What’s In A (Paint) Name? Benjamin Moore Fills Us In

Century Thistle
Century Thistle

While perusing the 75 colors in Benjamin Moore’s new soft-touch matte paint line, Century, I noticed handfuls of colors named after foods.

There’s Acai, a deep purple comparable to the base of those colorful smoothie bowls all over Instagram; Saffron, a yellow-orange that recalls colors of the harvest; Allspice Berry, a light brown reminiscent of the rich, peppery flavors of the seasoning–and that’s just for starters. Other colors, such as Golden Currant, Wild Caraway, Chia Seed and Anise, also make up the small-batch interior paint collection, which has been rolling out across the country this spring.

As an editor who’s happy to spend weekends experimenting in the kitchen, I began wondering about the origin of these cuisine-inspired monikers–and what the naming process must be like for a paint behemoth that has designated thousands of colors since its start in 1883.

“It’s more involved, I think, than people realize,” explains Andrea Magno, a Benjamin Moore color and design expert.

In the case of a newly developed palette line, a core team of six people is assigned to researching and proposing a list of options that fit each collection’s aesthetic vibe. Those names are then presented to several other teams involved in giving the final okay. The whole process takes about two months.

For Century, the team started by thinking about Renaissance artists and craftsmen and what they would’ve used to create natural pigments for their works. “What’s something that could be ground up with a mortar and pestle?” Magno says. “Everything is intended to come back to that idea.”

With that in mind, it makes sense that minerals like magnetite (imagined as a smooth, charcoal gray in the collection) and flowering plants like sumac (a deep crimson red) are also represented in the collection.

While the names of the colors are certainly entertaining on their own, the real wow-factor in this line–hands-down–is the touch of the finish.

Skeptical of press materials that compared the feel of a wall painted with Century to that of a soft leather glove, I made it my first order of business to march up to the displays during the launch reception at The Breakers Palm Beach and run my fingers across the swatches.

A South Florida paint distributor must’ve noticed my child-like fascination and approached me to say he shared my admiration. I, too, watched as groups of designers put down their wine glasses to get an up-close experience with the mid-tone blues, emeralds, crimsons and other rich colors.

“We don’t have any whites that are included, and that’s really to set the focus on those deeper hues,” Magno says.

Determined to stray away from the grays and tans prevalent throughout my home, I’m definitely considering adding some Celeste Fig on my kitchen walls.