meet the maker: Portola Paints & Glaze

interview by Mackenzie Wise | portrait photo by Kenneth Locker

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Jamie and Casey Davis are owners of Portola Paints & Glaze, a family-owned and operated specialty paint store in Los Angeles, California. They have been manufacturing unique, eco-friendly paints and finishes for over a decade, and are soon to expand their rich complex palettes to wallpaper. Something we cannot wait to see!

How did you come to be involved in creating custom paint?
We started when our father, Jim Davis, a high-end contractor in Los Angeles, imported a lime wash for a job he was building in 1998. In the process, he was inspired by the power of color and texture. From there, we started working together to create a line of unique products that were different from anything else on the market.

Both you and your brother were very involved in creative pursuits when you were kids. Does working with paint hold a deeper meaning for you?
We were influenced early on by our dad’s projects. We loved tagging along with him to job sites and learning whatever we could about what he was doing. As we got older, joining that world and designing colors for homes seemed like a natural fit. It’s a really unique job, that allows us to utilize our creative passions on a daily basis. 

What inspires you?
It might sound like a cop-out answer, but everything! There is so much color in the world to draw inspiration from, it’s endless. We are fortunate enough to live in vibrant Los Angeles, where culture, fashion, art, and music really flourish. 

How do you get to know a customer and create a palette for them?
Working closely with clients is a very important part of what we do. We ask a lot of questions. First we identify the intended style of the home or project. What are the lighting conditions? Is there hardwood flooring or carpet? Are there any key pieces of furniture in the room? How do they want the room to feel? The individual's personality has a lot to do with it as well. Finding the perfect colors for someone is not always a quick and easy process, but it’s an integral part of what we do.

How exactly does your paint get made? 
We have worked with a local manufacturer in Los Angeles for 15 years. Creating a product calls for a large amount of trial and error. We’ve spent years perfecting our formulas, working with our chemists to stay ahead of the curve. Products often need to be reformulated to meet toxicity standards. The challenge has always been to create new and unique finishes while staying true to our green, eco-friendly practices. The nice thing about the trial-and-error process is that in the end we now have a large line of paints and finishes that perform at the highest standards.

Tell us about the ancient techniques you use to create your paints?
We make a traditional lime wash that is modernized to meet today’s standards. We still make each batch by hand at our local factory. We also do all of our color matching by eye. Modern color matching machines use algorithms to find the easiest way to recreate colors with the least amount of pigment possible. Their accuracy is limited, and the colors are rarely done justice. We were lucky enough to have really talented colorists as mentors that taught us tons about color theory and how to blend pigments. Having this very personal experience with paint and pigments has allowed us the opportunity to create beautifully sophisticated and balanced colors.

And, we have to ask: favorite colors? 
That is a tough question, and something that definitely evolves and changes over time. More than anything, what sparks our interest is the combination of pigments that make up a color. Adding untraditional pigments to otherwise clean and basic colors can create a complexity that really breathes life and character into the colors. Lately, I’ve been attracted to some of the lighter pinks with soft and muted tones. My brother Casey is loving our color “lost highway” because of its complexity and depth. 

To learn more about Portola Paints, visit their showroom in LA or go to: portolapaints.com.

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