How to waste time when you’re supposed to be working: specialist shops

In domestic on May 20, 2011 at 1:22 pm

There are many downsides to having building work done (at the moment still too raw to blog about), but the upside is the excuse to waste hours in giant warehouses that sell a seemingly-infinite number of permutations of one item. Such temples elevate something prosaic like door handles or paint from the everyday to the revered.

This is going to make me sound old, but it’s also really refreshing talking to people who really know a subject, paint nerds who get over excited about  pigmentation, or tilers who ask what shade of grouting you want (yes, it comes in different colours!).

My quest for the perfect palette of greys has taken me to the following specialist emporia [and in so doing earned my admiration for the wordsmiths who come up with so many synonyms for ‘grey’].

PAINT: South London Decorators Merchants

Their comprehensive array of Farrow& Ball, Sanderson, Little Greene etc paints led one friend so far astray that he bought so many samples the owners asked him if he was painting a doll’s house.

Best greys: London Grey, French Grey, Kent Grey, Bastile, mid lead, dark lead

Best off white: Slaked Lime

South London Decorators Merchants, 547-549 Norwood Road, West Norwood, London SE27 9DL, Tel 020 8655 9595

FLOORING: Lordship Lane Carpets

Grey-tastic. We have in the past done our bathroom in grey rubber, our stairs in grey wool carpet from Switzerland, and now the kitchen is being done in grey Marmoleum – that’s lino to you – which is made from natural materials and is biodegradable, it says here.

Best greys: lead, paving, cement

Lordship Lane Carpets, 129-131 Lordship Lane, East Dulwich, London SE22 8HU, Tel 020 8693 8728

TILES: World’s End Tiles

Brilliant location in the shadow of Battersea Power Station. A bugger to find, but windswept and atmospheric. Almost tempted by some stunning Yves Klein blue tiles, before I remembered myself.

Best greys: quicksilver, gun metal, lave al [tiles]; anthracite [grout]

Silverthorne Rd, Battersea London SW8 3HE, Tel 020 7819 2100

KITCHENS: Bells’s Kitchens and Bathrooms

OK, so I’m not rich enough to buy the actual kitchen from there (yes, Ikea, just like everyone else), but they did suggest we could add a flash of colour with a single piece of glass splashback. They stock a beautiful range called Deco Glaze in fuchsia, raspberry, a delicate baby blue… We went for a smokey charcoal.

Best grey: charcoal

Bells, 169-171 Lordship Lane, East Dulwich, London SE22 9HG, Tel 020 8693 2223


I love a bit of architectural ironmongery, or ‘knobs and knockers’ as we used to call  it on Building magazine. You’d be surprised how many types of flush-fitting, sunken, concealed screw door pulls for sliding doors that there are. And amazed to see that you can pay upwards of £300 for top end door handles. I almost impulse bought new door numbers just because it was in a nice sans serif font.

Best grey: stainless steel

SDS London, 183 -189 Northcote Road, Battersea, London, SW11 6QF, Tel, 020 7228 1185

Honorary mentions to Siecle paint shop, which wins the prize for the weirdest names (eg ‘Believe me you’ll be thanking me in a minute’). I’ve already written about it previously here.

And the anonymous (even my builder didn’t know it was there) electrical suppliers beside the chippy at 7 North Cross Road, SE22 (tel 020 8299 4700) who will drive to the trade warehouse and get you any sort of switch plate or socket you want. No, they don’t have a website; they don’t even have a name.


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