Even before Nicole Gibbons started the paint company Clare that disrupted the paint industry, she was a household name as an interior designer, working on many top-tier commercial and residential projects as well as appearing as an expert on the show Home Made Simple on the OWN Network.
This summer Nicole launched Clare, giving all of us, expert and non-expert home painters a chance to elevate the look of our spaces with high-quality paint. Her company received the backing of investors who had also worked with the eyewear disrupter brand Warby Parker and the mattress brand Casper. We were intrigued about this interior designer journey to become an entrepreneur, so we sat down with Nicole to ask a few questions.
Tell us where you came up with the name Clare?
Clare comes from a Latin root “clarus,” which means “clear, bright, shining, and brilliant to the sight.” There is a lot of fun wordplay there – brilliant in terms of color, and brilliant in terms of being innovative and forward-thinking in an archaic industry. Being a singular, feminine name, it’s also a contrast from the predominantly masculine sounding legacy brands.
You’ve wanted to democratize design throughout your career, first by appearing on TV where you could share tips with a wider audience and now with Clare – what made you decide to do this through paint?
I wanted to do something really different. The obvious path for an interior designer would be furniture or soft goods but I was excited about the opportunity to disrupt an industry that’s seen very little innovation. I also wanted to solve a real problem for people and continue my mission of helping everyone create beautiful spaces they’ll love coming home to each day.
Shopping for paint has always been a huge hassle and over my career, I’ve heard so many horror stories about how miserable people’s paint shopping experiences were. Painting is such an important step in decorating and it should be fun and exciting, but the reality is that it’s a completely overwhelming and frustrating process. I founded Clare to make shopping for paint easier and more inspiring.
I think we’ve all had a few paint botch jobs in our past! But still, to take on the paint industry is quite a challenge. You launched Clare this summer, how long did the process take you and what was the biggest hurdle you faced?
It took a year and a half from the point of committing to the idea to getting to market. There were a lot of steps in-between…planning, raising capital then building and executing. It’s been quite a journey! Being a small business entrepreneur which is what I was doing before Clare, is very different than being the CEO of a high-growth company. The entire experience has been a crash course in the world of venture, startups and building a CPG (Consumer Package Goods) company.
How do you think that Clare is disrupting the market?
I like to say we’re taking the pain out of painting! Paint shopping has always been seen as a chore and requires you to shop at a hardware store – one of the most uninspiring retail environments to ever exist. By bringing it all online and technology and innovative new ways to sample colors and find the perfect one, we’re making the process much simpler and way more fun.
Our curated color selection makes the process of finding a color you love much easier. And those who still need a little guidance can use our Clare Color Genius tool which is an algorithm based quiz that assesses criteria about your space and your style to recommend the perfect color. We also developed the Perfect Color Swatch – a peel & stick color sample that lets you sample colors in an instant. Finally, we offer all the tools and supplies you need to paint, plus all the tips and inspiration to help you tackle your project like a pro.
That does sound a lot more fun! You mentioned that unlike other paint brands, Clare intentionally has fewer color options. What advantage did you see in doing that?
It was important to keep the assortment as edited as possible because we wanted to make finding the perfect color easy and take all the guesswork out of the process. Unlike other paint companies, I didn’t want to overwhelm our customers with thousands of choices. If you speak to any interior designer, we’re never choosing from thousands of colors for our clients. Designers all have a curated roster of tried and tested colors we know and love that we use time and time again. I took this same, designer-led approach to our color palette – timeless colors you’ll love, that you’ll never tire of.
Okay, for those of us that are just now peering behind the curtain of the interior design industry, how did you come up with the colors?
Picking the colors for Clare was truly about curating a palette of the best and most beautiful colors for interiors. I thought of every use case in a home- from painting bedrooms, bathrooms and living rooms to kitchens, kids spaces and everywhere in-between and created a versatile palette of colors that work well in any space. We also took a fun, pop-culture approach to naming our colors. Some favorites are “Rosé Season“, “Avocado Toast“, and “Blue Ivy“!
Is there a rule of thumb for selecting the right color according to the natural light in the room?
Yes! Natural light has the biggest impact on how paint colors are perceived in your home. The amount of light your space receives, the direction of your light source as well as the presence of other colors in the room (think fabrics furniture, etc), can actually alter how different shades appear. This is especially true with whites and neutrals, which tend to reflect any other colors present in and around your space. Bright, clean natural light will show color in its truest form, while southern light, for example, tends to take on a warmer, more golden hue, so you may want to consider a cooler color to help balance out those warm tones to ensure the truest representation of the color. We created a handy guide on our blog to help you understand the light in your space.
We’ll be sure to check that out! For those of us who can’t decide and need to see things in context, you offer three free samples that stick to the wall. Why did you choose this option versus the mini pots or paper swatches?
People are loving our Perfect Color Swatches and they’ve truly simplified the process of sampling colors! They’re 8×8” squares that you place on your wall like a sticker, and you can see exactly what the color will look like in one-step, with no mess, and they’re repositionable so you can move them around easily to see what the colors look like under different light sources. They’re a much better alternative to the teeny tiny paint chips you get for free at the hardware store, plus they’re less expensive and way easier than messy sample pots which require you to buy the paint pots, cheap tools, paint your walls and wait for it to dry.
How about the quality of the paint – can you tell us what makes it stand out from other brands?
As a designer, I’ve listened to many painters complain about paint formulas over the years. I wanted to ensure we developed a formula that would be both forgiving for an unskilled DIY painter, but also a formula a pro would love using, and one that would stand up to wear and tear in the most active households. Our formula has an exceptionally durable finish that’s washable, scrubbable, and resists, dirt, grime, and mildew.
It was also important to us that all of our paint products are Zero VOC and GREENGUARD Gold certified – which means it meets the most rigorous criteria for low chemical emissions and contributes to healthier indoor air environments. To become GREENGUARD Gold certified, paint formulas have to undergo rigorous emissions testing for more than 360 VOCs and other hazardous chemicals. It’s also free of toxic air contaminants (TACs), hazardous air pollutants (HAPs), or any chemicals on the EPA chemicals of concern list.
If you could change one common paint practice what would it be?
I’d love for people to understand that if they invest in a premium paint, they should also invest in premium tools. In the past, I’d see people go for the premium paint but then buy the cheapest tools to apply it with. I liken the analogy to a premium car – if you use the economy gas you won’t get the best performance out of the car. With paint it’s similar. Quality tools will help you get the job done faster, with less effort and will result in a more professional- looking finish. At Clare, we’ve curated an assortment of high-quality tools to help you paint like a pro and achieve flawless results.
What do you see as the new paint color for 2019?
One of our most popular, non-neutral colors is a deep moody green called Current Mood. People always tend to gravitate towards neutrals so it’s exciting to see people embracing such a bold, dramatic color choice.