Grace Glass and James Mount, founders of the Natural Paint Co.

The Natural Paint Company


In an era when many products are created using sustainable, natural and better-for-you ingredients, the paint industry is lagging behind. Paint is still firmly attached to its petrochemical roots.  

Which is where the Natural Paint Co comes in.  

Back in 2015, Christchurch-based James Mount and his partner Grace Glass decided to challenge the assumption that paint needs to be made using traditional and potentially toxic formulations.  

“I had finished university and was doing paint tinting as an interim job before I figured out what I was going to do with my life. Grace had just qualified as a nurse,” James says. 

Natural Paint Co products are created using safe, non-toxic ingredients.

Natural Paint Co products are created using safe, non-toxic ingredients.

“We realised there was a big gap between how other industries, like food and cosmetics, have begun to reflect sustainability and wellbeing values, but the paint industry was still stuck in the dark ages. It hasn’t evolved for a long time.”  

Research from the Environmental Protection Agency shows that our indoor environments can be five times more polluted than outside; in a room that’s freshly painted it can be up to a thousand times more polluted. 

“The paint that we’re putting into our homes is a big contributor to our health, especially given how much time we spend indoors,” James says.   

“When we started we didn’t know how to make paint; we weren’t paint experts but we thought ‘there’s something we can do better here.’” 

Initially the pair started looking at overseas markets. They found that some German companies who had been producing paints since the 1990s met some of their criteria for health and sustainability. However, on importing samples, they discovered that the quality was nowhere near that of a reputable New Zealand chemical paint. “It was super-chalky, it wasn’t washable, it wasn’t highly engineered. It didn’t tick the quality box,” James explains.  

“We knew that if we were going to be successful we had to be uncompromising with all three pillars – health, sustainability and quality,” James continues. “People don’t paint their homes very often and when they do, they want to get it right. No matter how health or eco-conscious somebody is they won’t want to compromise on a product when they could be spending a couple of thousand dollars to paint a whole house.” 

Natural Paint Co products are formulated with high-quality ingredients.

Natural Paint Co products are formulated with high-quality ingredients like titanium dioxide.

So James and Grace engaged some of New Zealand’s best paint chemists and tasked them with creating a product that was as good as or better than the top paints on the market, but while prioritising natural and renewable raw materials 

“There are two parts to our paint formulation,” James explains. “The first part is leaving out all the ingredients that you don’t need. A lot of traditional paints use fillers and chemicals to make the products cheaper. Rather than having hundreds of ingredients, our wall paint has about 10-12 ingredients. 

“Then we asked ‘can we achieve the same quality, durability and washability by using more of the good stuff?’ The ‘good stuff’ is things like high quality plant resins or chalks and clays. By using more of that you get a much better product and you don’t need to add all the cheap chemical fillers.” 

Today, the Natural Paint Co paints have some of the highest coverage rates in the industry. “That’s because we use more titanium dioxide,” James explains. “It’s quite an expensive raw material so a lot of other paint companies reduce the amount they use. That means that when you paint you get really poor coverage. While our paints might sit at a slightly higher price point, you might only need 40 litres of paint to do the job, whereas you’d need 60 litres of paint from our competitors. Plus, we have a 25-year interior guarantee, compared to an industry standard of about 10 years. 

“We have a lot of professional painters who maybe don’t really care so much about the natural or health side of it, but choose our products for the quality alone.” 

One of the main considerations when choosing paint is colour. The Natural Paint Co developed their range with a focus on Kiwiana. “A lot of the names are of things that resonate from Grace and my childhoods, or things from growing up in New Zealand,” James says. “We want people to be able to create a connection with the colour through the name. It’s amazing how people will not choose a colour, even if they quite like it, if the name doesn’t align.”  

Natural Paint Co paints come in a range of 150 colours.

Natural Paint Co paints come in a range of 150 colours.

Their range now includes 150 colours with monikers like Custard Square, Gumboots, Camp Mother and Lolly Scramble. “We wanted to have a range that was diverse enough so that people have a choice, but not 4,000 different colours,” James says. “You don’t need 100 different off-whites. If there are too many options you get paradox of choice; it’s impossible to make a decision and feel comfortable with it. 

“Our paint is designed for people who aren’t professional painters. They’re very forgiving products in terms of application and ease of use. And obviously the smell and lack of chemicals is a really big thing. A lot of people feedback that the paints smell really nice.” 

While they are called the Natural Paint Co, about half of their product range is natural oils and varnish alternatives for floors and exterior stains for decks or cladding. “Like our paints, they’re also free of nasty chemicals and are made with a focus natural materials and no compromises on quality or durability,” James says.  


Story by Jo Percival for the Winter 2023 issue of AA Directions magazine.

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