The East Dulwich paint shop with a different approach to colour
According to Simon March, "colour changes the way you feel". And it's easy to share his passion when you step into Colour Makes People Happy, his East Dulwich shop on Grove Vale. It's lined with colourful Dutch clogs which serve as paint swatches, while Willy Wonka-style apothecary bottles and jam jars drip with experimental shades.
Having dabbled in property development in the Nineties, Simon noticed that when he chose fuchsia pinks or lime greens to decorate the interiors, homes sold faster. "Contrary to popular opinion about using neutrals, these colours went down well," he says.
It was while in New York that he spotted the quality of Dutch-made paints. "In America they love everything to have provenance: so you buy Italian coffee, Belgian waffles and Dutch paint, as it's the best," he says.
"The Netherlands is the home of paint making, it goes back to Rembrandt and the Old Masters and their demand for coatings that would retain their colour. I hadn't seen paint as a high-quality product before, other than British historic colours, which were sold in a fusty way at the time."
Simon did his homework and headed to the north of Holland where he visited one of The Netherlands' oldest paint makers and where, surrounded by bags of chalk, pigment and titanium, he created a range of modern paints to sell under the brand name, Siecle.
Distribution across Europe, a small shop in Clapham and a concession in Liberty ensued over the next seven years before Simon, now in his early forties, opened his East Dulwich shop. Mixing his paints on the premises, he has slowly added to the range, now made up of 96 hues, complete with tongue-in-cheek names such as "Hair of Nan" and "Dog Biscuit". Presented on wooden clogs, they make an appealing display. "Clogs are a perfect way to display paint shades as they show how shadows work on colours," he says.
Despite his love of experimenting, he has a refreshing no-nonsense approach and he's not keen on mixing shades for people who bring in their favourite scarf. "I was recently asked for something between white and off-white!" he says laughing. "It usually means trouble — you only have to paint a room white to see how different it can look at different times of the day. We have three whites — a creamy one, a pinky one and a greyish one. It's all you need."
He also has his "paint donkey" — a spinning easel where customers can paint by pouring colours on spinning paper. He built it by hand and hosts groups of hen parties, office workers and schoolchildren.
Find the shop at 53 Grove Vale, SE22 or visit makespeoplehappy.com.
Photographs by Paul Raeside