Colour Makes People Happy: A Renegade Paint Guru in East Sussex

Above: Simon March at work in his Lewes, East Sussex, shop.

“We make colors taken from popular culture, not stately homes,” says Simon March, proprietor of Colour Makes You Happy, “using ingredients from the South Downs including linseed oil, chalk, and alabaster.

“I want my shop to be a place you can drop into and share significant color-inspired moments of the kind you’re unlikely to get in a chain store. And go home with a headful of colors you instinctively liked, rather than those dictated to you by institutionalized ‘good taste.’”

March got his start working at a traditional English paint shop, then spent a couple of years in New York “painting beach houses on Long Island, and traveling into the city to restock at Pearl Paint. Pearl had been serving everyone from jobbing house painters to artists like Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock since the 1920s, and treating them all just the same,” he says. Inspired by his NY experiences, he set off for Holland, the ancestral home of paint, where he learned mixing techniques from a “rock ‘n’ roll paint maker” called Hans. March returns every couple of months to the Netherlands, where he produces his own line called Siècle, sold in his shop.

(N.B.: March’s manifesto is well worth reading: “‘Neutral’ is only a color scheme in the mind of an estate agent” and ‘Regency’ colors won’t turn your suburban semi into Mansfield Park.” Oh, and: ‘Good taste = no taste.”)

Above: Simon March in front of his Lewes, East Sussex, shop with his young son.
Above: “We are able to color match in store or you can try our paint bar, where colors are created by hand at the counter,” March says.
Above: Pigments line the walls of the shop, ready for experimentation.
Above: Paint “swatches” are created using wooden Dutch shoes.
Above: “At very middle-class dinner parties people laugh at the names of Farrow & Ball colors,” March told Port Magazine. “I try to subvert that, to be a bit irreverent, a bit absurd: I started coming up with names for my paints like ‘I Thought I Told You to Wait in the Car,’ ‘Red Stewart,’ or ‘That Guy Will Never Make It Selling Those Shoes.’”
Above: March offers handmade Paint Prints produced in small runs and printed on high-quality Somerset rough textured printing paper with raw edges; £55 each (they can be framed for an additional fee) as well as subversive Parting Shots Greeting Cards, hand painted, signed, and numbered for authenticity (£3 each).

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