color.

Maybe Down Pipe? Or, maybe Pantalon? We’ll have to see down the road.


Please let us know in the comments if there are any “drab” paint colors you’ve used and love.


Ugh. I still haven’t finished my drawings for all of my plans. But, I’ve vowed to finish them this week!



PS: Please check out the newly updated HOT SALES!


Nordstrom Anniversary Sale 2018

It is still early access for the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale. That reminds me. I have something to pick up. I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned this, but Nordstrom Rack is only a couple of blocks from where I live. Sick. I know. lol, I’m soooo lucky!


37 Responses

  1. Bonjourno Laurel!
    Love your blog! I find it so inspiring and helpful.
    I have Dash of Pepper in my office and in two small vestibules in our home and LOVE IT!
    It does show Art work off very well.
    In one small vestibule I have a small art “gallery” and every painting looks just beautiful and stands out with the gold frames.
    Thank you for all the hard work you do to give us an enjoyable read!

  2. So true about dark in small spaces. Half baths, and small hallways or vestiblues. We used KM Jitterbug in our small central hallway in our little cottage, with Bone trim, it is charming instead of feeling cramped when all was just the off white trim and walls. Great notes from you as usual, Laurel.

  3. I just bought a little house (my first) and felt very adventurous when I decided to do a dark room. I used Ocean Abyss by Behr (sorry!). I’m a sucker for a blue or green and that color is both. I was afraid I had made a mistake not making the color glossy to reflect more light, but your drab post has changed my mind. I’ll leave it be for now.

    I’m still in the process of styling that small office/TV room/guest room, but I plan to do an ivory sleeper sofa and ivory curtains with a warm armoire and desk.

  4. I don’t think these colors are drab at all. They make artwork really pop! A color with depth to where you’re not sure what to call it is most interesting, and less likely to tire of it quickly.
    I’ve chosen Woodland Lichen, Sherwin Williams, for my bedroom. Deep brownish, greeny,etc. Looks great with light blues and golds.

  5. I love most of these colors, but generally I gravitate to the ones with a greenish cast. BTW, obsessed as I am with kitchen ventilation, I couldn’t help noting that in the PR shot for Salon Drab they show a gas cooktop with no fan installed directly under a white shelf styled with objects, ALL of which will be immediately covered in a film of greasy dust. Unless it is supposed to be a coffee station only? Why four burners? Apparently there is something I’m not getting. Generally, I don’t get the idea of having paintings and lamps on the kitchen counters, not to mention a lot of dust-catching open shelves. Maybe if you have a staff who cleans each item once a week and you never cook anything that produces smoke or grease or steam or spatters.

  6. I used BM Revere Pewter on the walls in my husband’s study with BM White Dove for the trim 20+ years ago. Two husbands and 3 houses later, it’s still a favorite.

  7. How are you defining “smaller” for rooms painted in deeper colors? Is that an absolute size, or relative to the other rooms in the home?
    While I’m posting, a general Thank You for your beautiful posts and your high taste level. I have learned so much from you.

  8. I swoon over paint colors like this!
    My husband deflates me by saying they “look like a baby poo.” Lol. So I guess not everyone loves them…only us folks with sophisticated eyeballs.

    Another designer once told me he “goes one step darker and two steps grayer than the color he’s drawn to.” I never quite figured out what he considered “one and two steps,” but I now explore the darker/grayer color options since that conversation.

  9. I painted a good portion of my first floor (open kitchen, foyer, family room) in Woodstock Tan. It is a rather drab olive-tan color but it works well in my home and all of my artwork stands out nicely on it.

  10. This was a fun post. I love the drab colors here, like you Laurel in small rooms. I’ve never used dark colors in my house… of these days I would love to try in a small room. I fell in love with CLUNCH before I learned about Laurel’s blog and chose Benjamin Moore Feather Down OC-6 or 953. It’s not a exact match but it is kind of similar. I find Feather Down is a gorgeous soothing and gentle color and I love it ! Great ideas here, love the BM Carter Gray, FB Mouse’s Back and all the others too. It’s like looking into a Rembrandt painting.

  11. Valorie, Laurel has a match somewhere, you can search on her blog. Before I read her blog, I fell in love with FB Clunch and could not find a color anywhere that was a match. I finally settled on Benjamin Moore’s Feather Down. OC-6 or 953. It’s not exactly the same, but it’s similar and I love it! You might take a look at it and see what you think.

  12. I do not like dark colors on walls; too depressing. My limit for dark paint is in relatively small doses, such as the dark island in a white kitchen. To do dark well needs deep pockets because of the excellent decorating and styling required. You need quality pieces—furniture, artwork—because anything not high end in a dark room will shout out its cheapness.

  13. As the wife of a Benjamin Moore dealer and interior designer myself,I love paint articles. Do you have a cross match for Clunch in Benjamin Moore?

  14. Hi Laurel, I love your blog and your beautiful new apartment in Boston! Can’t wait to see how you design each room. I painted my kitchen BM Black Horizon and loved it for the 8 years we lived there. Last year we restored and moved into an older home. I painted the laundry room BM Racoon Fur. Both rooms had/have lots of crisp white trim, as you mentioned. Thanks for so many great posts and practical advise!

  15. Hi Laurel, I love the rooms you shared in this post. We painted the wood paneled den walls and trim in BM Hampshire Gray. It’s very cozy at night for watching movies and looks nice with the leafy trees during the day.

  16. Love the drab colors, but these are not for me! They remind me of the dirty boy scout uniforms of my brother’s return from camping. Maybe even the dirty bath water that followed! I do appreciate a muted wall/doors and have some grey navy and green that i love. also, some muted purple and violet. If i look at my favorite scarves, i can find all of the paint colors. Laurel, you are an autumn girl, so these colors will naturally complement you.

  17. So fun to read and see the photos! I immediately decided that if I ever paint over my kitchen cupboards, it will be Clunch! Great color. I am all about bright colors (all the purples, blues, greens especially chartreuse, aqua, yellow, pink) but even I can see that those complex drabs are something special. The closest thing to a drab I currently have is “Twilight ” a deep grey violet. It was a Wal-Mart color. I had been looking for exactly that color and no one else had anything like it at the time (1995?)

  18. Thanks for asking our input on fave drab colors! One I have never seen discussed is BM Hot Spring Stones. We did our living room walls in this color – the room has many large windows, all trim painted white, and HSS looks great with our green Prairie-style stained glass.

  19. Love this post, Laurel. However, you have opened a can of (worms) paint for me. I stopped reading halfway through and started walking around with the paint deck planning where I could incorporate a drab color. I need to paint a larger sample of Fairview Taupe to help in making my decision. Not “if” I’m going to do it, just where I’m going put it.

  20. We painted most of our house in Clunch a few years ago and it’s still one of our favorite design decisions. Like all F&B paint it self-adjusts in different lights but it always reminds me of the cream glaze on a gorgeous piece of pottery. Definitely a green undertone in our house, in any light from windows in any direction, and when we used the leftovers in a condo that runs deep away from west-facing windows, it deepened in the shadows to khaki.

    You would be highly unlikely to do this, but in that dark condo we painted the bedrooms in Cloud White and got a similar effect as with Clunch in our house – a warm, welcoming neutral. We had used Simply White in other rooms there and THAT came out a sickly pale yellow… we had to live with it a couple of years and I’ve never since bought a can of paint without buying a sample first, painting up a board to prop up on the wall, and watching it change through the day. I completely relate to your elevated awareness of potential sources of yellow in your new home :^)

    Side note: we used F&B Elephant’s Breath in high-traffic rooms as it blended well with the flooring we’d chosen, and it runs to lavender in some lights. Completely lovely.

  21. I love your blog.I found it about a year ago.I have never replied to blogs, before, but seeing that you are finalizing your your plans, I hope you will consider closing in your toilet area, in case you meet your Prince Charming. It is one of the best things we did, when we added a Master bedroom addition 35 years ago, along with a fireplace in our bedroom. After all these years, it still has a lovely atmosphere. Thanks for letting your admirers give their opinion!! KJB

  22. Hi, Laurel! Another engaging article! In the past you spoke about Cleveland Green which I believe Bunny Williams had used and recommended. I think it could be counted as kind of a “drab” color. I tested it for use in a foyer, but it was truly too dark since the space has arched ceilings and the color would extend up and over the entire area. I ended stepping one shade lighter to Embassy Green and it works great! Artwork really pops off of the wall. It’s greenish, brownish, goldish kind of bronze-y tint really anchors the space, but recedes so things in front of it stand out.

  23. We painted our entire (walls, ceiling,trim) theatre room in Sooty Lashes (Valspar) very reminiscent of Railings. It
    looks fantastic and it absolutely changes from a dark gray, to navy depending on the lighting.

  24. I’ve been waiting to see your lovely garden and what you were able to accomplish. Even if it’s not ready for prime time, please share some pictures of what you’ve done out there, OK?

  25. Love waking up to your posts. I feel like a good friend has contacted me and can’t wait to read them.

    Samplize offers samples in a 12×12 peel and stick option which I find great to use.

    Best regards,


  26. I painted my MBR Cleveland Green. I won’t tell you what the first coat looked like but after another coat and by the time I got my cranberry chintz curtains, green ikat wool rug and chartreuse antique love seat in there, it was fantastic! It is wonderful with artwork as well and tempered all my strong colors. One of the best color decisions I have ever made.

  27. I painted my smallish dining room in SW Caviar (almost black). It has low wainscoting in SW Alabaster and the ceiling is coffered with the same. It was Unusual Gray and the change in color changed the feel of the room completely! It feels much more intimate and cozy. I love it!

  28. Good morning Laurel,
    I really like a lot of these colors. But since I’m not a designer I don’t think I could pull them off. To me, it seems like first, you would have to have interesting architecture. And then it would require certain furnishings, a lot of antiques to make it look good.
    Unless I lived in a historical home I don’t think I could pull it off.
    The examples you’ve shown certainly show how beautiful those colors can look in those environments.

  29. Looking at the BM Carter Gray room I wonder, is there a website where you can order a cat to match your paintwork?
    Your post illustrates the value of never throwing away an older F&B colour card, as they will still make the archive colours to order. The other thing to do is always buy a sample pot of your wall colours for touch-ups later; the paint will keep indefinitely in an unopened pot, and you won’t have to buy a large can of a colour that has suddenly been archived!

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Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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