A client of mine just came back from England raving about her friend’s natural paint company Annie Sloan.

Paint, a substance you put onto another surface, usually acts as protection and an aesthetic. Natural paint can be many things but needs to have the same basic elements: a binder, a base and optional color.

The binder holds the paint together so that it stays on the surface and the ingredients don’t separate. This can be wood glue, casein, egg yolk, wheat gluten, blood, certain oils or anything else that dries hard and is adhesive.

A base, aka filler, gives the paint body and substance. This can be chalk, earth, clay, rock powder, or any other inert substance that gives the paint body.

The color can be anything that gives color. It can be colors from earth minerals such as iron (red) or sulfur (yellow)  for example. Or paint color can be color extracted from plants, flowers, roots, seeds, and spices.

For most of human history this is how paint was made. All the great paintings in our museums used variations on the above formula.

It is only recently with our recent fascination with science have we fallen into the monochrome assumption that paint is some complicated chemical you buy in a can from the hardware store and anything else isn’t really paint.

Well paint companies like Annie Sloan or Milk Paint are changing that. Annie Sloan is a chalk based clay. Milk Paint is a casein based paint. You have other paint companies with clay base such as Earth Paint.

These paints have a less electric look because of the natural colors they use. And they tend to be more satin or matt because they don’t have chemical hardeners.

This changes the look a little. Annie Sloan calls the look “Shabby Chic French Look”.

Whatever you call it visually there is no doubt the paints are much easier on the environment to produce and much healthier to live with. We use them at Eco Brooklyn.

When we are pressed for time and budget we resort to some easier to get paints from the local stores since the natural paints still have to ordered by mail.

These more chemical paints are nonVOC which is better than nothing. They are still filled with chemicals but in theory the chemicals are kept in the paint and don’t off gas.

My current favorite is Olympic paint from Lowes. It is zero voc and very affordable. I use this for all Eco Brooklyn clients who have a tight budget. When the budget permits I may suggest Benjamin Moore Aura paint which is also very good, probably better in quality than Olympic. But it is three times the price.