We’re mindful of the food we put in our bodies. We try to get sufficient sleep and exercise. So why don’t we give more thought to the chemicals wafting through the air when we’re in unhealthy spaces?
Lisa Tharp, an interior designer, wellness expert, and now colorist in the world of eco-based paints, wondered about that very issue—the toxins we often breathe when we’re indoors—even before her own exposure to toxic building materials.
Tharp, principal of Lisa Tharp Design in Boston, has long been creating interiors that offer visual pleasure and an eco-friendly environment, no matter the homeowner’s style. So it was natural for her to create a new designer color collection for the nontoxic paint line ECOS Paints.
“My hope is based on the belief that everyone’s interiors should have both beauty and pure indoor air,” Tharp says. “We buy organic food; why should our paint be anything less? Shouldn’t the air we breathe in our homes be healthy too?”
Tharp has long been a fan of ECOS Paints, a decades-old company featuring organic paints and stains that began in the U.K. and are now also made in the U.S. ECOS paints and stains are nontoxic, with zero VOCs, pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, and fumes. “It was formulated to be organic and nontoxic from the start,” Tharp says. “Harsh chemicals didn’t need to be removed; they were never in.”
Tharp discovered ECOS Paints when she was creating the Concord Green Healthy Home for her family. “The goal was to create a nourishing sanctuary for our family, but also to model best practices for healthy sustainable design,” she says. “The house helped me heal.”
She eventually moved from Concord to Boston, carrying her expertise with her. When ECOS asked her to create a designer line of paints in 2019, she was thrilled. Her new color collection is based on hues she has been incorporating into her firm’s interiors for years, including a makeover of a historic Massachusetts Governor’s House.
Lisa Tharp Colors is a curated 60-color palette that adheres to nontoxic ECOS guidelines, while giving homeowners groupings of colors that simplify selecting paint for a room, including accents: walls, trim, even a hallway outside the door. The 60 colors are structured in a matrix, grouped in neutrals and colors, light to dark, and by undertone. Each color is accompanied by six possible pairings and is offered in a two-ounce sample pot, or removable wall swatches created with the actual paint.
The designer color line is a system, Tharp says. “One, it’s really easy to pick colors. It is based on designer principles that ensure timeless, sophisticated results,” she says. “Two, the paint is organic, nontoxic, and safe to paint with, even when the windows are closed.”
Here Tharp—mindful of the spring impulse to freshen interiors—offers her four-step process for choosing paint color.
1) Ask yourself how you want to feel in the space. “If you say calm and tranquil, you might go for a softer pale neutral or the colors of nature.” She suggests pale green or pale violet, such as her Pale Lavender, as options. Two blue shades in her line, Skye and Glass Cast also are calming. A pale gray, like Silver Leaf, would also work.
If you want the space to be energizing for lively conversation, you might go much bolder with the shade Still Life, Apricots.
If you want a happy, sunny space, you could choose one of the three yellows. They range from the feel of a sunny morning (Van Gogh’s Highlight) to a rich late-afternoon glow (the golden-tone neutral of Ocher or Pyramid).
2) Consider the quality of the light. Which direction does your room face? A north-facing room will have cool, even, indirect light all day. A southern exposure will be infused with bright, warm sun and high-contrast shadow.
3) Test a few colors in your space before you break out the brushes. Tharp’s ECOS line offers two-ounce sample pots. The peel-and-stick wall swatches—which ECOS introduced for the first time with Tharp’s line—are genius.
“If you want a pink room, for instance, I advise ordering swatches for two to four color options. Stick them on the wall. See how they interact with your room’s particular lighting conditions at different times of day. The choice will become clear.”
4) Once you identify your room’s main color, consider the collection’s suggested pairings for accent colors, doors, or trim, or adjacent spaces. “The pairings were chosen with a lot of care,” Tharp says.
When the work is done, be happy in your room. As Tharp says, “I’m on a mission to make it easier for people to have beautiful, safe, healthy environments, wherever life calls you.”