Colorhouse Creates Environmentally-Safe Paints for an Online Market
Founded in 2005, Colorhouse is the brainchild of two artists who decided to create “healthier paint and better color.” Virginia Young and Janie Lowe started a painting business in Portland, Oregon called YOLO Paint, and quickly realized that the paints they were working with left something to be desired.
“Because we were breathing, touching, and working with paint everyday, we became concerned (and a bit obsessed) about what was in the water-based paints we were using,” they said. “As time went on, we began feeling grumpy at the end of our workdays with headaches and sore throats. This motivated us to research paint in more detail.
“As we looked into what was in paint, we learned that there were a lot of toxic chemicals, even in the water-based paints we were using. Our search for healthier paint options pointed us to the vibrant green building community – a grassroots community that is about sharing knowledge and pushing the envelope on building materials that are better for us and the planet.”
The two artists learned how to make their own paints with clay and rice paste. Realizing that this pared-down approach to paint was not only time consuming, but costly and impractical for clients, they began talking to both paint and “green” chemists in order to create a formula that had the performance qualities they demanded without all of the chemicals found in traditional paints.
Today, Colorhouse offers low-odor paints that have premium performance and contain no VOCs (volatile organic compounds), no reproductive toxins, no chemical solvents, and no toxic fumes/HAPs-free. From packaging to paint, Colorhouse's focus is on sustainability. In a further show of its commitment to being "green," Colorhouse paints are manufactured in the only LEED Gold Paint facility in the US.
In October 2014, Colorhouse released its Chalkboard paint. Chalkboard paint combines 10 harmonious colors with a zero VOC Chalkboard formulation. It is available in the following artist-crafted colors: WOOL .05, WOOL .06, GLASS .05, GLASS .06, METAL .05, STONE .06,METAL .06, WOOD .05, WOOD .04, NOURISH .06
According to the company, its Chalkboard paints have been well-received among both "moms and DIY’ers."
Recently, the company broke into the lifestyle category with the exclusive color palette for Rejuvenation, a regional rollout in action with Home Depot stores in NY and Chicago, and it is pioneering selling paint online for both The Home Depot and Amazon. This is a remarkable accomplishment for a multi-billion dollar industry that has, even today, relied heavily on its brick-and-mortar stores.
Yolo Colorhouse Paints
Question from Lauren
Dear Debra & Readers,
We recently painted our interiors with Yolo Colorhouse Paints. It is supposed to be Zero VOC and we even went out of our way to tint it with Zero VOC (from a Eco store not Kelly Moore). I know Zero VOC does not mean Zero Toxicity. I usually do my homework but this time I didn’t do my usual due diligence. We didn’t choose dark colors, the colors we picked were Air 01, 03 & 04 and Leaf 01, most were in eggshell, baseboards done in semigloss and we used their transitional primer for the baseboard, and part of the kitchen as it had oil based paint prior (just a few areas). Anyway, it was painted over the past Memorial Day weekend and most of it was done by Sunday of that weekend. A few days later, it still wreaked paint, I could only be in the house for a few minutes as it would trigger respiratory issues and a migraine that wouldn’t quit. So, we tried Debra’s bake out method for 3 days and airing out for 4 days (with fans blowing etc). Not knowing, we did leave a few cracks open in the window. Debra’s bake out method was very helpful and I was able to be there for an hour before my body started to react. Every day, it is improving. I did contact the retailer who swore it is nontoxic, I was surprised she thought that, she thinks Zero VOC means Zero Toxicity (not realizing that there is unregulated VOCs that could be in there).
I finally contacted Yolo and they asked for batch numbers and even want me to ship some samples back. I was impressed with their willingness to look deeper. However, they say there is no solvents and they can’t understand why I am reacting. They share that they normally do well with the chemically sensitive which was news to me.
They sell these poster size paint samples (painted by real people which was impressive) and when the paint was mixed they actually painted it on my poster to match the color, what was odd was that splash of paint they put on to match the poster sample still smelled a week later. Normally, I would have painted only one room or just put a little patch on the wall before painting an entire home (so unlike me to do this). I think the fact that someone I knew painted their home with conventional paint and I barely noticed the smell… made me illogically think that Zero VOC must be even better!? The good news is that the empty paint can after 9 days stopped emitting, the house is smelling better, I can now stay in for a few hours but a long way from living there 24/7 (we are still living in a hotel). I live in San Francisco Bay area (Peninsula) so the weather is mild. I wonder if anyone else had this experience with Yolo paints. I spoke with someone who recommended that I wash the walls with baking soda (wipe down), using 2 buckets (clean vs. dirty bucket method) which I will try this weekend. I do feel like it will improve a matter of weeks as every day it seems to dramatically change but I am still puzzled why the conventional paint my friend used did not smell after one day!
Yolo I found out later is manufactured by Kelly Moore in Hurst Texas… had I known this prior I would not have purchased Yolo… this makes sense why Kelly Moore sells the line even though I did not buy it there (I bought it from a Eco type store that uses Zero VOC tints). Yolo claims that Kelly Moore is only their toll manufacturer and Kelly Moore produces to their spec and claims it is not a Kelly Moore product. But, it’s not hard to wonder since Kelly Moore is not a “eco” or green or health minded company. Hmmm….
Wondering if anyone else had this experience with Yolo? Yolo also claims that acrylic resin is the same as latex paint, I thought they were different!
Yolo Colorhouse Outside Paint from Yolo Colorhouse LLC
by Paul J. Anderson
“We collect lichens, and matched one of our greens to this lichen, our sage, and really studied the way that the color of water in the ocean changes throughout the day with different light on it,” she says. “We collected clay from the Painted Hills in central Oregon for color inspiration.”
Yolo Outside is Green Seal certified for durability, performance and manufacturing practices and free of volatile organic compounds. According to Yolo, the formula sprays out well, and has excellent coverage, hide, durability and color retention.
But performance aside, Yolo Outside’s best selling point may be its color palette. There are 36 colors, carefully selected and grouped for coordination. “We mixed the colors and tweaked them outside, using the garage in my backyard as a test strip,” says Lowe. “We set up swatches of colors all over my garage, on all sides of this garage, so that you could see what the colors looked like outside, in full sunlight.”
The Yolo Outside palette is divided into six themed “families” of six colors each: Cloud, Prairie, Forest, Ocean, Desert and Canyon. For color testing, Yolo offers quarts of Outside so contractors may paint sample swatches on a substrate.
“We want it to be beautiful first, so people choose it for the colors, and then they have this added value that they’re doing better for their family’s health and for the environment,” says Lowe.
The exterior collection is based on the same technology as Yolo Colorhouse interior paints, a line of 100 percent acrylic latex paints with 40 percent volume solids.
Yolo Colorhouse LLC was founded by Lowe and her business partner Virginia Young. Both have backgrounds in fine arts and had been running a specialty finishing business for several years when they began creating their own low-VOC paints. Once they saw the value in combining their color expertise with emerging paint technologies, they started a new business and partnered with a manufacturer. Yolo Colorhouse launched its first 40 interior colors in 2005.
Keith Gannon of Gannon Custom Painting, a Portland, Ore. contractor, who partners with Yolo to offer technical support, says Yolo Outside is on par with traditional paints. “The coverage is outstanding. Even the deeper neutral base colors cover really well. The leveling is great. It doesn’t pull and drag once the sun hits it. It doesn’t go off so fast that you can’t continue to work with it. It’s got really good working time. The sheen is accurate, and it’s even.”
Yolo paints’ Green Seal certification automatically qualifies them for use in LEED-certified projects. Lowe lists a few of Yolo’s other eco-friendly attributes. “All our marketing material, all of our packaging is with cardboard and 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper [and] soy-based inks. Our paint cans are 100 percent recycled plastic. We are shipping our paint with 20 percent biodiesel — we hope to improve that as time goes on. We try to make an environmental statement and impact with everything we do.”
The next step is persuading contractors and consumers that zero-VOC paints are for real, she says. “Paint contractors are a little bit skeptical because of the history of low-VOC paints. If they tried it back in the 1990s, they may not have had as good of luck, but the technology is there now.”
“I'm a one coat paint snob. So I like good quality paint. Wasn't sure at first if this was going to be it, since I was going with a lighter paint over a mid-blue color. But it dried beautifully and only had to do a few touch ups over some of the brush strokes. The quality is really outstanding. Will definitely be using again.”– Brenda –
Inspired Interior Paint
Colorhouse Inspired interior paints have superior coverage and durability, are self-priming, and 100% acrylic. Our paints are available in 3 sheens: Flat, Eggshell, and Semi-Gloss. For more information on VOCs, emissions, application, and ingredients, view Colorhouse PDS.Explore Colors
Dry to touch in 30-60 minutes; recoat after 2-4 hours.
Covers 350-400 square feet per gallon.
Wash tools with warm soapy water. Scrape excess paint before washing.
Store in a dry area. Protect from freezing.
“Awesome! I can't wait to paint something else! Paint chips were excellent guides, and the paint was so low-odor I never once got a headache even in a small enclosed room. The colours are magnificent and all we had hoped for.– Nadaleh, US –
Colorhouse Inspired Multi-Purpose Primer has excellent hide and adhesion. Our Primer is designed for many surfaces like new wallboard, raw wood, cured masonry and galvanized metal. For VOC, emissions, and application info click here.
Colorhouse Chalkboard paint turns any interior surface into a chalkboard! We encourage you to write on your walls with our durable chalkboard finish. Available in 10 striking Colorhouse hues. For VOC, emissions, and application information: View Colorhouse Chalkboard PDSExplore Chalkboard colors
Yolo Colorhouse Semigloss Interior Paint
Description from The Home Depot
The YOLO Colorhouse 1-Gallon Imagine.01 Semigloss Interior Paint # 433410 is a hue designed by artists to bring a restful feeling to walls, trim and ceilings. 1 can covers 350 – 400 sq. ft. and requires just 2 hours between re-coats. The paint resists mold and mildew growth to maintain a lasting, freshly painted appearance in high-moisture areas.
- Ideal for interior walls and trim
- 100% acrylic latex base is free of VOCs, air pollutants, phthalates, mutagens, ozone-depleting compounds, formaldehyde, reproductive toxins and carcinogens
- Semigloss provides a shiny, gloss finish
- Low odor
- Semigloss provides a shiny, gloss finish
- Covers 350 – 400 sq. ft. depending on surface porosity
- Environmentally friendly technology and manufacturing are certified by Green Seal and Eco Options
- Durable enough for high-traffic areas
- Washes with common household cleaners or soap and water
- Resists mold and mildew growth to maintain a lasting freshly painted appearance in high-moisture areas
- Actual paint colors may vary from on-screen and printer representations
- MFG Model # : 433410.0
- MFG Part # : 433410.0
Buy from The Home Depot
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Making the world More Colorful
& Less Volatile
Amazing customer service that saved my small condo from looking like a nursery!
I stumbled into Colorhouse because it was only a few blocks away from my condo. What I found inside was a passionate company that has created an amazingly environmentally friendly product. To top it all off they had one of the most customer friendly teams I've ever met. I am not an experienced painter nor was I attempting to do a very large project but the Colorhouse team was truly amazing in helping me through the process. Lynn Morgan in customer service was my panting angel and if she hadn't guided me through the process my entire place would have looked like a kids nursery! I'm so please with how the project turned out and I couldn't be more thankful for Lynn and the Colorhouse team! I definitely will pass you details to anyone in need of an amazing project and great customer service. Thanks again! Oliver
Colorhouse is the best!
What's not to like about Colorhouse Paints. They are eco friendly, come in an amazing array of colors for any palette.They are a dream to work with.Their customer service is top notch and are more than happy to help. I really can't say enough good things about the product and the company. These are the best paints on the market and we are proud to use them on our products.
Great quality paint!!!
I'm a one coat paint snob. So I like good quality paint. Wasn't sure at first if this was going to be it, since I was going with a lighter paint over a mid-blue color. But it dried beautifully and only had to do a few touch ups over some of the brush strokes. The quality is really outstanding. Will definitely be using again.
Great Paints and Great Service
I've really enjoyed working with Colorhouse paints in my apartment. I also appreciate their "color nerds" steering me in the right direction!
Great coverage and no smell!
By far the best paint I've purchased. I recently purchased Aspire .01 (a very light yellow) for a wall in our bedroom. The walls are a dark brown and I was concerned I needed primer as well before putting on the Colorhouse paint. After talking with their Color Help team, they said primer wouldn't be necessary but I would need a couple coats. Skeptical but trusting, I painted the wall without primer. I was excited to see two coats covered the wall easily and covered the dark brown without issue. A bonus was that there was hardly any smell while painting, and when it dried you couldn't tell the room had been painted at all! I've painted many rooms with other brands in the past and have always needed to air out the room for days to get the fumes out. Not with Colorhouse! I definitely recommend Colorhouse paint to anyone.
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Are you good, daughter. - asked Nina. - Very much, mommy. And when Uncle Sasha leaves, will it all end. Silly girl, all of this is just beginning with you.