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Andrea Magno at Benjamin Moore

What do Barbra Streisand, The LA Dodgers and Larry David have in common with one of America's most revered companies? Did you guess? They were all born in Brooklyn! In 1883 The Moore Brothers released their first coatings product and the paint world hasn't been the same since.

Benjamin Moore's products and colors are perceived as the pinnacle of good taste and quality.  Their color lines have expanded over the years to include 3500 colors adding a world of choice which delights and sometimes even overwhelms. My guest today is Andrea Magno, the Director of Color Marketing and Design at Benjamin Moore and it was my great pleasure to be able to go straight to the source to ask those questions we designers have been itching to. It's a free-wheeling and fun conversation which covers many topics all related to their fabulous range of paint hues.


Color is the foundation of great design. It can settle a building into its landscape. It can make an unattractive structural detail just disappear, and it can change your mood in a room instantly. Welcome to Let's Talk Color.

I'm Amy Krane, Architectural Color Consultant at Amy Krane Color. I'm a color expert and use color to transform spaces and products from the ordinary to the sublime. As a paint color specialist, realtor, and design writer, I have my pulse on what's happening in the world of color. In each episode I'll reveal best practices for choosing color by introducing you to masters of color for the built world. So throw out those paint chips taped to your walls and let's get started.


Okay, what do Barbra Streisand, the LA Dodgers, and Larry David have in common with one of America's most revered companies? Did you guess? They were all born in Brooklyn. In 1883, the Moore brothers opened in Brooklyn with one product called Moore's Prepared Calsom Finish and a commitment to sell its paints through independent retailers.


141 years later, their stature has grown enormously in the paint, coatings, and color worlds. Today, my guest is Andrea Magno, Director of Color Marketing and Design at Benjamin Moore. As part of the Benjamin Moore Color Studio, Andrea plays an integral role in the development of color tools and color research that further positions Benjamin Moore as a color and product leader.


She's played an important role in the development of designer and architect-focused events, educational programs, and trend research. Andrea began her career at Christie's Auction House. She graduated from Lafayette College with a BA in Art History and English, earned a degree in Interior Design from the New York School of Interior Design, and earned her MBA at the University of Scranton.


Welcome, Andrea.


Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Amy Andrea Amy

It's my pleasure. You're the first paint company representative I've had on the podcast and I'm just thrilled to have you here. As I've said before, you are the person with the most enviable job.

I love my job. I'm very lucky. Yes.


I intended the conversation to really focus originally on historical colors because those color lines in particular, I use so much and I absolutely adore. But there's a bunch of other things I'd love to start with.   



So Benjamin Moore does not actually sell the most paints in the US, but almost every color consulting client of mine …When I say, "What color tools should I use? What color paints do you want to use? Almost everyone asks for Benjamin Moore." So for clients and people chasing quality, color, and a high-end reputation, to me, Benjamin Moore is absolutely number one in the United States.






So how does Benjamin Moore combat the allure of newer, maybe smaller, direct-to-consumer paint companies, what would the advantage be to consumers to go with a company like Benjamin Moore?

Well, I think there are a number of things that are a real advantage for us. I mean, for one, you mentioned before about how we have been around for 141 years, right?


So we have this really unbelievable legacy of research and technology and just this relentless focus on making our products better and better, being able to address whatever the needs of the designers, the contractors, homeowners, any of our customer segments are, which is really, really huge. You know one of the things that I think really sets us apart is the fact that we are only sold through the independent channel, right?


So it's really a nice you know connection to the local community and it's small business. And the difference that you get when you go to those stores is that you have people who are experts in paint. You have people who specialize in color on staff. So you know you're getting another level of expertise. You know So I think that's one component. And I think it's just year after year being able to deliver on beautiful color. It's reliable.






It's time-tested. You know? Sure, there's always going to be you know others jumping into the mix and so on and so forth. But you know they don't have the background and kind of the history that we have. And there's something to be said for that.


Oh, I agree with you. Even myself, being an architectural color consultant, I call up my local retailers often if I feel a client asks me a product question.


I mean, I specialize in color, but it's so intrinsically tied to the product. So if someone is painting aluminum siding or you know all the issues with vinyl paint and you know what colors can you put on vinyl or shouldn't you, whatever, they are incredibly important to me as a professional to ask. And I totally believe, certainly to the consumer as well.





You know, we always used to say in the color world, it's one of the least expensive changes and upgrades you can do to change the aura and the ambiance of a room. And while it's still true, everything in our world costs more. And so I think relying on a company that's got a reputation for over 100 years is a big deal.

Oh, absolutely. And the thing is that whether you know you hire someone, whether you're doing it yourself, you know you want to know that you're putting that work into a project and it's going to stand the test of time.


It's going to last. It's going to hold up to the everyday. So you know it's having that confidence and that trust built in. And you know because we have so many colors that you look at others who will have a small collection of 50 or 100. You know We have so many colors, which it's funny because I think on one side, people get a little bit intimidated by it at first glance.



But then when you're really trying to narrow down and find exactly that perfect color, it's kind of nice to have so many options so that you don't have to settle. You're able to really pinpoint exactly the color that you're looking for.

I agree with you. I mean, I think that you know there may be 34, 3,500 colors, but pretty soon people narrow down to at least the color family that they want. And then you're really looking for depth in that color family.


And you're not going to get that in 132 colors or 50 colors or even 1,400 colors. You know It's completely different. Let's talk about trends for a minute. The first company that I remembered starting a color of the year thing, they may not be the first, but I recall it being Pantone around 1999. And of course, they create colors for manufacturing and so many different things, you know standardizing colors to use for industry.






What was the impetus at Benjamin Moore to start doing a color of the year? I don't know when you started. Did it seem like the perfect marketing tool? Where did that come from?


Well, you know it's funny you say that because it's something that has been done for decades and decades at Benjamin Moore, actually. So you know I was actually just recently, I was you know digging through our archives.


We have this amazing digital archive of lots and lots of fabulous stuff from you know 50 years ago, 100 years ago. It's great. And so I found a color trends report that was from 1961. It was so fascinating. Cool. So you know it's not something that we just started doing. It's something we've actually been doing for decades. It's just that now it's become you know something that people are interested in, right? So everything is so different with social media and so forth.


It becomes just a nice way for us to be able to share color research, get people excited about color. So you know I think you know going back, you know we would have different brochures. There's actually one also from the archives from the '70s, and it's hysterical because they did some different things with names and whatnot. And it's very indicative of that period, kind of has like a disco vibe. Oh, wow. Yeah. No, it's really neat.







So you know when you dig through, you do find some interesting things. But yeah. So I mean, it's not something that we started doing recently, but it's just a great way to get people excited about color and really even to consider colors that maybe they had never thought of ever you know or highlight colors that have been in the Fan decks for years and years, but they just passed by it and went to their favorites.


That happens. That absolutely happens.


I mean, I'm sure social media definitely had something to do with its explosion. And I know just in the last few years, again, you might have been doing it forever. The release becomes a really big deal. The announcement is big. You know I set my timer to see what it is when it comes out. You released little short films which were so beautiful and inspirational. And it's really very exciting. It is.


And then the other guys glommed on also. So, it's that season. It's that end of the year. I’m thinking what are they coming out with this year? It's so much fun to think about what it might be. Talking about trends… I live in the Hudson Valley. Most people own a single-family residence. I started my blog in 2014 and that’s when I started noticing the very beginning of the dark house exterior.







And of course, now, 10 years later, it's exploded. And in more places around the country than I ever imagined. I have clients in Texas ask me if they should do black. So what do you think?  Is the dark house trend a trend, or do you think it's a little bit more permanent than that?


I think there's definitely much more staying power to it. You know I think there will be you'll see shifts in whether or not people you know stick with black or charcoal.






I feel like I'm seeing a lot more in the green family, you know really like deep mossy greens you know that are really you know complementing the landscape. Navy blue is a big one that we see a lot of. So I think the fear that people maybe used to have, call it, I don't know, 15 years ago of using a darker color on an exterior, I think that's really gone away. And I think people have seen enough examples where it's you know becomes definitely a contender for more people than would have previously.








So I think it'll be more a matter of which colors are really kind of standing out at a given time.


Gotcha. Do you think that there are some important factors that turn a trend into something with more staying power?


Well, I think a lot has to do with people getting comfortable with what they're seeing. You know I think you know a lot of times it'll be something initially, maybe is a little bit they're not so sure about it.


But then as these different things, whether it's a color, whether it's anything becomes a little bit more you know you see it enough, it becomes more mainstream, people become more comfortable with it. And that's where you know it'll catch on. And then you know eventually it'll kind of fade away and then it'll be replaced with something else. But you know I think that you know again, you talk about social media. You know We didn't used to have so much access to so much you know visual inspiration.






You know we used to go to a shelter magazine, to look for something like that. But now you could be standing online waiting for coffee and you're scrolling through and you're like, "I've got to have that room," right?


Right. The rabbit hole. You go down that rabbit hole. It's endless. Yeah. I mean, that's one thing that I run up against often is, you know, people will go to one's Pinterest page or something and see the image of a house and love it.


And you can get many hundreds of people saying what color, what color, what color. It's very hard to keep up with it. But one thing people are ignoring is that, of course, how an image appears on your computer and even in a shelter magazine is completely different than how it will be in real life on your substrate.  And so you know sometimes you'd get a comment from someone, "Oh, I looked up that color.






It looks nothing like that." Like this is some big lie. It's not a lie. It's physics. You know It's RBG color versus CMYK color. You have to see colors in the light of the place you're going to use it, right?


100%. Before it was all the social media stuff people had the magazine tear and they’d say, "But I want this color." And then you know they're looking at the chip and it looks totally different.


And it's the light in the room and so many different factors. And you know even looking whether it's on Instagram or in a magazine or wherever, you don’t know what work has been done on it, even retouching that image, right? You know so it's more of kind of a target, right? It's not necessarily what color is called out in the caption of the image. It's a matter of I love that look. Let me find a few colors that are going to deliver that and then test them.


That is the most important thing, you know particularly with the neutrals. I'm sure you probably run into the same thing where you know people think, "Oh, well, I'm just going to use this safe gray or beige or even a white," right? But the way that the undertones kind of come through with the natural light, time of day, and so forth, you know taking that small amount of extra time to test the color and really understand it, it's just huge.


It absolutely is. I mean, I tell everyone to do that. And you know I say, "Look, you have taken the time and spent the money to hire a color consultant, but you should know, especially if it's virtual I'm not there with you. I have my tools and my way to understand the light in your home. It's not the same as being there. So you've got to test it. You know, it's funny what you said before. Even being a professional, I was redoing my guest bathroom, and I had figured out what the walls were going to be, and I was going to repaint a vanity.


And I was on Instagram, and I saw another designer's client's bathroom she did. And I was like, "That's what my vanity's going to be because I'm a real lover of greens, spring greens, yellowy greens. I absolutely love it." And so I asked her what it was, and she told me, and I looked it up, and it was like, it was a completely different color. It was a gray. It was absolutely stunning how different the color was.







And it was like, "I don't care, actually, what she really used. The picture is so different. Now I know I want a springy green, and I'll go find one." So you have to go by, as you said, the look of what you see, not the name in the caption, because that's a road to mistakes, for sure. Benjamin Moore does have so many color lines. Was this by accident or design?


Well, I wouldn't say it was by accident, nor was it maybe by design.






I think it was really just kind of evolving over time. Yeah. It's just evolved. And you know I mean, it goes all the way back to, I believe it was in the '50s where they first came out with the platform to be able to custom tint colors. And so what they had then, it was Moromatic one. Well, actually, I guess it was just Moromatic because it was before there was anything after that. But that was really the beginning of establishing the different color collections.





And so you know it's really been a matter of- what are the gaps? Is there a new product that's coming out, and we want to be able to marry up a color palette with it or a color collection, I should say. So you know I think it's really just been a matter of evolving over time. And you know here we are. Right.


Wow. Do you think it's complete, or is it one of those never say never?


You never know. I don't think it'll ever necessarily be complete.







You know I mean, if we look at all of the colors that we have in color space, there's definitely room to add. You know I don't know that we have any plans to add anything soon, but I wouldn't say that you know 5, 10, 15 years down the road, we wouldn't come up with another collection.

And on the other hand, would you guys ever take a look at sales, which I know is not your purview, and say, "Wow, these 350 colors, they're just not hitting anymore.




Should we cull the line and reduce?" Have they ever done that?


No. So you know we never get rid of a color. Even if there's a color that you know hasn't sold particularly well, we'll always have it available in our tinting software. We've had instances where there are colors that maybe we don't merchandise anymore.


There's even designers who have come to us with colors that maybe they used in the '80s, let's say, and they just have to have this particular color. And we don't necessarily have a chip available to show them, but they would be able to pull up that prescription. So just because you never know what somebody's going to need for a given project, we give them the options.


Right. Right. It's like throwing one of your babies out. You cant do it.


You can't do it.  Focusing on the historical collections, historical-oriented collections, there's the HC Historical Colors, and there's the CW Colonial Williamsburg. I love them both. I think that people might be surprised to even realize how many highly chromatic and saturated colors, in fact, were used in times of yore.







Of course, the pigments were natural and the paint was made differently and all of that but CW especially has parrot green and mayo teal and some really saturated beauties.

Oh, absolutely. Yeah. And they're great for front doors. We love them for front doors.


Absolutely. We love them for front doors. I did do a little research, and you can tell me if this is not correct. It seems in 1976, the historic collection was created in collaboration with the National Park Service.






I didn't know that it was an interpretation of colors from the archives of historic houses. Can you talk a little bit about that? Maybe which houses or are they exact replicas or versions of? Tell us about that collection. So what we can gather from digging through the archives and looking for some different clues to see how that collection came together. It appears the people who were focused on color at the time went on a bit of a road trip.


And you know we found some documentation based on them going to areas of New England to see houses. And I can't say for sure the exactness of the colors in terms of being replicas. I think it's more of taking the inspiration from some of these different colors. And that was really a point of inspiration for how they pulled together that collection.








And like you said, that they launched that for the bicentennial.


That's amazing. So do you think that they were colors that were originally seen on exteriors, and that was more of the intention to use them on exteriors or not necessarily?


Not necessarily. I think you know it's a little bit of a guess, to be completely honest, but I think it's probably a combination of colors that they were seeing, on historic properties, interior or exterior.


I was recently driving through Connecticut and I was driving my son crazy because I was like, "Oh, the Hale Homestead. It's Hale Navy or Coventry." And it was just really funny. So you know it's taking these little bits of inspiration from these different places that have great historical stories behind them. But then on the colonial Williamsburg side, that one is very precise.


So that one, you know we worked with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, and they have an unbelievable research team that has fragments from the actual houses. They're putting it under microscopes. It's just unbelievable to see the work that they're doing and using that to be able to put the palette or the collection, rather, together is really amazing.


Am I correct? Was the collection originally associated with another paint company?





And then they switched to Benjamin Moore, and you guys tinkered with the colors to make them more accurate?


Yeah. So there was somebody else who had it, and then we were able to get the licensing agreement back in 2012, 2013. And so at that time, you know it was just a nice thing to be able to refresh the collection.


And you know there was some duplication and we gave it a fresh eye and added some of those deeper and more bold colors and looked to see where there were opportunities to have a nice well-rounded collection where you have those brights, but then you also have a nice number of neutrals and deeps. So it becomes just a great collection. I look at it personally as a great complement to the historical collection.




So if you take the two together, it's kind of like the best of both worlds.


Yeah. I agree. I think they're beautiful. I think especially the HC has a great range of neutrals, oh yeah specifically warm neutrals, but even cooler ones. And just a lot of those earth tones, those ochres and browns and mossy greens and those colors, you know those indescribable colors that each of us would give a different name because you may see more of the green and I'll see more of the brown?


You know talking colors is very difficult, isn't it? Between seeing them differently and describing them with different words, it's really hard to get on the same page sometimes. Wow. I'd love to have been on that trip to drive around and pick those houses that they were based on. That would be just amazing. I wonder if any of the WPA buildings served as a basis for some colors.


Beautiful lodges and places like that. And I wonder if any of the colors came from those buildings. That would have been amazing. Did you guys ever think about getting into the nitty-gritty of what eras the colors are from and marketing them in a way that you have brochures that say, "These are colonial colors and these are mid-century modern colors and things like that." You don't have that kind of marketing tool, do you?


We don't have an official card that calls that out. That's the kind of thing where you know well, on one hand, I think a lot of the beauty of that collection is that it really transcends styles, time periods. So there's so many colors in there that would be fabulous in a very traditional kind of home, but then it could also be great in a more modern home, right? So it's kind of being able to give people the flexibility and not kind of pigeonhole it within a certain time period.


But that said, you know we've also played around, particularly in social media, with coming up with smaller palettes that are focused on mid-century modern. And it's just another one of those opportunities where we're able to curate different smaller palettes to answer those questions. You know Craftsman comes up a lot. But you know again, when you have so many colors, you can really cater to any style, any time period. Right?






That makes perfect sense.


Well, you know one of the things that we did that you can find on our website is going through each of the collections to describe the essence of them. You know -what are some of the characteristics of the different collections, which can be kind of nice for people. You know the ways that people shop are not always the same. Like for me, I'm always going to go to the historical collection probably first, right? That or maybe the off-whites.


But you know in that process of narrowing, sometimes people will identify with a particular collection for one reason or another. So as an example, the Affinity Collection, those colors are all selected and curated and designed so that they all work together. That's really one of the hallmarks of that collection. So one of the things that we really want to do is to share those stories so that people can understand a little bit more of the rationale for why those colors are together.






And it can help people make different selections, right?


Right. Right. That makes sense. How would you describe preview then, the preview collection?

Well, those colors are very clean, bright, saturated. So for some people, that is exactly where they're going to go. They love that really true color. For me personally, I'm going to go to the more muted colors. And it's just personal preference, right?


There isn't a right answer or a wrong answer. It's just kind of like what you gravitate towards. But you know when you think of those colors or if you compare that to the Classic collection, that's really what I mentioned before about the Moromatic piece. The Classic Collection really evolved over time. And then we made that collection into the classics. So that's the one that I would say is kind of like our legacy colors, really the cornerstone of our color offering.





 So you have those more muted, a little bit richer kind of Classic colors versus the ones that are crisp and clean. You've got it all.


You know. It's so funny. Again, coming back to semantics. In terms of personal taste, I find muted colors soft and sophisticated, but other people will look at them and the word that comes to their mouth is dirty.


My Dad used to sell upholstery fabrics. And my dad would look at colors and say dirty colors. And I was like, what? Dirty colors, not dirty. Muted and sophisticated. And I'll say to some clients, do you like more muted or do you like more clean and clear colors? But not everyone is used to looking at and thinking about describing colors in those terms.


So they don't even really understand or recognize that this one is muted and that one is clear. And then, of course, I have to tell you, this might not make you happy. But when I send my color suggestions to my clients, here's the two warnings I give them. Do not look them up online until you get my samples. They will be so inaccurate. And ignore the names.


Yes. Ignore the names because you know especially in the HC collection, right? It seems like almost half of them are called gray. But the hue family that they're from, those undertones are so clear that you know that's a green. That's a blue. But they've been named gray. And you know people are biased by words. They're biased by names. So ignore the names. Just look at the samples, right?




You know, it's funny because it can either work in your favor or it can work against you, right? So you say, "Here's healing aloe or beach glass." People are like, "Oh, that sounds wonderful." Yep. Then you know there's other colors that you know they'll say, "But it's not a gray." Actually, it was funny. At one time in our corporate headquarters, we had Gentlemen's Gray painted on one of the main walls. And you know one of the facilities people came to me, and he was very, very concerned.w







He's like, "I don't know. I don't know if it was the right color." And I'm like, "Well, why is that?" He's like, "But it's Gentleman's Gray. The color on the wall is navy! It's not gray." So it's just funny you know how people really will take the name so literally or either really they'll love it or they'll be kind of turned off by it, so. Yes, yes. They'll be biased one way or another.




For the companies of which there are so few who've decided to give their colors just numbers instead of names. I get why they did that. But on the other hand, as a company selling a product, why not allure people with healing aloe? Right? I mean, it creates a thought and a mood in your mind. And tell me, is it one person's job to give them names?


No. There's a number of people, I would say, involved in that. You know Usually, it starts with our color team, and so we'll all just submit different names, you know throw some different ideas out there, but then we have to put it through actually a pretty extensive vetting process to make sure that we don't have anything that's too similar or it hasn't been used elsewhere. We'll have to look and make sure that you know there's nothing conflicting with it. So it's not maybe as fun as people might initially think.







But you know for a little bit there, when you can be creative and just kind of throw some different ideas into them. That's fun.


Yeah. Have you been there at the company since new colors have been developed?


So January will be 20 years that I've been with the company. And so when I first started, that's when the Affinity Collection came out. That's when we launched Aura. So they were launched at the same time. And then Color Stories came after that, and then Williamsburg.







So I've seen a couple of launches.


Is it a long process from the initial impetus? How about a color like this - to it's released? It's out there? Is it a year or something?


At least, I would say, just because you know it's a matter of pulling together what are the points of inspiration, what are the things that are going to be sort of the starting point for what that color is.


And then it's a matter of working with our labs to figure out you know what is the prescription, looking at different drawdowns. And you know that's actually a fascinating process because it's looking at where they start and then tweaking the color. We'll say, "I want it to be a little brighter, a little more red, a little more green," whatever the case may be. And then they're continually doing these drawdowns until we're at the right color.





And then the process of having the materials made and merchandised and produced and all of that takes a while. Takes a long time. Yeah, it's pretty extensive.


So when Color Stories was released, and I like it very much, I think it's a beautiful palette, what was the impetus for the idea? I mean, I know it's sold as full spectrum. So maybe that was the idea.





But where do you start when you're doing a whole new collection? Where do you start color-wise?


So that one was I would say that really began with a lot of travel and a lot of people on the team taking different things, different points of inspiration that they collected, whether it was a shopping bag color that they picked up in Paris when they were at Maison y Objet, and they held onto it and said, you know this is just an unbelievable color.


And I remember at the time, there were swatches. Maybe it was a piece of fabric. It was whatever that thing that was in that color was, that's then submitted to the lab. So that in itself takes a pretty long time. And then it's a matter too of saying, "Okay, well, here's where we're starting, but are we necessarily going to have all of these colors, or are we going to narrow down from here and really have the colors that are the best of the best from that research?"

So do you think that there's a unifying theme or not really to that collection?







I mean, I think the theme is really the full spectrum, you know not having the black or the gray pigments in them. Really having just these gorgeous colors that can stand alone and really react to the natural light become they’re so much richer and so much more than any other color.

Yeah. They're so much more mutable. They’re really affected by the light. It's a beautiful collection. I use it a lot also. I have a lot of favorites.


That’s great. Love it.





Well this has been great. What a rare opportunity to speak to someone at the source. Thank you so much for your time. No thank you. It's been fun.





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