Way back in the mists of time when I came up with my top 10 design hacks that would make very room sing, one of the most important – actually what am I saying – they’re ALL important – you can read them here or in the first of the Mad About The House books (linked here and here) was that you should never forget the touch points.
That is to say a pleasing light switch or cable will always be a pleasure to interact with. Now I’m not saying that good door knob will completely distract from peeling wallpaper and chipped paint, but it is the bits you touch that you tend to remember. And you never know, the experiential might outweigh the visual.
But even if you don’t feel these details, there is no doubt that paying attention to the small things will make the difference between good interior design and great interior design. A beautiful room will only be enhanced by a carefully considered light switch or a well disguised plug socket.
When we moved into this house 10 years ago I was determined to pimp our Ikea kitchen with leather strap handles having seen them in the home of Danish designer Tina K in an old issue of Elle Decoration (ripped out and kept for years for when the day came…). Well come it did and after exhaustive research I found one place, ONE, that was doing what I wanted at a price that wasn’t completely insane. Actually it was quite hard to find them at insane prices too. I understood why Tina said she had cut up some old belts to make hers – sadly rifling though the husband’s belt collection didn’t produce enough for my kitchen purposes.
Anyway, it’s all so much easier now and with that in mind I thought I would share a few places selling great finishing touches that you might want to make a note of. There is as small list over on Design Storey Shop as well. I chose to stick to the shop rather than the individual handle as there is so much choice and everyone wants different things.
A word to those frowning about leather though – and there were many at the time – leather gets better with age and it softens so a jammy hand or bit of egg on your fingers wipes off and doesn’t spoil the look.
First up, an in no particular order is Lola’s Leads which, is just brilliant. I have gradually replaced all my plastic lamp and pendant cables with coloured fabric (it’s not expensive to buy although you will need to factor in the electrician for a day so it’s worth gathering them all up to do at once) but the extension cables were proving a problem. Years ago we all overloaded our sockets with adaptors but they are a fire risk as they can put too much weight on the socket, meaning it can fall out, leading to a poor connection, risk of overheating and possible fire. So it’s trailing sockets. And that, I’m afraid, has been basically white plastic or black plastic. Until now.
Founder Julie sent me this pink one above and I’m not only converted I’m feeling quite evangelical. I’m practically looking for things to plug in on the other side of the room. I love the retro shape of the socket and the cable is lovely and thick. You can choose from any colour you like (they are hand-dyed) and either a black or a white attachment. She also has four or six attachments and is working on a collection of travel adaptors. Have a look at her main site Lolapalooza.co.uk for her wider shop selling rugs, crockery and furniture – she calls it a vintage department store and that’s a perfect description.
Cables is one thing, those white plastic sockets are pretty ugly too. As you can see in the above image I have painted mine to match the wall and while it works from a distance (better than white plastic) it’s not ideal close up. In most of the other rooms I have replaced with a sort of bronze metal affair. Again, when I did this five years ago the choices were either Forbes & Lomax take out a second mortgage (if you were thinking of doing the whole house) or cheap Screwfix – which is what ours are and they are a bit scratched but, again, better than white plastic.
But there’s so much more choice now. I’m not going to start again. Probably. But if I were I would look at Katy Paty for gorgeous round porcelain in so many colours. And here, as they are so pretty I might well opt for a shade that goes with the cushion rather than the wall as they deserve to be a feature. And at £66 this might be for downstairs fancy rooms only. You can also buy her pieces at Swtch where you will find an array of shapes, materials, including bakelite, and lots of rocker and dolly toggle switches.
You can also find a large collection of switches, sockets and cables at Dowsing & Reynolds so dive in there, they’ve got white metal toggle switches so if you have a white wall, that will still match but will elevate. As I said, it’s all in the detail of the touch points.
Leaving electrics now and moving onto handles. We all know now that you can elevate a simple Ikea or Howdens kitchen with the addition of some good handles. I have written about, and bought from, Superfront many times and that’s always a good place to start. Don’t forget that in addition to handles, you can also buy new legs and now worktops as well as doors for your cupboards so you can essentially just get some carcasses and totally change the look from there. Talking of Ikea makeovers, don’t forget Bemz, who make new covers for Ikea sofas too. Their natural linen collection is lovely and has rave reviews from those I have met who have bought from them.
Another great place is Swarf, founded by interiors journalist Kate Worthington and her husband. Everything is made in the UK too.
Corston Architectural sells everything from door handles to switches in a variety of natural finishes- brushed brass or polished, bronze or polished nickel – which goes with both chrome and brass by the way so if you’re worried about mixing metals that can be a good solution.
There will be lots more and you can, of course, add your own suggestions in the comments to help those who come after you find their way.