Located on a quiet suburban street in South London, the shop Colour Makes People Happy is painted in a surprisingly subtle shade of sage green. Rainbow colored signage adorns the windows and a faded yellow bicycle is parked up outside, the picture of whimsical charm. The interior is no different, decked out with bunting and paper decorations; sixty colorful clogs are arranged into neat grids that line the walls alongside towers of stacked paint tins.
On the day I visit, the owner Simon March is tucked away in the back of the shop carefully placing small squares of color onto beautiful homemade color cards. Wearing a knitted Fair Isle jumper and a workman’s apron, he appears like a modern day Gepetto sitting at his work bench. He introduces himself with a smile before giving me a tour of his slightly bonkers shop/studio/apartment.
Simon opened Colour Makes People Happy in 2010 and has a growing base of customers attracted by his colored electrical cord, wallpaper and, primarily, his own Dutch-made Siècle paint. Each of the 60 colors has a tongue-in-cheek name that pokes fun at his paint contemporaries; the first collection is a sly reference to British paint brand Farrow and Ball and includes colors like ‘I thought I told you to wait in the car’, ‘Let it go, Doug’, ‘I resent that snide remark’ and ‘Difficult to explain in words,’ to name just a few. Simon is not just a color mixer, he's a man on a mission to expose the myths of the paint industry. “I tend not to like the credulousness of other paint companies,” he explains. “When they say things like ‘This is the color of a wheelbarrow owned by George VI,' it’s total bollocks. A color’s a color. I wanted to make mine an honest collection and something a bit more fun.”
And don’t get him started on color fads, which he regards as the scourge of the interiors industry: “I tend to think that trends and trend forecasting is a nonsense, it’s disingenuous to go to insecure corporations with this sense of self-importance and peddle them a color forecast.” So what makes a person this opinionated about paint? Surprisingly Simon’s background is not a creative one, and he has no formal training in interior design. In his 20s, Simon moved to New York and there he noticed a gap in the market for a modern paint brand: “Paint companies were evoking Colonial houses and a bygone sort of aesthetic. At the same time people were buying Alessi toasters and Starck door handles and yet they were painting their rooms in the style of Victorian drawing rooms." Inspired, Simon set off to Holland, the ancestral home of paint, where he learned how to mix the perfect paint and where he now manufactures his own brand.
His freewheeling, somewhat defiant attitude seems to have a struck a chord with his young, urbanite fan base who flock to the store in London's Dulwich neighborhood. And what of colors that are making people happy at the moment? Ironically, bluish-gray paints are the bestsellers. Simon pontificates on that, “I suppose if you think about it, gray is actually the most colorful color, if you throw all of the colors together you end up with gray. Funny that we always see brighter colors as being more valuable, which is quite odd.”