Retailers should make more of bespoke hand-painted finishes, says expert

Bespoke kitchen companies could be doing much more in terms of the paint finishes they offer, according to paint specialist Emma Culshaw Bell.

In the latest episode in Series 3 of the award-winning kbbreview Podcast, the paint expert told kbbreview managing editor Andrew Davies she believes there is scope for retailers to take their paint finishes to the next level and offer truly bespoke and unique kitchens.

Said Culshaw Bell: “There are no bespoke paint finishes anymore. When I go on-site, I design the paint finishes directly with the client. We start with samples, but by the time we go on-site, we have adjusted the finishes anyway – that is truly bespoke. Not ‘custom’, where you pick something out of a catalogue or from a few samples.”

She explained that she felt this was the beauty of working with a designer such as Charlie Smallbone at the Ledbury Studio.

“He is really innovative and unique. He is using a myriad of different materials. A lot of metallics and all sorts of textures of wood. When it is pulled together as a kitchen, the painted cupboards very often need a very subtle paint effects on them to consolidate the rest of the effects he had designed. If you just hand a flat hand-painted cupboard around the hip-flask, pewter and verdigris finishes that he has on his cabinets, there would be a disparity. This is where it is truly bespoke.”

Culshaw Bell also explained how a large part of her work is restorations. She said: “I do a lot of this. People have beautiful kitchens that have aged. You go in, refurbish the whole thing, strip them back, change the handles, change the flooring, change the colour. Change everything. They get a completely new kitchen for a few thousand pounds.”

She explained that she has to be careful with her paint effects to make sure they last.

I like to take materials and push them and see what else they will do and what is possible. I have to be careful of with paint effects on kitchens is that I have to make sure it sticks, is durable and can be repaired. You also have to make sure it doesn’t look like a bad paint job. There is a fine line sometimes. It works for me that I am the boss but also on the tools doing the painting as well.

When asked about the pool of skilled, artisan labour needed to deliver these finishes going forward, she said she it is very difficult to find anyone who has the “passion”.

She told kbbreview: “I am dragging my son in – whether he likes it or not. I do try to get youngsters to shadow me, but they have a different approach. You have to have the passion. I have been doing this for over 30 years so I do know what I am doing.

“And it is really hard work. Do you really want to be swinging off scaffolding when you are 54? I don’t really know the answer. My son doesn’t really want to do paint effects. He is great on prep. I can get people all day to prepare the work for me, but it is very difficult to find anyone who has the skill or the knowledge or the intent to continue the work.”

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