Fine Paints of Europe
Fine Paints of Europe CEO John Lahey founded the company in 1987 after attempting in vain to locate high-quality European house paint in the U.S. He sought a top-of-the-line finish for his family’s 18th-century home, but nothing he found in this country compared to the richly hued, highly durable paints he saw on interiors and facades in Europe.
After further research, Lahey concluded that cheap extenders, fillers, and water were to blame for the low quality of many American paints. Their European counterparts employed pigments and oils to great effect. The typical domestic finish, in contrast, appeared to have been designed with minimal preparation and single-coat coverage in mind.
As Lahey toured Europe, he paid particular attention to Dutch paint. Holland has been a major player in the global paint industry for more than 200 years. Despite its small size, the country contains more than 120 companies that manufacture paint. (The world’s biggest paint company, Akzo Nobel, is among them.) The paint-making program at Holland’s University of Eindhoven is second to none, and more than one-fifth of the world’s paints, primers, and other coatings come from the Netherlands.
Why is Holland such a dominant force in paint? Its lofty status dates back to the late 18th century. At that time, renowned artists such as Rembrandt and Vermeer inspired a nationwide movement toward deeply colored, long-lasting oil paint. Pigments and other ingredients from the Dutch colonies made Holland’s paints unique. High-quality resins, generous amounts of well-ground pigments, and a lack of cheap fillers are among the keys to Dutch paint’s success on the global market.
Fine Paints of Europe began as importer and seller of traditional alkyd (oil-based) paints, which dried slowly and emitted a strong odor. At the time, Lahey conceptualized the value of paint in terms of longevity: the number of years a product would retain its protective and aesthetic qualities. Not surprisingly, most of the company’s early customers were in the process of restoring historical buildings.
After eight years of selling only oil-based paints, Lahey’s company acknowledged popular demand for an odorless, faster-drying alternative. Fine Paints started testing Dutch water-borne finishes in 1996. Lahey discovered that while oil paints from Holland were generally superior to their U.S. competitors, the gap in quality between Dutch water-based paints and those made in America was even greater.
This insight resulted in the development of Eurolux, Fine Paints’ line of odor-free acrylic paint. Eurolux accounts for more than half of the company’s total sales. The matte version lasts up to 15 years and is easy both to apply and to scrub clean with detergent and water. According to the company, Eurolux Matte is “as washable as tile.” It does not off-gas (put toxic chemicals into the air) and may be brushed, rolled, or sprayed.
One of Eurolux’s main virtues is its ability to dry in roughly an hour. Depending on the size of the project, it may be possible to apply a coat of Eurolux primer and two coats of Eurolux paint within a single day. The company’s other environmentally friendly product line, ECO, combines aspects of alkyd and acrylic paint in a low-toxicity formulation.
Lahey’s philosophy regarding paint has evolved in certain ways, but it remains largely rooted in economics. He has said that the American attitude toward house paint is financially illogical. When our cars become dirty, we wash them rather than repainting them. We can do this because we apply high-quality, long-lasting paint to vehicles as a matter of course. In Lahey’s view, taking a similar approach to painting residential or commercial interiors and exteriors is common sense. Eurolux, for example, can last 15 to 20 years and is no harder to clean than the exterior of a car.
Today, Fine Paints sells to homeowners, retailers, and contractors, as well as architecture and design professionals. The company’s product line includes paints, primers, varnishes, mineral spirits, and wax. In addition to Dutch finishes, Fine Paints also offers several lines by American designers such as Martha Stewart and is the sole licensee of Pantone Paints.