An enlightening guide to switches and outlets

My wife and I decided on the colors to repaint our house without drama but a disagreement arose over the covers for the wall switches and outlets. I would prefer the same color as the walls, to make them as unobtrusive as possible. My wife wants something that stands out. Please could you offer some advice?

Recently I wrote about how good fixtures and fittings can make a real difference to a property. Let’s continue with that theme this week, leaving the big ideas aside — paint colors and wallpaper and furniture — and considering the little things.

There are items in a home that, however small, should be given special attention – and not just at the end of a decorating project. While they may leave some readers cold, for me, light switches and electrical outlets fall into this category.

I prefer sleek brass or characterful ceramic light switches and – getting technical – more often than not I like a slider switch (a short, pivoting lever ending in a rounded button) rather than a toggle on springs.

Founded in 1987, London-based Forbes & Lomax claims to have “always approached the electrical accessories market from an aesthetic point of view”. When the company was founded, the elegant glass, nickel and brass switches of the 1930s were no longer available. Although I’m not a huge fan of the transparent backplate switches the company is known for, I like its smarts. unvarnished brass and nickel ranges. An unlacquered finish will only gain character over time.

An unlacquered brass roller switch, by Forbes & Lomax

A new discovery for me is JUNG. Founded by Albrecht Jung in 1912, the German company develops aesthetic and user-friendly appliances for the home and has partnered with big names in design. classic sound LS 990 The light switch is available in a variety of colors from a palette developed by Le Corbusier – a set was released in 1931 and another range of more impactful colors in 1959.

I can’t say that when I started researching this column I expected to feel so strongly about a light switch, but I’m really in love with the LS 990 and its lightly line combination. rounded and brilliantly bold hues. It’s not the switch for every room or every home, but in the right context – a kitchen, say, with 1960s-style cabinetry and linoleum flooring – it would be wonderful.

As for the electrical outlets, I like the idea of ​​painting them to match the color of the wall, but I suggest powder coating for a smoother, more durable finish. It is possible to purchase powder coated sockets as well as have them custom painted. TLC Electrical Supplies sells British made epoxy coated steel versions in a good selection of colors including a attractive apple green.

An apple green double electrical socket with white details

Beryl Green socket from TLC, from its Rainbow range, in epoxy coated steel © Hugh Threlfall

A classic brass socket is never a bad thing. I suggest investigating Corston Architectural Detail, a Wiltshire-based company that manufactures, among other things, beautiful brass sockets with black and white inserts and matching switches.

I’m also a fan of Roo, the range of porcelain switches and sockets by designer Katy Paty. These have a pleasantly old-fashioned, chunky look, and the range includes a variety of options, including rotary and rocker switches, electrical and TV sockets. Also, as with JUNG switches, many delightful colors are available. I have my eye on Nitor Lutea – a proper sunflower yellow.

A round shiny sunflower yellow porcelain switch

Katy Paty’s Roo switch in Nitor Lutea, “a real sunflower yellow”

Now, I like the idea of ​​a colored switch, but I’m also mostly Bakelite. Online retailer Switch sells a charming switch version. It is also possible to obtain authentic vintage versions. Check out websites such as Art Deco storewhich asserts that “no light switch made today has the look and feel of a genuine bakelite switch that has been professionally and carefully restored”.

A very good one stop shop for functional household goods, hardware and lighting in the UK is Dyke & Dean. It sells a range of switches made near Barcelona by a family business that has been making switches, sockets and hardware since 1955. I like its rounded black and white ceramic switches a lot.

I must conclude by saying that the plain white sockets don’t particularly offend me (we have them in our rental cabin), and certainly much less so than the white plastic switches. However, it is easy to do much better. Go for color or invest in good materials. After all, the tactile parts of the home that we interact with on a daily basis should feel great to use.

If you have a question for Luke about design and stylish living, email him at [email protected]. Follow him on Instagram @lukeedwardhall

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