One of Ireland's oldest paint companies has launched a design collection in the US

General Paints invested €1 million into its new Curator premium designer paint collection.

By Laura Roddy Reporter, Fora

GENERAL PAINTS HAS begun rolling out its design collection in the US as part of its push into the American market. 

The Celbridge-based company, founded in 1953, has invested €1 million in developing its Curator brand, a premium designer paint range. 

“The design category is new in the US, there are some US designer brands and they are really small so we are looking to claim that space,” Kevin O’Connor, the managing director of General Paints, said. 

General Paint’s Curator brand has entered two Ring’s End paint stores in Connecticut and will be launching in 10Californian stores of another undisclosed brand in August and September. 

By the end of 2019, Curator will be stocked in 20 US stores. O’Connor said the market could account for 20% of the company’s sales in five years time.

The company had a turnover of €14 million in 2018 and has taken on 20 new staff in the past two years, to bring its number of employees to more than 100. 

According to O’Connor, mid-way through creating the design collection he and the others involved realised they had something that would do well overseas. 

The company has decided to focus on the US market first, but is also considering launching into Europe down the line. 

At the time the company was operating under the name Colourtrend, however, issues arose when they tried to trademark it in the US and Europe, with the name already taken. 

“We came up with Curator and registered it in the EU and US – it is a really good descriptor for the collection because it is a curated collection,” O’Connor explained. 

Since then, the company has gone back to its founding name of General Paints, which is home to Colourtrend, Curator and an industrial paint collection called Sustain. 

Representing Irish design

The Curator project started in 2015 when the company decided to develop a designer paint range and profile arts and crafts people around Ireland to find out what colours they used on a daily basis. 

“We put a team together of interior designers and colour specialists and we went around and spoke to artists and craftspeople and we asked what colour inspires your work?” O’Connor said. 

“We interviewed everyone including potters, milliners, stonemasons and artists so it was a very eclectic mix,” he added. 

The collection has 144 paints and the retail price ranges from €25 for a one-litre container up to €150 for a five-litre pot. The target audience is higher-end consumers and interior designers. 

Curator’s main competitor is the English-based Farrow & Ball which also retails in the US and takes inspiration from the country’s heritage and castles. 

According to O’Connor, Curator wanted to do something a little different and reflect on the Ireland’s modern design community.

Back to the company’s roots

O’Connor said the company has done “a full circle” as it returns to the US, and in particular with the launch into the stores in California. 

His father Ronan, who founded the company, lived in San Fransisco for three years after graduating with as a chemical engineer and emigrating from Ireland. 

The paint company he worked for wanted him to open a branch in Mexico but “he thought if he was going to Mexico he might as well go home to Ireland and start a company there, so he did”, O’Connor said. 

“He brought back a lot of the American know-how with him. America was very advanced with paints at that time. They used things like acrylics that are the backbone of our company now,”  he added. 

Note: A previous version of this article stated that General Paints charges €25 for Curator samples. This has been corrected to state that it charges €25 for one-litre containers.

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