What is your background?
I was born in Milan. At the age of 20, I travelled to London to learn and study English and at the end of 1989 I moved to Sydney, Australia.
How did you become the #colourwoman?
By a stroke of pure chance and luck! In Sydney, I started working for Porter’s Paints, the only manufacturer of traditional paint finishes in Australia. This is where I discovered my talent for making and combining colours and textures and colour matching – I finally found what I wanted to do and be.
Since discovering my passion through Porter's Paints, I travelled the world looking for colours, their origins and their use.
When did you launch Francesca’s Paints?
After 7 years as colourist and manager of various Porter’s Paints shops throughout the Sydney suburbs, I returned to London. I launched Francesca’s Paints in November 1996 and we are one of the first eco-friendly paint companies in the UK. Eventually, we had to extend our ranges to include conventional paint (eco paints can’t be touched or scrubbed). We care greatly for our planet and are continually evolving our production techniques, colouring and packaging.
What do you love most about your work?
I am often told that when it comes to colours, I know exactly what my clients want – a wonderful compliment! I really understand colours and the mood and energies my clients associate with them. I am comfortable and at ease in making unique, elegant and naturally beautiful colours. I am passionate about this craft and process; transmitting joy through vibrant colours brings me so much happiness.
'Francesca is brilliant at colour matching and I feel so excited to be working with her and using the delicious combinations of her chalky textures and beautiful colours.'
- Elise Ovanesoff, worksarchitecture.com
'I was charmed by Francesca's colour charts and how she developed the colours from her love of travel, bringing the feel of the places that she visited into her paints.'
- Jenny Phillips, Dragonfly Design
'Francesca's passion for her work restores the nuance of colour to our lives . . . It matters a great deal to us that Francesca has created her palettes and paints with such sensitivity to the environment.'
- Sally Thompson - Best Client - Manor Owner
I spent the whole month of January 1999 in Mexico, seeing the lime wash in all its splendour, seeking inspiration and buying recipe books for traditional paint finishes and pigments.
February - March 2020 Surrounded by nature, we stayed in a beautiful jungle lodge on Isla de Bastimentos off Panama, to do yoga and Pilates. The scenery varies from mangrove to open sea, and the lush jungle is filled with plants growing on plants and so many shades of green. A car-free island, we saw birds I’ve never encountered, red and green frogs, snakes, big spiders weaving gigantic, artistic webs, monkeys, caimans, butterflies and fireflies at night. The colours everywhere are both strong and gentle.
As it happened, the first cases of Coronavirus were already there. When we arrived at the little airport, a made-up doctor checked our temperature. We returned to London just in time, before lockdown.
What is happening to our lives – have we lost our freedom? In yoga there is a saying: Adjust, Adapt and Accommodate, which seems very pertinent now.
August 2018 Numana, in Le Marche, Italy. It’s always inspiring to see my artist friend in her house by the sea. Surrounded by her art and the sea, three meters from the house, we enjoyed long swims, beach yoga and great food. This is the life.
December 2006 I travelled to Venice. Apart from being one of the most striking and romantic cities in the world, it is also the kingdom of lime wash. Fantastic to see the effectiveness of the lime wash in humidity and damp. The colours are broken and textured and the effect is striking.
October 2019: A wonderful stay at Masseria Mangiamuso, close to Ostuni, Puglia. Famous for its whitewashed Old Town, the Masseria is owned by my ex-boss, the unique Peter Lewis, founder of Porter's Paints, Australia. Peter bought the Masseria with a friend and transformed it into a stylish, comfortable, beautiful abode. It is enormous but cosy and so well designed. The swimming pool is perfect and painted in black. The colour of the water is deep blue. A magical place; the food in the region is a dream and still 28 degrees in October, a perfect late summer. I also went to Matera, a city on a rocky outcrop in the region of Basilicata, only 2 hours away. It includes the Sassi area, a complex of cave dwellings carved into the mountainside, where some scenes from the latest James Bond movie were filmed. It is breath taking. A city where life was extremely hard, it was built to catch water and every last drop is saved and used.
September 2016 A week in an unspoiled area of Calabria, southern Italy. Alive with tradition, it’s like living in a different century.
June 2013 Drove from Taormina down to Porto Palo, a southern point in Sicily. Loved the city of Noto, where the Baroque style was born and stylish Ragusa. Beautiful beaches, blue sea and the food is to die for. We all came back a bit heavier!
In September 2006 I went to beautiful Ginostra. I climbed the Volcano and discovered more pigments. I also enjoyed exploring Palermo with its incredible architecture, people and food.
In August 2004 I went to Ginostra, in the active volcanic island of Stromboli, north of Sicily. With the help of a volcanologist, I retrieved pigments from the volcano. I found red oxide and yellow oxide, and I learnt some more techniques for colouring natural paints.
September 2010 Explored inland Sardinia. The Nuraghi are absolutely fascinating; developed during the Nuragic Age between 1900-730 BC, they are Sardinia’s predominant ancient megalithic edifice. It is now the symbol of Sardinia and its distinctive culture, the Nuragic civilization. We climbed inside one and it was spectacular!
March 2019 I went to Andalusia for a week of detoxing, yoga and meditation. Both my mind and body feel so sharp after this. We stayed in the mountains – wonderful chilly mornings, arising early for meditation. No noise, only birdsong.
In December 2007 I went to Andalusia: Seville, the white villages and Granada. An incredibly beautiful and stylish place. The Moorish influence is fantastically delicate and elegant; it is a joy to see how lime wash is used in the most incredible wonders of the world.
August 2019: I escaped to Mallorca, which is one of my favourite places to visit. For me, it has the best sea in Europe. The sea is so deep it looks purple. I like to dive in to the sea - the best way to get into the water – and spend hours there.
December 2018 I went to India, North of Cochin in the wonderful Ashram of Swami Govindananda (www.sivanandapeetham.org), the best place to recharge our batteries. Surrounded by rice fields, speckled with white herons. We drank water from the well and milk from the cows living in the fields nearby. The quietest and cleanest part of India I have ever seen.
September-October 2017 Three weeks in India – the first two weeks I spent in a Gurukulam, founded by Swami Tattvarupananda Saraswati near Thrissur. Gurukula is a type of residential schooling system in India with shishya (students) living near or with the guru, in the same house.
Janaka Janani Kripa Gurukulam Trust (JJK Gurukulam Trust) is a social service-oriented body, engaged in providing education and a home for children of less privileged and dysfunctional families. I was so impressed by the pure and spiritual upbringing of these wonderful girls and decided to make a new collection, the ‘JJK Gurukulam Collection’, dedicated to the girls I met here. Each colour has a girl's name and 10% of the profit from this collection will go towards the Gurukulam.
The last week I spent in an Ashram in Trivandrum, doing yoga and meditation. I love Ashram's life. I love the discipline, the routine, the order it gives to the mind. Sensational food and great yoga, of course.
In February 2009 I went to Madurai, India, to stay in an ashram and learn more about yoga and its philosophy. I am deeply in love with this country. Everything about India is beautiful, spiritual and colourful and I cannot get enough!!!!
In November 2005 I went to India, visiting Kerala. I can’t seem to stay away from this amazing country. I always discover new things; colours, people, yoga and ayurvedic treatments. Fantastic!
November 2016 Spent three weeks in the Himalayas in India doing an intense, life-changing yoga program. I LOVE INDIA. It inspires me endlessly.
September 2015 Spent two weeks in an Ashram in the Himalayas - such an unspoilt and magical place, where I studied Vedanta philosophy and yoga.
January 2010 I went to Varanasi, one of the most magical and spiritual sights in India. An amazing experience, I was incredibly touched by it all. Then we travelled to Goa, to celebrate Camillo’s 60th birthday. We have been working together for 10 years and he is a saint and the pillar of the company. Many happy returns!
February 2009 A trip to Madurai, India. I stayed in an ashram and learnt more about yoga and its philosophy. I am deeply in love with this country. Everything about India is beautiful, spiritual, and colourful – I cannot get enough!
In January 2000, I went to Kerala, India and Sri Lanka for another full 'immersion' of colours, pigments, texture, temples Buddhas, and sandy beaches.
Summer 1996 Nepal to North India, After seven wonderful, life-changing years in Sydney, I told my friend Carlo I was thinking of returning to London via Asia. He was planning a round-the-world trip by motorbike, and so we agreed to meet in Kathmandu, Nepal.
What a city! Traffic and temples, Buddha’s eyes and cars. Highest mountains and pollution. Magical, mystical and noisy. And then our motorbike adventure began. We rode to Pokhara, I loved the lake. We hired a little boat and spent hours in the middle of the lake surrounded by mountains, laughing and joking. We carried on towards North India. We arrived in Lucknow, a sweet colonial elegant city, then Agra and the Taj Mahal and the fort . . . am I dreaming? It was mind-blowingly beautiful.
We later ventured to Rajastan, to the colour master in Jaipur, the pink city. I took a course specialising in the uses and applications of pigments and oxides – this is a dream come true!
Then we rode to Jodhpur (Blue City) and Jaisalmer (Golden City). Is this for real? Then Delhi. OMG. The traffic, the people, the animals, the Tata lorries, the tuk-tuks, the monkeys, the cows, the children, people carrying fridges on their foreheads. All in the same road as you! Finally, we went up towards Manali, via Shimla, the ecological City in Kullu Valley and then we rode to Leh, in Ladakh. We went through the second highest passage in the world, reaching 5700 meters. We trekked around Leh and went to Dharamshala; it was so spiritually charged.
We rode back to Manali and I flew back to Milan to say HI to my family, before continuing to London. Carlo carried on by motorbike to Africa, with his trip ending in South Africa in 1997 before returning to live in Italy. I was the only passenger he ever had, in his four-year trip around the world.
On 14th November 1996 I opened Francesca’s Paints, and my next glorious adventure began.
Easter 2019 Paris - what a wonderful city. Notre Dame is burnt and black and looks powerful and tragic. Every time, I discover something new by walking for miles. I just love Paris.
June 2018 Travelled to Nimes to see my favourite client in her beautiful house, which is painted with our lime wash. Enjoyed lovely lunches, dinners and the local flea markets.
October 2014 I went to the Ashram in the Loire Valley, France, for a week of intensive yoga to recharge the batteries.
From April till May 2006 I spent a month in an Ashram in the Loire Valley for a deep immersion in spiritual life. I discovered yoga over a year ago and now my life revolves around it. (www.sivananda.org/london). I was interested in the study and use of colours here. Everything has a specific meaning, for example, yellow is the colour of learning, white symbolises purity, and so on . . .
May 2018 Flew to the Azores for 10 days of Yoga in the dramatic landscape on the island of Sao Miguel. Went whale watching – how incredibly exciting to see them playing with dolphins. The sea is 3000 meters deep and purple blue. Very beautiful.
January 2018 A great start to the year with a trip to the Bahamas to the Sivananda Ashram for more yoga, meditation and detox. The weather was not fantastic but the colours, the air, the vegetation, the sea . . . all wonderful. I am a lucky lady. Travelling enriches my soul.
August 2017 Snowdonia once again for more yoga and healthy living. The land there is so sacred and pure; so many shades of green. Perfect for dog walking.
August 2016 Snowdonia. What a wonderful, pure place. Perfect for walking, enjoying fresh air and clearing the mind. I think I saw every shade of green imaginable.
May 2017 Travelled to Ibiza to see a client’s property painted with our glorious colours, it looks brilliant. Lovely island, still quiet because it’s early season. Such beautiful pink and yellow flowers, this is the first time I’ve seen the island so green and lush.
March 2017 Spent 10 days doing Yoga in South Thailand in a Buddhist Centre. Beautiful. Long empty beaches, blue sea and strong sun. Golden Buddhas, amazing temples, lots of bold colours like RED and GOLD. Great healthy food. A peaceful, clean and magical place.
January- February 2016 The rugged rainforests of Costa Rica, where I enjoyed stunning beaches, volcanoes and biodiversity. A quarter of its area is made up of protected jungle, incredibly rich with wildlife, including spider monkeys and birds. Loved the hummingbirds. Such amazing colours.
November 2015 Istanbul for my 50th birthday celebration! What a city, where East meets West. I loved the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and the Bazaar.
February 2015. Wonderful Copenhagen! So many colourful areas, painted in strong ochres and oranges in the lime wash! We also went to Amass, the best restaurant ever, where we sampled nine courses paired with wine.
August 2014 Freedom and fun in beautiful Mykonos. Turquoise sea, brown rocks, fresh food and a lot of swimming.
December 2013 Went to Iceland in search of the Northern Lights, unfortunately I didn’t see them but I enjoyed this beautiful country. Reykjavik is such a stylish city, where globalisation hasn’t struck as yet; no McDonalds, H&M or Zara, but independent, chic shops, beautiful friendly people, and just outside Reykjavik the spaces are incredible. Interesting light, I loved it. Blue Lagoon Iceland is a dream, it is a place where the powers of geothermal seawater create transformational spa journeys.
June 2012 Morocco – my first time in Marrakesh. I loved this pink lime washed city; the smell, the colours, and the morning prayers. We then went up the Atlas Mountains, to cool down in Imlil. Our very pleasant stay finished in Essaouria, in the same hotel as Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones. A very stylish old house with amazing views of the Atlantic. Loved the Gnawa music.
2011 Spent a long time in Guangzhou, China working on a very interesting project there.
I went to Dubai for a week in November 2006 to see Index 2006, the Interior Design Trade Fair. Interesting place. 50% of the world’s cranes are in Dubai. The biggest construction site I’ve ever seen!
In January 2005 I visited Antigua. I was most interested in trying to recreate the beautiful turquoises and blues, but these hues cannot really be used with the cold light of the UK. They look so fantastic in warm light – I learnt a lot about how Caribbean people use colours.
January 2004 Six weeks spent in the North East of Brazil. I visited the Amazons and got in touch with some local indigenous tribes, so I could learn about their colouration methods, including colours made with native plants and leaves.
January 2002 An adventure to Cameroon, Africa, for five weeks learning new colouring techniques with natural plants and flowers.
January 2003 I travelled across Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. Visually, it was one of the most colourful and incredible trips I’ve ever made. An abundance of textures and colours, which kept changing with the sunlight – very inspirational.
May 2009 A month spent in Mozambique. What a country! Travelled to the Illa de Mozambique, Tofu, Maputo and Kruger National Park. Beautiful colours, adorable people.
In 2001, I spent the month of January in sunny Australia. I loved being back – it is my second home.