Paint Away the Blues Without Stress of the Hardware Store

Backdrop is offering a more pleasurable experience in an industry you didn’t even realize needed a remodel, until now — how we buy the paint to decorate our homes.

Words by Pete Samson

Many of the most thoughtful companies are born in the living rooms of consumers, not the boardrooms of business people.

And a positive of our more digitally connected world is how it creates opportunities for smart entrepreneurs to cut out the middle man, speak straight to the consumer and take on the establishment.

Warby Parker led the way when they revolutionized the over-complicated and overpriced eyewear market ten years ago, offering great-looking affordable glasses sent straight to your home. Fashion, home goods and grooming were then among the many other industries to be taken on by direct-to-consumer (DTC) start-ups who took on the big players with a more enjoyable shopping experience.

Then husband and wife team Caleb and Natalie Ebel entered the space with Backdrop to brighten up an industry in desperate need of a revamp (even though we probably hadn’t realized it) — the paint we use to decorate our homes.

The result is one of the most impactful customer experiences of all the DTCs, as they have turned decorating our homes into a process that can truly improve our wellbeing — from a less stressful experience when picking the color, to painting the walls with eco-friendly paint, then proudly kicking back in our newly-decorated space.

Caleb explains: “Backdrop was born out of our experience as DIY painters.

“When Natalie and I started living together, we painted every apartment we moved into in New York City and it was the best way to transform a relatively shabby apartment on a low budget. But really loathed the experience every time. It was an uniquely bad customer and retail experience.

“We lived lived near a hardware store and every day we would walk past and see the same people pulling their hair out in front of the color wall of 3000 colors. It became a running joke between the two of us — but there were literally no options.

“Then when we got pregnant with our daughter Colette in 2016, we wanted to paint the nursery a straight-forward white and went back to the same hardware store and were presented a book with 300 shades of white.

“Natalie ordered a vintage rug from Morocco for the room which arrived in less than a week, whereas choosing the paint took multiple weeks and a lot of pain. We spoke to friends and found we weren’t the only one who found this a problem.

“Backdrop is really born out of the pain of that experience and knowing there needed to be a better way.”

Backdrop ‘Lawn Party’

Backdrop ‘Lawn Party’


By focussing on DIY consumers just like its founders, Backdrop have made painting our home exactly what it should be — a relaxing and rewarding experience.

Central to Backdrop’s philosophy is a carefully-curated selection of just fifty colors to choose from, taking the stress out of the selection process. Rather than sample pots of paint, they send swatches that stick on the wall and we can try in different rooms and light. Then they deliver the chosen paint along with all the essential kit a DIY painter needs.

Caleb explains: “For the DIY painter in particular, the choice of color the traditional companies offer is really daunting.

“These infinite colors is a false abundance of choice that creates this difficult decision process for customers.  You end up going to this hardware store, standing in front of this color wall under harsh retail overhead lighting and trying to figure out what is the subtle difference between these 300 different whites.

“So the starting point for us was to curate a color palette that gives you options but is truly a selection of colors we would want in our own spaces. And each one serves a unique purpose.

“The next stage is how to sample the color without the multiple trips to the hardware and the messy sampling pots, so the swatch form of sampling is just a better experience. And when you are looking at the 300 whites, the old paint companies don’t do a very good job of explaining why each one exists and the difference between them. So the description of the color we write on the swatches and how that relates to the other colors is also important.”

Backdrop ‘Saturday on Sunday’

Backdrop ‘Saturday on Sunday’

As well as a less stressful choice process being good for our mental health, Backdrop’s paint is also vegan, cruelty-free and designed to keep our home as free of toxins as possible.

Caleb — who worked at Warby Parker before launching Backdrop in late 2018 — says: “We have amazingly good paint, which is the most important thing.

“Our paints are Greenwise certified, low VOC and ultra low odor. So we’re really proud to be a role model for out industry and to make sure what we put in people’s homes are safe and responsible. We have a young demographic and that is really important to us and our customers.”

And by offering the whole experience without leaving our homes, Backdrop offers us the option to protect our health in a time of social distancing.

He adds: “We’ve seen sizable increase in demand during this period of more folks being at home and being able to offer a safe alternative to going into a physical hardware store, often multiple times for a single purchase. So cutting those trips down now has an added health benefit.”

So once we’ve chosen and ordered our paint, then it’s time to put down our phone, put on some music, an audio book or savor the silence, and enjoy the process of transforming our space — and then perhaps post the results on the vibrant Backdrop social media channels if you like that sort of thing.

Mr Feelgood staff have used the service and can vouch for its smooth experience start to finish. Their Harvest Moon is probably the most inviting warm white we have used — and it took just a few minutes to choose it.

Caleb says: “The act of painting is incredibly therapeutic.

“It’s tactile, there’s a lot of sensory involvement. Physically you are using your hands to effect a change that has a visual impact on your space. You don’t really look at your phone while you’re doing it. And it’s so gratifying because the outcome is such a stark change from the before.

“We embrace the  process of painting — it’s artistic and interesting and we lean into that.”

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Pete began his career on Fleet Street more than two decades ago, and has worked for some of the world’s biggest news, entertainment, and wellness companies as a writer, editor, and media executive. He co-founded Mr Feelgood to help demystify the world of personal development, and to encourage men to discuss and improve their mental health, by sharing the wisdom and lessons learned of inspiring artists and leaders.

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