All over the world, the hardware store has become the latest retail outlet to get a chic facelift …
Do you find yourself eyeing up rawlplugs, screws and brackets the way you once perused earrings? Have you become an expert on the lumen vs wattage properties of the mindboggling array of lightbulbs, the same way, pre-lockdown, you committed to memory the various styles at the denim bar? Do you now own three different types of metal polish, and two types of furniture wax – lavender and bees – much as you would insist on a day cream, night cream and serum? Do you converse with your local hardware store owner with the same enthusiasm as with your favourite boutique owner?
If so, you are one of a growing cohort with new regard for the humble hardware, mostly as a result of it becoming, along with the pharmacy and the supermarket, one of the three pillars of lockdown retail (let’s leave the offy out of this.) Slipping into Acme hardware has become a weekly ritual, whether you actually do any DIY or not.
Converts have honed their hardware shopping habits: big box stores – Chadwicks, Homebase, Woodies, B&Q – for certain items, and little local hardware “boutiques” for every item under the sun plus the encyclopaedic knowledge of a helpful owner. The latter will also provide the telephone number of a good local glazier, nifty locksmith, obliging plumber or efficient electrician.
Shoppers are exchanging names and numbers of good hardware stores within the 5km limit. All the better if your store has a corner reserved for (sometimes unintentionally) smart, utilitarian kitchen utensils, pots, pans, tableware and those soft linen glass cloths in generous bundles. “Ask for Paul! And Roddy is just marvellous on lighting! He picked out all the correct filament bulbs for my chandelier, yes the Flamant one … Did you see the cute green tumblers on the top shelf?”
Truffle through the shelves and cardboard boxes. Swerve the distressed-wood bread bins, mug trees and anything with an affirmation stencilled on, to find silver pot scrubbers, wooden brushes, copper pans, enamel pie tins, clay crock pots with a jaunty chicken on the lid. These enchanting essential non-essentials fulfil the desire to buy something: you know them to be useful, and they don’t cost very much at all.
If you are smitten by the hardware shop trend, you are 100 per cent au courant. All over the world, the hardware store has become the latest retail outlet to get a chic facelift. Ahead by a mile is Maison Empereur in Marseille (in France, they’re mad for a good quincaillerie) where everything from ironmongery to paint, doorknobs to dowels, basketry to buckets, candles to old-fashioned china and basic glassware, is so artfully stacked and arranged, you just want to get fixing and stripping, spring cleaning and waxing and reorganising as if your life depended on it – which in a way, it might, right now. The link between a tidy sock drawer (one that slides in and out smoothly – use a little furniture wax – and where the handle does not come off) and sanity, is stronger than you think.
Rural Ireland’s delightful hybrid hucksters/ hardware stores are also treasure troves. Fishing lures are cheek by jowl with egg cups, hot water bottles and methylated spirits. If we could ever get back into Mary’s Bar on Wicklow Street in Dublin, we’d see shelves stocked with a tongue-in-cheek collection of household essentials.
Since the future is now emphatically local, focus on your nearest store, tapping into the expertise. The more you support it, the healthier its bottom line – who knows, you could end up with a Maison Empereur at the end of your street … now that would be hardware heaven.
LITTLE MISS FIX-IT
If your new regard for household maintenance does not extend to actually doing the work, call Vicki Walsh (087 971 4738) of Vix It fix-it service which covers niggling household jobs you might have bought the fixings for, but never get around to starting – or finishing. Vicki will fix door handles and hinges, replace barrel locks, hang pictures and paintings, build self-assembly units, secure loo seats and fix a dripping tap. She’ll also upcycle tired furniture. Vicki has her own roster of well-stocked and helpful hardware stores. The Homecare Centre in Blackrock in Co Dublin is her favourite, and Stillorgan Décor, and Baumanns, both in Stillorgan. THE GLOSS team have also used the excellent www.handyhardware.ie.
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