Learn About a Color Company That Creates Modern Interior Paint

Learn About a Color Company That Creates Modern Interior Paint

By Marianne Colahan
Rachel Lacy founded drikolor to create a new color technology for paint. The New Zealand-based color company’s strategy is to separate the color from the paint, opting instead for precise pigments that are stirred into a base paint.

 This strategy eliminates the limitations of traditional paint buying, and makes precise, thoughtfully designed colors to complement modern interiors. Lacy has created a line of drikolor paint specifically for Dwell—creating colors that can be used in different rooms of a modern home, while still maintaining a consistent look. These colors feature pigments harvested from all over the world, which are stirred into a base paint to create consistent, vivid color. Below, we interview Rachel Lacy to learn more about her expertise in color, drikolor, and the drikolor customer experience.

From drikolor’s Champagne White for Dwell. Champagne White is derived from champagne chalk, which has a dry and velvety texture with large pigment particles, making it an ideal source for white pigment. Ninety million years ago, European chalk was embedded in an ancient sea through the slow accumulation of marine life, debris, and shells that are now calcified and have been raised by movement in the earth’s crust. In the Champagne region of France, chalk deposits in fertile soil help nurture the vines, storing warmth and water, giving champagne the distinctive tart and aromatic flavor sparkling wine drinkers expect. This same chalk is the source of white pigment that creates the cool, slightly beige Champagne White paint.

What sparked your interest in a career in color?

To quote Le Corbusier, "Man needs color to live. It is just as necessary an element as water or fire." Imagine if we lived in a world without color—it would fail to function. My father is an architect and my mother owned a paint company, so they were always teaching us kids about the built environment and the significance of color. My father loves the work of Barragan—which is so strongly defined by his use of color—and of course Le Corbusier’s Color Keyboards, which are so beautiful. This all featured in my childhood.

A closer look at the champagne chalk used to color drikolor’s champagne white paint.

What is your favorite color that you’ve seen in nature?

My favorite color is green, in all its glorious hues. I love the mid green in the Dwell palette. The color combinations in nature are also a really good guide—if you’re ever in doubt, go to your nearest garden center and look around.

Harvested charcoal to create a stir-in pigment for drikolor paint.

What prompted you to found drikolor, and how is it different from a typical paint company?

We are a color company rather than a paint company. Paint is just the medium to carry the color and we partner with a number of paint companies. We wanted to buy color where we are thinking about color. My mother wanted to buy her living room wall color at the art gallery—for her this is where she is thinking about color. For me, it’s more the homeware store. To do this, we need to change the way paint is colored. We needed to totally disrupt the sales channels to totally disrupt the industry. To sell the color separately from the paint—art galleries and homeware stores don’t want to carry paint—was a fine idea, but then we had to work out how to do that.

We worked with Callaghan Innovation, the leading New Zealand research and development institute to develop the "stir-in" technology. We developed a whole new technology and can apply that to a much wider range of pigments, so we are not only able to disrupt the sales channel, but we can do it with pigments that conventional paint companies don’t have access to.

Ultramarine pigmented, harvested in France. 

How do you bring your expertise in color into drikolor?

I work with a team of color devotees. We start by looking at the pigments artists use and we build a color in the same way—pigment by pigment, with no regard for the most economical way to make a color! We have over 100 pigments in our lab, and we spend a lot of time working with a wide range of materials to get the best colors. Our colors are multi-pigmented and we complementarily tint to build up a color. The Umber & Ultramarine trio in the Dwell palette is made with umber from Cyprus and ultramarine blue from France. This is a very unusual combination of pigments and it gives a soft, duck egg blue that can’t be made with common commercial tinters used in paint shops.

Drikolor founder Rachel Lacy, photographed with Hanna Lacy in studio.

The pigments used in drikolor paint are harvested from all over the world. Can you explain how and why they are selected?

We look for historically significant pigments. We do this through research, our own experience, talking to designers and artists to find out what colors interest them. We’ve all traveled a lot so that really helps. Sometimes this involves finding a nontoxic replacement for a favorite pigment that may have to be a blend of pigments to get the same richness. Sometimes it is trying to track down pigment that is no longer mass-produced because it has fallen out of fashion—at the moment we are trying to find an ultramarine green that hasn’t been made since the 1960s.

Why would a consumer choose the drikolor paint method versus a traditional paint shopping experience?

To paint a room is the easiest way to completely transform a space, so the quality of color is fundamental to this—it should matter.

What is your mission for drikolor?

It may be a lofty ambition, but as Luis Barragan said, "In alarming proportions the following words have disappeared from architectural publications: beauty, inspiration, magic, sorcery, enchantment, and also serenity, mystery, silence, privacy, astonishment. All of these have found a loving home in my soul." We want to hear more of this language and our contribution is through color.


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