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Another Common Problem Solved

As published in the Napa Valley Register

Not too long ago, I wrote a column titled “An adjustable solution to a common problem.” It was about Sietto’s Custom Cabinet Hardware, a Chicago-based, boutique company that produces handcrafted, glass pulls and knobs. The adjustable feature came in the form of pulls with a sliding base that can line up with the holes from any existing pulls that you want to replace on drawers or doors. Today, I’m happy to share another solution to another common problem.

This one has to do with electrical plates, toggles, sockets, rotary dimmers, push buttons, and wall-mounted media controls. You know, those pesky, inescapable but necessary gadgets that disrupt otherwise-pretty walls. Let me give you a few examples. Let’s say you’ve painted your bedroom a beautiful shade of periwinkle blue. Or tiled your kitchen backsplash in a delicious red. Or you’ve spent an extreme amount of hard-earned savings on hand-painted de Gournay wallpaper for a precious powder room. There’s just one problem. All of these walls have light switches and electrical outlets. In years gone by, the only color options to address these controls were white and beige. New colors, as well as various metal and stone finishes were later introduced. I remember finding sage green electrical receptacles and plates that perfectly matched the sage green tile I had just installed in a client’s kitchen remodel. So perfect that it was difficult to readily see where to plug in the toaster! I ordered these handy parts from a company called Lutron.

Given my examples above, what would I do if Lutron didn’t have the right shade of periwinkle to match my paint or red to match my tile? It most definitely wouldn’t have the same color and pattern of my de Gournay wallpaper. In the first two cases, I’d hope to find colors that at least blended with the surrounding wall surfaces but I might be hard-pressed to get that lucky. In the case of wallpaper, however, I could have my installer wrap the plates in the same wallpaper but he wouldn’t be able to do anything to the switches and receptacles.

I promised you another solution today and here it is – a la Forbes and Lomax. This British-based company was established in 1986 with the goal of replacing the stylish glass, brass and nickel fixtures of the 1930s with their clear, acrylic plates and decorative metal toggles. As time went on, Forbes and Lomax expanded their product line to include unlacquered brass, aged brass, antique bronze, verdigris, nickel and stainless steel. It also developed etched and primed outlets that are ready to be painted the same color of your wall.

So now, any wall surface, whether painted, tiled, wallpapered, wood paneled, faux finished, bricked, or whatever you can dream of, can be seen right through the clear glass. Or, alternatively, coordinate with any number of decorative possibilities.

Forbes and Lomax have taken great care to create high-end, quality products. The metal finishes, for instance, aren’t just a one-note color but have depth and dimension. Instead of hoping for them to disappear on the wall, you want them to be noticed. They are meant to be given the same attention as you would give any other fixture or accessory in the room.

Although established and based in Britain, products can be ordered from Los Angeles and New York. Phone numbers are included in their website, A product catalog can also be ordered from their website.

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