a way of life...

Month: January 2017

New Year Treats

I’m sure, like many of you, I am constantly emailed with news updates from my favourite on-line shops. Sometimes this can be a real nuisance but occasionally something of interest comes up. As January progressed I noticed that sale discounts were increasing and my interest piqued when Bluebell Gray announced a 50% price reduction on a cushion that I had been coveting. The linen-mix Kirkcaldy cushion featuring a locally woven stripe with a natural earthy brown base and pops of colour in pink, duck egg blue, yellow, green and purple was the perfect item to pull together the colours in my sitting room. Without hesitation I placed an order and within a couple of days it arrived. Not only was it as fabulous as it looked on the website but it was beautifully presented. Tied with a duck egg blue Bluebell Gray ribbon and a personalised message on branded stationery it was a real new year treat.Although not a sale purchase my next treat was purchased on-line from Cox and Cox. For a while I had been looking for a plain grey rug for my dining room. In this instance, size definitely did matter, as did the particular shade and texture of the rug, and of course, the price . With that in mind I was really pleased when I received an email from Cox and Cox promoting their new range of hand woven rugs and offering a 20% discount. Again, without a second thought I placed an order and, just by coincidence, the rug arrived the same day as the cushion. Two new year treats in one day!

I noticed today that the Bluebell Gray sale is still running and on Monday January 30th has 30% off for 30 minutes starting at 1pm. On the other hand the discount code I had been offered from Cox and Cox is no longer current. That said it is certainly worth subscribing to their website to be eligible for future offers. Happy shopping. x

Top Drawer

It’s often difficult to take time out of the office but this week I had the perfect excuse as I had been invited to attend the Top Drawer exhibition at Olympia. With a strap-line claiming “Adventures in Design for Creative Retailers” I found this too good an opportunity to miss.

This is an exhibition for trend spotters as it gives a keen insight as to what will be coming to the High Street and on-line stores in the coming months. Divided into four distinct areas for Home, Gift, Fashion, and Craft, it was an extremely busy show with exhibitors filling the ground floor and overflowing onto the mezzanine above.

One of the most imposing stands was manned by Nick Ronald of Grand Illusions. I have fond memories of attending one of his furniture painting courses at the shop in St. Margarets and still have the aged wooden coat pegs to prove it. Having recently published a book entitled Paint Vintage the stand was a chic piece of architecture housing a range of painted furniture brought to life with sophisticated accessories, and of course, the Grand Illusions range of Vintage Paint.

Another of my favourite on-line stores was present, Nkuku. Specialising in Fair Trade Homeware and gifts, this was another imposing stand, mainly featuring tableware, lanterns, and soft furnishings.

On a more frivolous and colourful note the Tintin stand, and Lake District based Herdy products stand, both caught my eye. 

Gifts, homeware, and accessories, designed to raise a smile, were originally based on the lovable Hardwick sheep. The Herdy Fund helps support local sustainable rural community and upland fell farming projects.

Realising that time was moving on, and that there was still work to be done back in the office, I grabbed my coat from the cloakroom and headed back to the train station.Only as the train pulled in did I realise that the Newgate clocks all differed in time and that perhaps I could have stayed a minute or two longer.

French Kisses

One of the things I love about the Annie Sloan range of Chalk Paint™ is the reference to France, and the French, in their names. Provence, Antibes, Versailles, all conjure up warm sunny climes in foreign lands. Louis, and Napoleonic Blue, Antoinette, and Chateau Grey, speak volumes of the country’s history, whilst Burgundy and Olive remind of fabulous French feasts enjoyed in a vineyard on a summer’s evening.

Inspired by a country style coat hook distressed by using a crackle-paint finish I chose Antoinette, the palest of feminine pinks, to distress this Ikea vanity mirror. 

In this instance it was extremely easy to remove the glass which saved having to protect it during the painting process. As I only had a small pot of paint I decided to use a different ageing method to the one shown in the book as the crackle finish required a second coat of paint, which needed to be put on very thickly, and then dried to a crackle using a hot hairdryer.

Instead I chose to paint the whole frame with two coats of Antoinette and then scraped off some of the paint whilst still wet and rubbed with sandpaper when dry. Once this stage was complete I applied a thin layer of clear wax to protect the paint colour before applying a layer of dark wax. 

I wiped off the excess dark wax leaving it to highlight the imperfections in the paintwork. I then returned the glass to the frame and quickly applied one layer of clear wax and a light layer of dark wax to the back of the mirror so that it blended in with the overall look and feel.

Voila! The end result is a really pretty vanity mirror which would add character and charm to any bedroom or bathroom.

Time To Paint

After a week back in the office I couldn’t wait to be back in my “she shed” to start some new projects. I find the early part of the year, a time when the garden doesn’t demand constant attention, a great time to catch up with my furniture makeovers. I have collected many bits and pieces from all sorts of places and they are all patiently waiting for me to set some time aside to transform them.

Ikea side table

Mainly due to the materials I had in stock my small round Ikea table was the first item to be brought down from the loft. Using for reference the Annie Sloan’s book of Quick and Easy Paint Transformations I chose to crackle-varnish my table.

The first step was to paint it with two coats of Annie Sloan’s Old White Chalk Paint™.

Table painted with two coats of Old White chalk paint

While I was waiting for the paint to dry I started a second project which had also been waiting for my attention. Inspired by a Farrow & Ball article which showed a collection of terracotta pots painted in a variety of colours and patterns I rounded up my terracotta candles for a quick makeover. Carefully masking them with Easy Mask KleenEdge™ tape I applied Annie Sloan Chalk Paint™ in three different colours; Antibes Green, Duck Egg Blue, and Emperor’s Silk. Without doubt my favourite, once painted and the tape peeled off, was the Duck Egg Blue.

Duck Egg Blue candles

By the time I had painted these the table was ready for a second coat of paint. This took no time at all and I left it overnight to dry thoroughly. The next step was to apply Annie Sloan Craqueleur Step 1™ to the surface of the table and leave to dry.

Annie Sloan Craqueleur Step 1™ applied to table surface

Once dry I carefully applied Annie Sloan Craqueleur Step 2™ to the surface ensuring that it was evenly spread. Immediately afterwards I used a hair dryer to blow hot air onto the wet varnish. This has the effect of making the cracks appear and will vary in size depending how thickly the varnish is applied; the thicker the varnish the bigger the cracks. After allowing a short while for the varnish to cool I used a cloth to apply Annie Sloan’s dark wax into the cracks. To remove any excess from the table’s surface I used a clean cloth and Annie Sloan’s clear wax. The end result is an elegant distressed piece of furniture which resembles aged ivory.

Finished piece

Close up of crackle-varnish finish

The book did not go into detail as to how to finish the table’s pedestal so I improvised. Having allowed the two coats of white paint to dry I applied a protective layer of clear wax and wiped off the excess. Before completely dry I applied a layer of dark wax and worked it into the brush strokes and joints to give an aged effect. The excess wax was wiped off with another clean cloth.

Be Inspired

Use hamper boxes and large decorative carrier bags for storage

It’s a new year – what better time to be inspired to clear out the old and bring in the new! As the Christmas decorations come down it is a great time to review your surroundings and update/amend/adjust your look/style. I always take the opportunity to dust down the shelves and surfaces where decorations have been placed for the past few weeks and decide whether to put back the same ornaments and objects or whether to completely upend everything. It might only be a small change as a lot of what is on display is there for practical purposes rather than just for show, but the addition of a colourful object, or the rearrangement of some china, can go a long way to make you home feel refreshed for the coming months.

You might even go further and rearrange furniture. Out of necessity I had to move a chest of drawers to make space for the Christmas tree and am now in two minds whether to put it back in the Hall or leave it on the Landing. I am actually considering moving it into the study and swapping if for a table that is currently home to the printer. I would hope that this isn’t change for changes sake but to tidy up a messy corner and to bring freshness to a stale scheme.

I have some pictures to frame that I have been putting off as I wasn’t sure where to hang them. This has been the starting point for reviewing the layout in the Study as I will have to make some wall space to display this collection of prints effectively. I might even go as far as refurbishing the pine furniture which fills the room as I have my eye on some Annie Sloan Graphite chalk paint which I think will smarten up the room no end.

It’s also a great time to bring fresh flowers indoors as the supermarkets are full of spring blooms and indoor bulbs. Amongst my favourites are tulips and hyacinths as these bring colour and fragrance indoors and with them the feeling of Spring as the longer days approach.

If, like me, you are on holiday until tomorrow then today is an ideal opportunity to pack up the old and bring on the new. On that note I would like to wish you all the best for 2017 and hope you start the year inspired!

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