Mylands: the story of Britain’s oldest family-owned paint company

Three room sets featuring Mylands paint – a living room with hot pink walls on the left, a living room with walls painted in a blue-ish white in the middle, and a yellow kitchen on the right.

Some brands have become staples of the KBB industry – and while you may have heard of them, do you know how they came to be? As part of a series of articles, we take a look behind the curtain and discover how these infamous names started out.

Mylands’ chief executive officer Dominic Myland is one of the people we have quizzed. Here, we dive into the history of Britain’s oldest paint manufacturer – from the humble beginnings in south west London to what the company has become today…

Dominic, how did Mylands begin? 

The company is the oldest paint manufacturer in Britain. It was founded by my great-grandfather, John Myland in 1884. We are proud to still be a family-owned and run business, continuing my great-grandfather’s legacy. 

A black and white photo of Mylands' founder standing outside the original shop in Stockwell, south west London
The original Mylands shop in Stockwell – this photo is from 1942, as Mylands was open for business during the war.

When did your great-grandfather first have the idea for Mylands?

He started as a French polisher before opening a paint and wood-finishes shop and factory in Stockwell, selling to trade only.

Unlike other paint makers of the day, he insisted on using only the very best materials that would allow him to create colours that were lustrous and flawless, with a quality that had rarely been seen before.

Can you tell us about the journey from that initial idea to the first day of trading?

Getting together enough money to open the shop in Stockwell Road was a challenge. An uncle lent my great-grandfather the money.

The small wood finish factory came a few years later. There were many small manufacturers across London in those days, so competition was tough even then.

A kids' bedroom with bunk beds and a small staircase leading up between them, all painted in a dark teal blue
These beds have been painted in Maritime No. 236, with the walls in Bedford Square No. 229, the exterior in Maugham White No. 2, and the floorboards in Earth Stain Chalk, all from Mylands.

What were his first creations, and what were the first Mylands products sold?

Paint and wood finishes. For many years, the business was a well-kept secret among interior designers, decorators and scenic artists working in film, television and theatre, and cultural institutions.

The product was sold from the shop in London. Since 1928, Mylands has supplied paint to the film and TV industries, including working closely with Pinewood Studios, mixing colours for all the Bond films, Downton Abbey and the Harry Potter films.

A gif showing scenes from the Mylands factory in 1965 – a black and white picture of paint being stored – and 2019, which shows a coloured photograph of large warehouse shelves
A peek into the Mylands factory in 1965 and 2019.

Did you always know you wanted to join and carry on the family business?

Absolutely – I worked for the business in my school holidays from the age of 14 and then joined full time in 1984. I worked across all areas of the company from the factory to the boardroom.

I had an early interest in how paints and finishes were applied and took a course studying traditional and modern wood finishing at the London College of Furniture, part-time for three years in 1985.

A black and white picture of a dark factory building, with a sign reading high-class French polish & spirit varnish manufacturers
The Mylands factory in Stockwell.

My mother was an antiques dealer, so I developed a real passion for traditional and painted furniture.

I then spent the better part of 10 years developing products and sales for paints and finishes to the antique and furniture industries, before I took over as chief executive officer of Mylands from my father in 1998. 

What was your first milestone after joining the business? 

In the mid to late 90s, I turned my attention to our film and television decorative paints offering, working closely with a very experienced paint chemist to expand the range of specialist decorative stage paints.

A wall painted in baby blue, with a striped cabinet on the right
Walls and fireplace painted in Enamel Blue No. 78, shelves painted in Red Post Hill 68 from the Archive Collection.

I launched Colours of London, the first new decorative collection for 40 years, and I wanted it to be available to consumers as well as trade. The collection features 120 timeless colours, all made in London and inspired by our huge archive.

How does it feel being part of such a long-standing family business? 

I feel incredibly proud to be at the forefront of my family business and that I am the fifth generation to continue the work my great-grandfather started. The business and its organic, humble roots created a springboard for each generation to continue to innovate, create and expand the company.

A bedroom painted in shades of beige from Mylands
Walls painted in Hoxton Grey No. 72, woodwork painted in Pure White No. 1. Interiors by Laura Butler-Madden, photographed by Patrick Butler-Madden.

In 1985, Mylands was honoured with the ultimate accolade when we received a Royal Warrant – it was truly remarkable for us. It felt like a huge achievement to receive this recognition.

My son has spent time working at Mylands and is now honing his creative skills on scenic sets. It’s rewarding to see his enthusiasm for the industry.

Mustard yellow kitchen with dark worktops and open shelving
The cabinetry is painted in Freegrove Mustard; walls in Honest John No.58; ceiling in Whitehall No.9.

Lastly, what does the future hold for Mylands?

We are just finalising a new finish which will launch this year and is going to be a market leader in terms of sustainability and quality. We also have some fun colour collaborations in the works, so watch this space.

Featured image: (from left) Living room skirting painted in White Hart No. 51; sitting room walls painted in Sloan Square No. 92; kitchen painted in Freegrove Mustard, walls painted in Honest John No. 58, all from Mylands. From £31 for 1 litre of marble matt emulsion.

Want to give your walls a makeover? We have everything you need to know about decorating with colour.

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