Farrow & Ball Modern Vs Estate Emulsion

Updated May 13, 2024 | Posted Jan 6, 2023 | Professional insight, Product Advice | 2 comments

Farrow & Ball may split the opinions of decorators, but it is still the most popular designer paint brand in Britain. With a range of very desirable colours, and a fantastic finish, Farrow & Ball have developed a huge fan base.

Their wall paints include the Estate Emulsion and Modern Emulsion, but what is the difference between the two? Both paints are good in certain situations, so I thought I’d put pen to paper and explain which to use and when.


Farrow & Ball Estate Emulsion


Estate Emulsion is an interior paint for walls and ceilings. The finish is luxuriously flat, and it has the same depth of colour as any other F&B product. It has a soft, chalky look, which is very contemporary. It looks fantastic on a ceiling.

The only real issue with Farrow & Ball Estate Emulsion is that it is not very durable, so it is no good for high-traffic areas. You might use this paint on an adult’s bedroom walls, or even a lounge (unless you have pets or small children).

I love seeing Estate Emulsion in a bedroom, particularly when used in warm colours. There is a softness to it which is unmistakable, and it just feels comfortable.

You wouldn’t use Farrow & Ball Estate Emulsion in high-traffic areas such as hallway walls, because it can scuff and mark easily.  And you certainly wouldn’t want to use it in a kitchen or bathroom, because Estate Emulsion won’t cope with the condensation very well.

Farrow & Ball Modern Emulsion


Modern Emulsion is more durable but has a higher sheen. In fact, I’d say the sheen level is close to a trade eggshell, rather than a matt. It still performs well, but the higher sheen level is slightly less desirable.

If you were to use Farrow & Ball Modern Emulsion on a light critical ceiling, you might see defects such as flashing caused by shadowing. It really isn’t the “soft gentle” finish you’d want in a bedroom either.

That said, it’s perfect for all the areas Estate Emulsion falls short. You can use Modern Emulsion in a kitchen, hallway, and even some bathrooms. It will deal with condensation reasonably well, and if your walls get dirty, you can even wipe over them with a cloth. It’s the perfect emulsion if you have pets.


Farrow & Ball Eggshell


I know this blog is to primarily talk about Farrow & Ball Modern Vs Estate Emulsion, but they have another paint which I thought I’d mention, well two really. Estate Eggshell and Modern Eggshell are both products that you can use as emulsion. Although the Modern (which used to be called “floor paint”), is more often used on woodwork and has a higher sheen level.

For that reason, my personal favourite out of the two when used as an emulsion is Estate Eggshell. The sheen level is one step up from Modern Emulsion, and the durability is greater.

You might use Farrow & Ball Estate Eggshell in particularly difficult rooms, such as bathrooms or kitchens with high levels of condensation. Maybe a utility room or porch where the family kick off their muddy wellies. This paint will easily withstand a good wipe down with a damp cloth.


Tips for Applying Farrow & Ball Emulsion


I thought I’d include a little section on applying Farrow & Ball Emulsion, as it’s slightly different to any other brand on the market.


1 – Use a wall primer

When people talk about Farrow & Ball, they often mention “depth of colour”, and they’re right to. This comes down to a couple of things. Firstly, the colours are metameric, which means they will naturally look different in different lights. Secondly, the pigment in the paint is high-quality. That said, you need to build up the layers to achieve your desired finish, which means using the Farrow & Ball Wall Primer for bare plaster or big colour changes. I always stick to the “hand in glove” approach when painting, meaning if my topcoat is Farrow & Ball Emulsion, then my first coat is Farrow & Ball Primer. If you skip the primer, then you often need an extra coat of emulsion anyway, so you may as well do it properly in the first place.

2-Dilute your paint slightly

Opacity isn’t the best in either of the Farrow & Ball Emulsion products, so don’t dilute your paint by too much. However, a little splash of H2O will help to ease your emulsion. This will help cut down on defects such as roller marks and picture framing. Just make sure you dilute both the paint you use for cutting in, and the paint you use to roll out of.


3- Use good quality painting equipment

As a professional painter and decorator, I can categorically tell you that you WILL achieve a better finish with Farrow & Ball Emulsion if you use good quality painting tools. Use a good brush. The ProDec Ice Fusion (available online by clicking here) is a great brush and will not break the bank. I’d fully recommend it. A good quality paint roller will also help. I’d potentially opt for a medium pile roller when applying Modern Emulsion, and a long pile roller for Estate Emulsion. This is down to the spread rates of each product.

Is Modern Emulsion better than Estate Emulsion?

Final Thoughts


We’ve done Farrow & Ball Modern Vs Estate Emulsion, I just wanted to end by giving my opinion on the brand as a whole. In my opening paragraph I mentioned about the paint splitting the opinions of decorators. This is largely down to the application process. Farrow & Ball is more expensive than the trade paint which a lot of decorators use, and it often needs an extra coat, hence some frustration.

Decorators apply the paint, but we don’t live with it. I love the finish you can achieve with Farrow & Ball Emulsion. All the colours in their range are very stylish, and it’s easy for a homeowner to choose something that will suit a particular room.


Moreover, Farrow & Ball wallpaper is amazing quality. It is a dream to work with and always looks fantastic.

When you weigh everything up, it’s no wonder F&B have such a big fan base. There are Facebook communities dedicated to lovers of the paint, where like-minded people showcase their work and talk about colour schemes. Click here to join a good one.

Updated May 13, 2024 | Posted Jan 6, 2023 | 2 comments

About the Author

About the Author

Mike Gregory is a Professional Painter and Decorator who works in the Northwest of England. He mainly sub-contracts for large decorating firms and works on a wide variety of projects.
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  1. Mark Clifford

    Currently working on full house interior re-paint (4 bedrooms, snug, drawing room, kitchen, dining room, hallways, stairwell etc.) And customer has purchased Farrow and Ball paints for all surfaces!

    Quite impressed with Farrow and Ball, not used for sometime. All surfaces prepped and primer with correct F&B primers and two top coats and it’s generally covered well, not perfect in all areas but customer very pleased. I prefer modern Emulsion over Estate Emulsion, Modern is easier to use than Estate and goes a long way (obliteration a bit weak in light colours, oddly?) I agree that Estate Emulsion is good for ceilings but does mark on walls so you do need to be careful where you use it.

    Had good results with both Estate and Modern eggshells too. Estate Eggshell gives very nice finish on woodwork and Modern Eggshell is a little easier to use and drys faster. Did notice that Modern Eggshell can run on mouldings if applied a little to thick.

    Please note I did use Zinsser primers in some areas where problems such staining or friable surfaces were encountered.

  2. Robin

    How does the new ‘dead flat’ compare? Does this give the finish of the Estate Emulsion but the durability of the Modern Emulsion? thanks


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