Blame the old country estates that abound in England, for it was years spent rambling the properties that led to Edward Bulmer’s fascination with color. (They also happen to be the subject of his forthcoming book with Rizzoli.) Among the UK’s go-to designers for extensive restoration projects, Bulmer is also an architectural historian and the founder of an eponymous natural paint range spawned from plant-based ingredients—an oft-cited line in resource guides for AD100 talents including Martin Brudnizki.
This versatile lineup of earth and mineral pigments takes centerstage in Working with Color: A Guide to Pigments, Paints, and Palettes, Bulmer’s just-launched online course for creative learning platform Create Academy.
During the 23-part video series (which includes more than four hours of teachings), Bulmer explores the theory of color and its impact on decor through the ages, as well as how to best engage with it in design schemes. These helpful insights are buoyed by peeks into the joyful spaces in Bulmer’s own revamped Queen Anne manse in Herefordshire, England, including a lime green bathroom and a primary bedroom enveloped in 18th-century hand-painted Chinese wallpaper.
“A lot of designers have an innate sense of color, but can’t explain why it’s right,” Bulmer tells AD PRO, adding that “Working with Color” will arm viewers with confidence about their decisions. “There is an element of design that is based on fundamental guiding principles, and for me, it’s the reliance on effective pigments.” From sticking to those time-honored tones to embracing contrasting hues, here are eight takeaways from Bulmer’s enlightening tutorial.
1. Think of color as a language.
“I see color as having its own grammar and I would define that grammar as depending on a set of pigments that we’ve been using for a very long time,” Bulmer explains in the course. So long, in fact, that the expert considers paint (along with fur coats) among the world’s very first consumer goods, dating back to the Paleolithic era when crushed and diluted red and yellow ochre plucked from the earth were used in abundance. “If you have the grammar then you can form your own vocabulary,” he maintains. Those earthy pigments continue to inform all of Bulmer’s work, as he reasons “much as a chef would use seasoning, they are as fundamental to me as salt and pepper.”
2. Stick with nature’s range.
Using a foundational palette of three primary colors, the paint industry has been able to concoct an extraordinary—and overwhelming, at times—array of paint colors. The fact is, Bulmer says, focusing on a pared-back palette of earthy hues. “I’ve pretty much got today what artists have been using for literally a few millennia,” he says, referencing his paint studio’s 12-color offering. Recalling his days as a photography restoration assistant and the similar colors he used back then, he adds that if it “was enough pigment to restore 500 years of art,” then it’s surely enough to produce the paint colors “needed to hang that art on top of.”