Traditional Paints

Hare and Humphreys are experienced in using all types of traditional paints, many of which require special techniques to handle and apply. We also source and make other traditional materials including distempers, limewash and linseed oil paints which are often bespoke paints, hand mixed on site to recreate historic interiors.

 The development of unique colours with modern paints is also possible and often desirable due to their durability, or where it is not possible to use the traditional materials.

Limewash and Distemper

Traditional distemper is breathable and non toxic, with exceptional visual qualities. The velvety texture and ability to take strong colour pigment meant that it was often used in historic churches. However distemper is being increasingly used in historic and contemporary residences where real depth of colour and texture is required which cannot be achieved using modern paints.

Distemper and lime wash are normally used in conjunction with buildings that have been lime plastered. Both materials require specific skills and experienced decorators to apply them properly.

Hare and Humphreys decorators can make pure distemper in the traditional way on site, utilising animal glue and chalk if necessary; but we also use highest quality prepared distemper and lime wash if required.

Lead Paints, Flat oil and Traditional Oil Paint

Lead painting, which can only be used on Grade 1 and Grade 2* buildings, is technically demanding requiring many skilled processes to get the traditional flatted lead finish. Painters need to be protected in order to use the lead and flat oil paints and must follow procedures to prevent ingestion of lead. Hare and Humphreys painters are highly qualified and experienced in doing this demanding job. All are well used to working as part of multi-disciplinary teams and follow all the legislative safety requirements when working with prescribed paints.

The use of traditional lead paints and flat oils in traditional buildings is now restricted, requiring special permissions from English Heritage via the paint manufacturer. Flat oils also need to be authorised (since Jan 2011) via the paint supplier. This is due to the VOC and REACH regulations

Our interior and exterior plain painting & decorating finishes are all of the highest quality and are mainly created by brush to maintain a period feel. We will use lead paints where applicable, that is where we are repainting historic surfaces and the listing of the building allows for the use of lead paint.



  • Ceiling at the British Galleries, V&A Museum
  • Distemper and gilding applied to Lee Priory ceiling, V & A Museum
  • Limewash effect, Sutton Place
  • Lead paint used in Norfolk House Music Room, V&A Museum.
  • Lead paints were used at St Edmundsbury Cathedral
  • Lead Paint was applied to the exterior of Brighton Pavilion (image courtesy of Paul Punter)