BLACK, the enduring colour of high fashion that never goes out of style – whether used in couture design out of Paris and Milan, or the home decor of NYC and central London. Black is a favourite colour of decorators and architects as it exudes timeless sophistication and provides the perfect backdrop for art while also providing the perfect foil for strategic lighting – whether in lifts, on stairs, in bathrooms or utility areas. Places that immediately spring to mind when it comes to glamorous decor, where the use of black and graphene are main features, include boutique hotels ‘The Franklin’ (below, right) by designer Anouska Hempel, Hotel Costes in Paris (below, middle) the new 53 WEST residential building in New York (below, left)…

Paint in Black? Well, this is the colour of graphene, so it simply couldn’t be more appropriate…”


Brand leader in providing decorative paints to the property, hospitality, fashion, car and film industries is Graphenstone, led by former investment banker Patrick Folkes, whose ethical approach to his products gives designers comfort in the knowledge that what they are using is supportive of the environment. Patrick’s journey takes him from Wall Street through to purchasing photography from rock star Bryan Adams, conducting business in Spain, dinner with Mick Jagger at Basil’s Bar in Mustique and beyond. Read our fascinating interview with Patrick here:

C&B: “Hi Patrick! First question, why did you get involved with ecological paint?
PF: “Pure circumstance! I really didn’t set out looking for a paints brand, fortunately it found me. I had conducted some business in Spain and, via a contact there, I met the owners of what is now a global business, down in Seville, and this is one of my favourite cities to visit; in fact, it was the venue where I married my wonderful ‘English rose’ in the mid-90’s. Long story, but I’ve been in love with this vibrant and beautiful town for over twenty five years – orange blossom, acorn fed pata negra, deep blue skies and Spanish guitar, it’s wonderful. So, In 2016, I first learned about the niche that Graphenstone was seeking to own, at a time when sustainability held a much lower profile. Now it’s a clarion call, quoted constantly, of course, given the extreme threats to our burning/drowning planet. Graphenstone presented not only a much improved alternative to the usual toxic plastic based paints, but also a significant commercial opportunity, to do things in a healthier way and so much more positively, from an ecological standpoint. This is not the first health based product I’ve been involved with…while working in the hedge fund world with my own operation in the 90’s, I also founded and funded the first UK Smoothie business, called ‘PJ’.  This was sold to Pepsico 10 year later in 2005 when we were still the largest brand in the sector we’d created, just ahead of Innocent Drinks, our arch rival, which ultimately was swallowed by Coca-Cola. It aways feels good to be active in a positive business…”

ABOVE: Graphenstone paint (left); black for the perfect backdrop for Dolce & Gabbana (right)

C&B: “What is the number one benefit of using Graphenstone paint?
PF: “Air Purification! No toxic off-gases or VOC’s, no plastics, no petrol-chemicals at all. A paint that actually CLEANS your air.  What a complete reversal for the health of your home or office, from the traditional toxic high street paints brands, which can contain dozens of toxins and carcinogenic ingredients. You probably don’t read about it, but the paints industry so badly needs to improve, it’s one of the top three most polluting industries. Candidly, I’ve never been involved in a business which has so many USP’s. They say you should restrict your list to three, so here goes; our fusion with 21st Century carbon graphene technology, resulting in a remarkable natural highly certified mineral paint, benefitting from Class 1 strength. Like an acrylic, yet without any of the negatives, VOC’s, micro-beads etc. Also, our embedded carbon profile is far lower than other paints companies, referring to those very few brands who have actually bothered to independently certify their results. We are well under one-fifth of those that have, so we travel lightly on the planet.  And finally Price; we’re highly competitive.  The true cost of paint is not the price per litre but the price per metre square, on the wall.  It depends on yield and the graphene provides huge spreadability and adhesion. On this bases, we are perhaps the best value mineral paint on the market while offering so many powerful additional benefits… Take note – beware of the paints ‘greenwash’; those brands that focus your attention, for example, on removing plastics from oceans and planting trees… all good stuff but making no reference at all to the paint itself that they sell, or ingredients used, how they are sourced, or indeed their production processes! These new brands are the ‘Kings New Clothes’. Instead, look for genuine, recognised independent certifications, like Cradle to Cradle Institute, Eurofins, Green Tag and other established, ‘harm-free’ product evaluation agencies. As Reagan used to say in his dealings with the Russians, ’Trust but Verify’, when selecting your decoration brands…”

ABOVE: Basil’s Bar, Mustique

C&B: “How has your lifestyle changed since you started Graphenstone?“
PF: “Getting involved in a brand so focused on sustainability inevitably leads to questions about your own lifestyle.  So I’m now far more aware than before about the smaller things that we do, individually and as a family, to minimise our ecological impact.  Choice of cars, the way we get around (more public transport – trains and tubes, a scooter), using less water, turning lights off, not cutting the grass so often, leaving wild areas for birds and bugs. This year I see it in our local parks too, so welcome. These micro-impact decisions, when actioned by us all, genuinely make a difference of course.  It feels right to be aware of these small things, given the backdrop of our stark climate emergency and it would feel hypocritical when marketing a sustainable brand not to try to adopt the same principles, privately…”

C&B:Where have you seen your paints used to unusual effect?
PF: “We’ve collaborated on some amazing murals, for brands like Lindemans Wine and Tier Scooters, motivated by the air cleaning qualities of our paints, which absorb large amounts of CO2 as they dry and cure.  We’re now working on a huge mural with Yinka Ilori commissioned by Facebook for their new London HQ at Brock St, using our paints. They’ve been used by local artists under the railway arches in Tower Hamlets, in dramatic style on big buildings in Basildon, on beautiful pieces of furniture by some wonderful designers like ROOME London and Patience & Gough. Most recently, our colours are adorning large art pieces, painted directly onto walls in signature restaurants, as far north as Glasgow and down south, in places like Harrogate and Cambridge too. The scope and breadth of opportunities for the Graphenstone brand traverses art, commercial, residential, heritage and industrial. It’s a rare thing to have a product which can be used across the entire sector, yet deliver a complete 180 degree turnaround from the usual vinyl and acrylic based products, on both health and the circular economy…”

ABOVE: Graphenstone paint chart (left); Patrick on holiday with his English rose… (right)

C&B:How do you think colour affects wellbeing?
PF: “Colour has a huge impact on us all, influencing both emotion and behaviour. Apparently, we respond to colour based on our personal experience, while culture and context can also play a role.  Look at the impact of colour choice for example in an office space; too many stimulating, powerful shades and there’s nowhere for staff to take a break, from their typically stressed working day.  So, to support a healthy environment, it’s better to prioritise a balance of cool and warm colours in the workplace—with relaxing colours taking precedence in spaces designated for focus, peace and contemplation.  This creates areas for people to ‘cool’ down mentally and relax, for greater wellbeing. It’s not just colour that impacts on wellbeing however. Biophilic design, which embraces humans long held genetic affinity with nature, also plays a key role here.  Healthy indoor air quality, plants and greenery, natural textures and surfaces, water features and good views of nature, can all impact hugely on job satisfaction, concentration, absenteeism and performance.  Given that people are single the largest overhead for most companies, CEO’s should note that the financial benefits of these Biophilic design concepts can be hugely beneficial to their bottom line, far outweighing the extra costs.  Paint in a large commercial project equates to somewhere in the region of just 0.2% of total construction costs, yet will be visible in up to 80% of the interior!  So choose it wisely, with the health of your people in mind and it will pay disproportionately big dividends…”

We’re very proud to have recently launched a co-branded paints collaboration with Rose Uniacke, a hugely influential force in the design world. For her debut collection, Rose curated a range of fourteen wonderful colours in our air-purifying paints, for a ‘refined backdrop’, to offer to her ultra high net worth clients, which include David and Victoria Beckham. Rose has a beautiful new showroom in Pimlico where you can now mull over your colour preferences and view all her other exquisite designs!”


C&B: “Do the Pantone ‘colours of the year’ have any impact on the choices your customers make?
PF: “The UK paints market has to be the most saturated in the world, so many brands and an overwhelming range of colours too. Given the marketing muscle of the long established plastic giants of the paints trade, then I’m sure the varied ‘colours of the year’ that they select might have an impact on sales of their own colour ranges. We don’t get involved in this.  Instead we focus on our core strength of sustainability; the most certified ‘harm-free’ paints brand in the world, while offering over 1000 shades of colour and matching to any specific shade requirements you might have too. It’s about so much more than just colour these days, however our most popular colours are off-whites, and red based neutrals. Warm and easy to use, in combination with more vivid colours, to add a splash of energy. For example, ‘Alabaster’, ‘Porcelaine’, ‘Linwood’ are Graphenstone colours amongst many that sell in bigger volumes just now. A personal favourite is ‘Cinnabar’, a deliciously powerful, deep rich emphatic red!”

ABOVE: Daniel Craig wears John Smedley; Rami Malek wears PRADA on the red carpet

C&B:On a personal note, where did you buy your clothes and which designers do you prefer?
PF: “I’m a sucker for quality, whatever the price. I’ve aways loved zip up sweater designs by John Smedley, they’re so elegant and last for ages. Occasionally I’ll splash out on Prada if it’s understated, because the quality is always so good.  Day to day stuff, I do like my local Uniqlo.  Great value, their thin cotton sweaters offer gorgeous colours, linen shirts are ridiculously cheap, as are their very smart shorts for summer. Why pay more?  A long time back I used to love Gucci, but their style has evolved so much that very little chimes with my tastes nowadays. I do buy quite a bit on holidays, since it’s essential to be in the mood to shop and I almost never am, when I’m at home in London fully focused on building a business…”

C&B:Do you consider yourself to be a town person or country person?
PF: “There’s such satisfaction from both isn’t there? I have spent much of my working life fortunate enough to have a place in both London and the country.  I used to love arriving late on a Thursday night in the cool, dark starry nights of the countryside, breathing in the air and calm.  Equally, the buzz of driving back into action-packed London early in the week, with so much on offer to entertain and enjoy.  But deep down, after spending all my childhood in the green of the west country, this is where my heart lies and where I’ll certainly end up…”

C&B:Living in the country, most people have a dog or a cat; do you have any?
PF: “Yes, like most Englishmen, I’m nuts about animals. About five years ago I lost ‘Nestor‘, by then an aged, but hugely loved, Airedale Terrier (above, left) – what a ‘King of Dogs‘ he was. Just before he barked his last, he and I were out walking near Aix-en-Provence and we heard a tiny squeak by the side of the little country road. A vole I thought, maybe four inches long, eyes closed, As it squeaked again and slowly padded in the direction of the road, I quickly realised it was a tiny abandoned kitten, just one day old, and I automatically scooped it up and headed smartly for home, with Nestor expressing equal interest! That was the end of our peace and quiet; every two hours, day and night for a month and a half, my wife and I took over the role of ‘mother’ with a bottle of milk; precocious and funny as hell, these days our French moggie pretends to be domesticated but is in fact still pretty feral and free. And we’re all totally smitten. The way cats move, her grace, glide and power is something that still stops me in my tracks in wonder.  Meanwhile, to add some further juice to home life, we’ve just taken delivery of a Cockerpoo (below, right) – words can’t describe this perfect package of gorgeousness!  For our cat however, the jury remains firmly out, although there are small signs of a thaw in relations. The arrival of this small creature all those years ago hugely eased the pain of losing our dog, so my emphatic tip is to bring in a new pet, if an older one is on the way out. It hugely helps softens the blow…”

C&B:Which is your favourite hotel anywhere in the world?
PF: “These days I really appreciate the off-beat, far less of the grand lux. One of favourites is a hotel that if you drove past it, you might just keep going. But pull in, walk through reception to the North African styled beach side hotel overlooking the Moroccan coast and you’ll be converted. I’ve been going on and off to The Hurricane Hotel (below, left) in Tarifa for 25 years and spent part of my honeymoon there. Two oceans and two continents collide at this very spot. High energy abounds. Costa de la Luz, the coast of light is also matched in wind energy, long beaches and that dynamism of youth, with kite surfers blazing their course from the beach, right out into the Straits of Gibraltar and hopefully back again. The staff have remained almost the same, the food is copious, delicious and simple, grilled fish and meets, freshest of salads and delicious rich Spanish reds. Down the coast just a kilometre or two are the sand dunes of Valdevaqueros and one of the most fun beach bar scenes I know. Perfect if like me, you have older kids, who want to party too!  The area has some special hidden away restaurants up high in the surrounding hills, with views that are as magical as any I’ve seen anywhere in the world, looking down at golden hour over the long winding Spanish coastline, and over the water to North Africa. What’s not to like, it’s an inexpensive, natural gem of place…I like to holiday anywhere with a beach; I love being by the sea, the food, the views, the air, the energy. Islands are my favourite of course; I enjoyed an amazing holiday on Canouan many years ago, a lesser knows but beautiful island, in St. Vincent and the Grenadines – my kids still talk about it but, despite all the good intentions, we’ve not yet found our way back. Perhaps it’s because some holidays would be impossible to improve upon, so we keep the precious memories pristine and untarnished and moved on somewhere new!”

C&B:Which is your favourite local restaurant?
PF: “I enjoy trying new places more than a regular haunt. Recently I went to a wonderful Spanish restaurant called ‘Lurra’, in Seymour Place (above, right), great vibe and delicious food with some colourful specials! Another memorable dish was at gastro-pub ‘The Abingdon’, W8, a dish of hake which was perfection and in the most relaxed and easy of settings, the perfect combination for me…”

C&B:Which music do you listen to you and are you a fan of the Stones?
PF: “Central to my life, is my music. As a small boy, I was a St Paul’s Cathedral chorister, one of just 38 boys in the whole school, performing 8 times a week in that iconic building. Our audience sometimes included The Queen and her family, Prime Ministers amongst other VIP’s, a unique experience and a period of my younger life utterly immersed in music.  My taste is very wide these days, ranging from Gregorian chants, though choral, opera, Spanish guitar, ‘chill-out’, jazz, classical and I still enjoy a wide variety of pop and other contemporary artists. It has to touch my mood or my soul in some way, as so much music can and what a gift is is!  I once had an extraordinary dinner at Basil’s bar in Mustique in the early 1990’s, eight of us including the owner Basil Charles, as well as David Bowie, (I once had the opportunity to visit their extraordinary ‘Mandalay’ home) and I sat opposite Mick Jagger.  I’ve no idea what we talked about, since it was all pretty surreal for a Wiltshire country boy, so while I remember it, I’m certain he won’t!  Needless to say, ‘Tattoo You’ and other great albums by the Stones reside in my ever expanding iTunes library. Paint in Black? Well this is the colour of graphene, so it simply couldn’t be more appropriate…”

ABOVE: The doors of Hotel Costes in Paris, calligraphy by Betty Soldi, soap for 2022 by LOEWE

BELOW: Black is enhanced with strategic lighting in hallways and on stairs…moody, elegant, dramatic and sensual…

Black, white, graphite… a luxurious combination, perfect for Autumn/Winter decor

Black is the perfect counterfoil to nature and provides a dramatic backdrop for contemporary art


INSTAGRAM: @graphenstonepaintsuk

* A selection of images in this piece may not show the product featured and are used for illustration purposes only.

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