Changing your mind: can you bear to paint over it? Thursday, Oct 6 2011 

Firstly, I realise I have been a ‘bad blogger’ and vanished for a large period of time.  This is because I’ve got a proper job again (Marketing Director for another global firm) which has fairly much eaten up my life.  The good part of that is an influx of funds, and also new ideas as I’m exposed to new environments (hotels, offices, overseas travel) and new ways of doing things.

Of course, this means that some things I’ve already done, I rethink.

This for example:

It’s very dramatic and glowing.  But I felt in the mood for something more conservative (maybe I’m wearing a suit too much?) and restrained.  So, to the horror of the man, I just set to and painted over it without a second thought.

Somehow, a couple of years after I’ve completed the original project, I lose all attachment and am willing to obliterate my original efforts.  in this instance, I wanted to keep the panelling effect to enliven the featureless stairwell, but I wanted to tone down the red.

It took me about an hour to mask off the darker bands.  And another hours to roller on a faux stone effect.  I used household emulsion paint in two colours – a mid grey and an offwhite.  I poured half and half into a roller tray, and ensuring I dipped the roller the same way each time, I rolled it on using random and rough strokes.

The secret is to be bold, don’t go over the area too many times or it will blend into nothingness.  Have a brush handy to blend into the corners.  And ensure that you don’t get lines from the edge of the roller.  So, after two hours in total, my former travails were hidden and transformed into a new look.

It’s interesting how different it looks isn’t it?  The borders now appear burgundy, not blackish (see my post here on colour relativity theory!).  It appears much more classical and far less funky.  The panelling effect really breaks up the walls and adds interest to what would otherwise be a very functional and dark stair way.

Do you like it?  Or did you prefer the wild wonders of the red marble??


Gold and silver leaf: metallics to add lustre to your life Friday, Apr 15 2011 

Gold is the ultimate symbol of wealth.  Actually – that may not be true any more.  Maybe it’s now a super-yacht, or a private jet?  Anyway – it gets pretty close.  It can really lift an interior.  Especially on the ceiling.

And if gold doesn’t work with your colour scheme, you can go for silver.  Silver is more subtle, more ethereal.  It will bounce light back into the room in a flattering and seductive manner:

You don’t have to be some talented artist to do this.  But you do need to be patient.

Firstly, you need your surface to be smooth.  If you’ve moved light fittings, beams and so on, if you have cracks – these must be filled and polished down.  Otherwise you’ll have odd lumpy-looking bits showing through the lead.

Then, you must steel yourself to working in an uncomfortable position for a long period of time.  Best to do it section by section.  Once the area is prepped (sanded and primed if necessary), apply the gold size (which is effectively the glue that stick the leaf to the paint).  Allow this to dry until it is tacky to the touch.  If it is too wet, the leaf will appear dull, and will slip as you apply it.

silver leaf drawer

That is the drawer where it went wrong.  See how the leaf is crinkled up?  I had to sand it all off and start again.  You can see the whole project here.

Patience is definitely rewarded.  Make yourself a cup of tea and then be ready to apply the leaf.  Slightly overlap each leaf – by about 1-2mm – so that you don’t have any gaps.  Actually, you can get a fabulous effect by planning for gaps and painting the ceiling terracotta (for gold leaf) and indigo (for silver).  There is a wonderful antiqued look achieved by that.

silver leaf

When you get it smooth, it will have a luminous, lustrous effect.

If you wish, you can apply a wash over the top to slightly change the colour.  Otherwise, remember to varnish it, as the leaf will oxidize over time.  Unless you’re using real gold leaf (rather than Dutch gold) – in which case – why aren’t you paying some artisan to apply it for you?

And if a ceiling is too much – go for a door.  The photo below shows gaps between each sheet of gold leaf – which creates a different effect. 

Even a very plain home can look amazing with a bit of gilding…

Trend alert: moulding, panelling, cornices: they’re back! Monday, Mar 21 2011 

After decades of minimalism, post-modernism and a complete move away from anything that wasn’t functional, we’re moving back to aesthetic appreciation.

Thank god!

For decades, if it wasn’t structural or vital to the form of the building, it was deemed expendable.  This was either a cheap (and shoddy) way of building. Or – if you wanted a great finish – one of the most expensive you can imagine.

Internal architecture serves a purpose – it hides joins at the ceiling (with cornices) at doorways with architraves; it protects (at floor level with skirting boards) and it can conceal all manner of faults, adding character and a sense of grandeur.

Without it, rooms can feel half-finished, or lacking in warmth. 

That’s why it’s coming back.

For those of you who haven’t discovered the free interior design magazine, Lonny, this month’s edition features a featureless house that has been transformed with masses of (fake and period-inappropriate) moulding.  It looks AMAZING!  Check it out here.

Inspirations are easy to find in houses of old:

They range from the more intricate (above) to the plainer applications.  The simplicity and beauty of most can be translated into modern day with a simple paint job or the addition of some pre-cut lengths of moulding.

Beautiful mouldings

Or it can even be painted on in a manner that is never meant to be ‘real’.  The bed may be a bit chintzy for my taste – an ultra modern look would set off those painted panels better I think – it would take itself less seriously.

Painting a mural: the agony and the ecstacy Friday, Jan 28 2011 

I am quite obsessed with murals, especially the ones that look to be real.

And, as I’ve written about before here, I love the forbidden delight of painting on your own walls.  I’ve painted a red marbled staircase but here I really went to town….

There was a blank wall in the laundry (ideal for a trompe l’oeil mural) and a blank week in my diary.  What better thing to do, than to spend 18 obsessive, rapturous and agonised hours a day painting ‘Muriel’ – as she is now called?

I confess I do become obsessed – thinking about the next step, wondering if something is going to turn out alright, marvelling when something does. 

mural trompe l'oeil paint effects interiors

I don’t have a before photo because I become completely sure of my inability to create a decent mural (despite this being my fourth or fifth), and my certainty I will jinx it.  And it just looks so HIDEOUS for the first two or three days.  Really.   That is the tough bit, where after sleepless nights and hours painting, I’ve created something that a 5 year-old would be embarrassed about.  I have to motivate myself to carry on.

It inevitably gets better.  After the mid-point crisis, it starts to gel, and I start to think that maybe I won’t have to paint it all out before anyone can see.

I’ve been asked several times where I learned to paint murals, and the honest answer is – from a book.  Just like following a recipe.  There are several tricks.  Perspective is the main one.  Hundreds of tiny illusions convince the eye that the image is 3D: strong light, clear shadows, looking through an archway, curtain or window, lines pointing towards the vanishing point.  After that, technique is a secondary issue (thank god, as I don’t really have any).  You can see below the strong shadows (and the poor technique!)

light shadow mural trompe l'oeil paint effects interiors

I wanted an image reminiscent of England (my mother country).   So I played around with some hills, woods, irises and a walled garden.  The perspective is only right from when you’re about to walk into the room (which is where I thought most people would see it).

light shadow mural trompe l'oeil paint effects interiors

There are many fabulous books on murals, and how to do it, but my favourite is “Painting Murals” by Patricia Seligman.  There are step-by-step instructions and pictures.  As you rough it out in paint first, and build up layers, it does look very amateurish until you reach the final layers.  The suggested additions of highlights and shadow transform a roughed out image beyond belief.

So, if you did some art at school, or do some hobby painting now – you can definitely do this.  And if you’ve done one already – send me a photo – I’d love to publish it!

finished mural trompe l'oeil paint effects interiors

Finally: the dining room after Monday, Nov 8 2010 

I love dining on holiday – those long languorous meals, the relaxed settings that make you want to sit and chat for hours….  So I changed my dining room around to get more of that feeling.

Initially the table had been in the middle of the room, which didn’t work as there are too many passageways that meet in this room: two stairs, the kitchen, the laundry and an outside area all enter this space.

I had studied how we used the room (the secret to the best interiors).  I always sat with a cookery book and a cup of tea.  So I needed a comfy chair.  Then when we had one, the ‘man’ had nowhere to sit.  So we decided to shape the room around how we use it.  

Dining room before

I divided the room into two – a seating area, with a sofa (as I thought that would encourage people to sit and chat) and some chairs to sit and have tea and read cookery books.  There was a lot of work.

I had already redone the chairs and the table (see older posts):

dining chair before recycling

Chair after painting

Dining table before

recycled dining table after

We built the tongue and groove panelling to conceal the door under the house (which was never used) and to create a cosy feel for the dining nook (a while back now for those of you who’ve been following!)

installing tongue and groove panelling

I added a colour wash paint effect to the wall above.  Remember how I stepped in the paint and spilled it everywhere?

Colourwashed distressed wall

We added tongue and groove down the stairs

Tongue and groove up the stairs

This was a massive project and it took the two of us a whole (exhausting) weekend.

Tongue and grooving the stairs

So a reminder of how it was before – well actually, part way through as the chairs etc are done….

Dining room before

And here it is after – in all its glory.Doesnt cost the earth Dining room after

The sofa is an inherited piece (yes – these can be worked into your rooms!) recovered in silk velvet.  I wanted a seating arrangement that would encourage long rowdy meals!  A sofa invites you to stay awhile and chat – so I used this to create a banquette arrangement. I always love sitting in booths in restaurants and this is a little bit like that.

The cushions are World War Two silk escape maps (I have some of these for sale if you would like).  They pick up the casual sketching of the artwork – of the Australian outback.

organic recycled dining room after

At either end of the sofa are twig lights – yes – these actually light up!  I’ve shown this further on.  Aren’t they gorgeous?  They help soften the corners of the room, and their organic outline is echoed in both the paintings and the cushions.

dining room banquette after

The pendant lighting helps to define the area as separate.  I wanted a nautical look and these pendant hurricane lamps are perfect.  Can you believe they are from IKEA?

Pendant lighting over banquette dining nook

I chose bulbs at first that were too blue in light (a common problem with eco bulbs).  It’s really worth getting the lighting colour right as it changes an atmosphere immediately.

pendant lamp banquette dining

I layered two curtains – but the heavy linen one doesn’t close.  It serves two purposes – one is to create dramatic vertical lines from floor to ceiling to make the room look taller and more elegant.  The second is as a sound baffle to make the acoustics more pleasant.

bone necklaces and tassels on muslin curtains

The muslin curtain does close and is caught back with an old bone necklace.

cotton tassel muslin curtain beach chic

A simple cotton tassel pulls the two curtains back together, softening the lines and adding texture.

tongue and groove wall, tortoise shell

On the new tongue and groove wall, two tortoise shells frame the doorway into the Laundry.  One sits over the newly refurbished drinks cabinet.  The other has an antique miniature ladder running up to it.

tortoise shell

The top of the drinks cabinet entices with antique engravings, a selection of bottles and silver.  Together with the tortoise shells they create a mood of travel, exotic places, beaches and other wonderful conversation topics.

Doesn't cost the earth interiors

Opposite the banquette dining nook are two armchairs (you can see them recovered in previous posts) and two spare dining chairs.  A lovely spot for a pre-dinner drink or a cup of tea.  I spend time here mulling over what to cook!

recycled interiors chair parisian art

The double hanging curtains add texture and softness to the doors that lead out to the terrace.

muslin and linen curtains texture

For dinner parties you can really create an atmosphere with lighting.  The twig lights immediately create a party with their fairy light frivolity.

romantic lighting schemes dining

On the banquette sofa you are surrounded by the soft glow of fairy lights – it feels quite magical!  The colour wash effect helps create a feeling of age and character in this modern house.

mood lighting for dining

It’s been a huge amount of work – but really worth it.  The most important part of the whole process was having a complete vision of the final product all the way through, so that all decisions and changes led to a cohesive look.

Banquette dining after

Have you been inspired by holiday to change a room?

Why colour looks different on your walls: part 2 Monday, Nov 1 2010 

My last post on getting the right colour on your wall had a lot of you talking, so here is the promised follow-up.

It really is true that all colour is relative.  Remember how you think your jeans are white until you go out into the snow – and then the blinding brightness of the snow makes them look a dirty off white?  Or how surely black is black, until you wear several items of black clothing together and find that they are all subtly different?

I’ll try to show you what I mean here.  Here are two blues:

Blue on walls

But you’ll feel like the one on the left is really purple.  Until you see it next to purple:

Blue versus purple

So now, you’ll admit that maybe that one is blue, it was the first colour on the right that was greenish grey.  So let’s look at that with a greenish grey..

Blue with grey green

This is one of the reasons that when you paint a colour on a wall it looks different from what you expect – because of the colours that surround it.

It is also the reason why it is incredibly hard to work out whether you like a colour on a wall when you paint a bit on – you are automatically judging it next to the current colour of the wall.  The wall will look different when you can’t see any of the old colour as comparison.

Basically all colour is relative (to its surrounding).

Some ways to make it clearer are:

1. some colours are very clear and clean and bright.  others are ‘dirty’ or more subtle blends of colours.  Which you like is generally personal preference, but if you put a clean colour next to a subtle one, they won’t look nice.  The clean one might look ‘cheap’ or the subtle one ‘dirty’.  Look at these book spines.

The green on top is clean, the lower one dirty.

Put dirty greens together and they look great.  Likewise clean greens:

2. All colours are a blend and therefore have undertones.  A red can be pinkish (if it has some blue in it) or orangey (if it has yellow in it). If you have clashing undertones (a greenish beige with a reddish beige), even though they are both the same colour, they won’t look right.

This bedroom starts to look lilac not blue when you see the one below – because the blue above has lots of red in it, while the one below has yellow in it.  The one above is moving towards purple, while below it’s heading towards green.

And looking at the one below, it appears almost grey…

The solution:  take your paint and fabric swatches with you so that you can compare actual colours.  If you can’t take a sample of your carpet or rug, find paint sample cards that match them, and take those instead.

And if it’s all too hard – ask a professional.  We’re here to help, and save you money in the long term!

Tongue and Grooving Friday, Sep 17 2010 

Well, I’ve been doing a bit of tongue and grooving over here while you weren’t looking.  Uhuh!  Wow – that sounds as if it would be so much more fun.

Although actually it was quite fun.  Just in a different sort of way.  This is the lower half of the wall that I had glazed in this post:

One of the things I consistently love in photos of interiors, is moulding, panelling and wainscoting.  So, inspired by photos, and encouraged by my (architect) sister that you really can just install this in any house regardless of its period, I’m going for it.

I had all the wood cut for me at the wood yard (it was so cheap and quick – far easier than doing it myself, even with my drop saw).  So all that I had to do was slot it together and attach it to the wall. I used Liquid Nails for this.

tongue and groove panelling

At this point in the process I had one of my ‘what the bleep am I doing??” moments.  Usual for me at this point in a project – where I’ve put in a load of work, and because it isn’t finished, it looks terrible.  And then I doubt my vision.  But I’ve learned to plough on and keep faith with myself.  But it doesn’t make it any less awful.

installing tongue and groove panelling

I put nosing along the top and skirting along the bottom.

panelling a wall

I mitred the nosing and skirting into the corners and then masked off my glazed wall (which is virtually impossible to touch up) to protect it before priming.

priming panelling

Boy does it look terrible and cheap and tacky at this point.  I was really gritting my teeth.

nosing on panelling

Once primed you can also see that it doesn’t look good enough where the nosing sits on the tongue and groove (or beadboard as I believe it’s called in the US) – so I got some beading to cover this up. 

beading saves the day

What a great invention beading is!

beadboard panelling

With the nosing and some paint it’s starting to look better.  You can see where I cut out holes to allow the wall plugs to be re-attached.  Phew – feeling better now.  That unpainted pine really looked nasty.

tongue and groove panelling

Now I love the way the panelling looks against the colour washed wall.  It immediately adds character to a house that frankly, has been lacking it!

wood panelling

I’m happy with how the room is progressing.  It’s been a lot of work – but is worth it.

For the final reveal you’ll have to wait: you’ve seen the colour washing, the panelling, the table and chairs – but I have a few more finishing touches to put in place before I can show you the transformation!  Stay tuned!  And keep those comments coming.  They are really encouraging when I hit the mid-project doldrums.

One of the things I’m doing next is going to be to tackle the bland and featureless ceiling…. And see if I can add character without making it look cheesy.  You can be the judge….

Why does paint look different on my wall to the swatch? Tuesday, Sep 14 2010 

One of life’s great mysteries, along with where the odd socks go, is why colour never looks the same on the wall as on the swatch.  How many times have you painted a wall your dream colour only to find that it looks… disappointing?  hideous?  totally not what you thought it would look like?

The worst bit about this, aside from the effort of repainting, is the confusion.  How do you know what is needed to get what you were looking for?

Here are some tips I’ve gleaned along the way that have really helped.

1. Colour is intensified on a wall. 

Much of this is because the area of a paint swatch is tiny – and a wall is many thousand times larger.  So you’ll be seeing many thousand times more of that colour – which alone will make it look stronger.  It’s the different between wearing red nail varnish, and red from head to toe.

If you have a colour you like, go for a dilution – most paint stores can dilute any colour to half or quarter strength.

Alternatively, get a less ‘clean’ version of the colour – a slightly more grey version or a more creamy version (depending on the orientation of your room – see below) can knock the colour back enough to look great.

2. The orientation of the room will change the colour.

Just as the setting sun will burnish everything to a rosy glow, all lights cast their own colours.  Therefore the direction that your windows face will alter the way the colour appears on the walls.  If you face the sun, you will be bathed in warmer light, so yellows will look more yellow, and blues will appear less cold.  If you face the (north in the northern hemisphere, south in Australia – this still confuses me, having been born in Europe) direction that never recieves direct sunlight, cold colours will appear colder, and a yellow will not appear so bright.  I actually painted a warm cream in a room facing the sun and it looked lemon.  In a room that recieves no direct sunlight, I love it!

In this room, you can see how cold the light is, and how fabulous the yellow looks with it.

This means a colour will also look different not only as the day progresses, but also under electric light – and again it depends which bulbs you have: flourescent light is a different shade to tungsten bulbs… 

3. Reflected light changes the colour

Light bounces off surfaces and will alter the shades in your room.  If you have a reddish floor (terracotta tiles, or reddish wood floors), they will cast a red glow on your walls and make reds appear stronger.  They will also bring out the red undertones in other colours such as beige.

Light will also bounce off the things outside the window – if you face a red brick wall, you’ll face the red issue again. 

4. There is no such thing as a ‘neutral’ neutral.

All colours have undertones, even beige.  A beige can have a greenish look, a pinkish look and so on.  And this will be emphasised by the type of sunlight, the reflected light and so on.

The room above looks drab – this is because the walls are a yellowish beige, while the sofa has a pinkish undertone (and the carpet has a purplish beige colour to it).  The cushions have a greenish hue.  This will has the effect of making the room feel slightly ‘off’.  It would be better to replace the wall colour with something different, such as a soft grey and the cushions with a bit of colour – maybe a blue grey to pick up the walls.

The blue below has some yellow in it which warms it a little.

This bathroom is painted a much ‘cooler’ colour. 

6. Personal preferences

Some people just love lots of colour and thrive on it, others find it overwhelming.  Most people tire of strong colour and strong pattern – so that’s fine for an outfit you only wear for a day – but maybe not for a chair that you’re going to sit on for years, day after day, night after night.  If you want strong colour, the cheap and easily-changeable (such as cushions and vases) are my vote.  Wall colour is actually inexpensive to change if you’re doing it yourself, but it is a hassle.

This room (which is actually the office of a colour consultant) would drive me crazy as the yellow and blue on the curtains are so strong, and there seems no respite from the turquoise (which I would love as some gentle accents in the room).

There – much better.  Which goes back to the size issue – when you have a huge area of one colour, it will feel much more overwhelming.

5. Finally, the other items in the room will affect how the colour looks

All colour is relative.   It seems that none are absolute – what is next to one thing can radically alter the way the colour appears (just like red lipstick can make your skin look paler).  But that is such a long story – it will have to wait for another post.

If you want help choosing colours for your home, call me for a consultation on 0424 617755.

Colour wash wall: before and after Wednesday, Aug 25 2010 

Phew – a major disaster (not quite the BP oil spill, more like the SoB paint spill), and a little while later, it’s done!

Colourwash dining room after

I’ve got just the mottled, aged effect I was after, although I had to resort to unorthodox methods (what’s new?).  The colour wash (which you paint on, and then blot off with a muslin rag) didn’t quite give the drama I was after.  So I made a much deeper colour up and rubbed it into the corners and edges that would get aged.  I polished it on with fabric, spreading out the paint as thinly as possible until it was the barest glaze.  I had to spray water on the lower bits of the wall so I could blend it in more easily.

Faux paint effects

I love the way it looks dark and moody without it actually making the room dark.  Admittedly, I felt pretty dark and moody myself when I spilled all that paint (see previous post), but I’m back to feeling light and sunny again now this is coming out so well.

Just a reminder of what it looked like before….

Dining room before

But we’re not done yet.  There is still the panelling below, not to mention, some fabulous finishing touches.  Gosh – doesn’t it look DEAD before!  How did I live with it??!!

Hmmm…. just had another thought.  The plane arrives tomorrow night.  Hope the ‘man’ doesn’t mind…..

Colourwashing: how to; and a misplaced step results in disaster Tuesday, Aug 24 2010 


I really like the antiqued look that colourwashing a wall can give.  I must admit, I don’t always like the decor that is then added, but the effect itself can be gorgeous.

Lusterstone and Metallic blue wash

So I’ve decided (while the ‘man’ isn’t here to either see (tee hee) or to live through the mess) to have a go…!!

test patch colour wash

I did a test patch of colour wash to see how it went.  I’m not sure if you can see from this photo?  it’s kind of cloudy, shadowy – not flat.  Which is the look I’m hoping for.

So now, I’ve masked everything, covered all surfaces (cos its going to get v messy) and am mixing up the colour I want –  a soft grey, not too blue.  In the photo below I’m exactly half way across the wall – you do have to look carefully, but you can see a vertical line where the left hand side looks more ‘dirty’ and cloudy, and the right hand side looks very flat.

half distressed wall

I think it’s best if the effect is subtle.  I’d already decided to do two coats so didn’t want too much drama in the first one.  You can’t see it too well, but it’s starting to look soft, aged, interesting, without being too obvious.

colour washed wall

After 24 hours drying time (so that the second coat doesn’t end up washing the first off), I was ready for coat number two.

Colour wash second coat

Now the photo shows the effect much better.  I really like the way that it makes the wall looked antiqued, although it’s really hard to get this to show in the photo.

Colourwashed distressed wall

If you’re thinking that it looks like the area from the little cupboard door and below hasn’t been done, you’re right.  I’m going to be putting fake wainscotting or batten and board over this bit!

Actually, I had a total disaster while I was doing this.  I was just congratulating myself on how well it was going, and stepped back to take a better look at the overall effect and my wonderful work…..  and trod in my paint tray.  Which split.  And a lake of paint wash rushed across the floor as my drop sheets became paint logged and overflowed.  And I lost all my carefully mixed and matched colour. 

I thought about sitting in the lake and crying (a la Alice in Wonderland).  But as there is noone to rescue me (the ‘man’ still being in India), I mopped up the paint, remixed a new batch, matching it carefully to the stains on the drop sheets (they had some use) and kept on going.  And now, I’m kind of OK.

I’m not happy yet though.  It’s going to need more thin glazes to get the look I want… I’ll get back to you!

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