What’s hot now in paint finishes? Tuesday, Aug 17 2010 

I’m always dreaming of houses that I can’t afford, of castles with thick stone walls, or tuscan villas with fading ancient frescos…

And I guess this is what first drew me to paint finishes – it was a way of having a glimpse of those interiors that I could afford.  You can have a grand effect on a tiny budget – especially if you do it yourself.  In a day’s work you can have marble walls, sandstone cladding or a view that’s out of this world!  A few coats of paint can transform a tired old piece of furniture into something that looks as though it’s had a grand and great history….

mural bedroom

Paint finishes were huge in the 1980’s – remember all that dragging and sponging?   I still recall coveting a neighbour’s house where she had sponged the living room in yellows – something my ‘boring’ parents would never have done.     

Well, paint finishes are about to have a resurgence, but this time the look is far more sophisticated than the brashness of the 80’s. 

One of the most popular new looks is the linen wall.  This is a paint effect that mimics the effect of linen fabric, without all the hassle and expense of applying linen-covered panels to your walls.  Although, it has to be said, that this is so popular that in London and parts of the US that painters are charging a huge amount to apply this finish.

I love this look.  Well, I love linen, so I guess that follows.. 

The colours should be as subtle as the weft of linen cloth, and as natural and soothing.  It’s a triple-layer technique as the base colour must be painted first – usually the paler shade.  Then the first layer of glaze is dragged vertically and allowed to dry.  Finally a second layer is dragged horizontally.  The glaze should be a deeper shade of the base coat, but not too far off (or it will lack the subtlety that the look relies on for success).

doing linen paint effect

Time consuming, but, with the right tools (you need a good wide brush to get a pleasing effect through the glaze) most of us could have a reasonable go.  I just love this – it adds enough texture and interest to a wall without being overwhelming.  I’m not sure if I’m brave enough to try this one yet.  Maybe I should do a small portion of a wall or an alcove to see if I can?

If you want to be sure that this is coming back into fashion…  Even Gwyneth Paltrow has a paint finish in her new apartment  – is this spectacular or what??  Silvery trees lining an otherwise featureless corridor – what opulence.  It would be like walking through a fairytale corridor to go to bed. 


Speaking of paint finishes, I met the most wonderful and talented person last week – Mayriel Luke.  She has her own business painting murals and wall finishes that are just spectacular.  She does work all around the world – for the immensely wealthy, for the imaginative, and for large hotels and casinos.

antique finish

This stunning antique finish is the result of over twenty years experience – what a luscious look.  It would add such provenance and importance to the most mundane of walls or furniture.  This is a great way of transforming something that you’re a little tired of… and making it look as though it came from a really expensive antique shop.

Some of her work features in public spaces so you can actually go and look.  The fabulously exotic mural below is in the Observatory Hotel in Sydney.

Observatory Hotel mural

She can take techniques that might seem a little 1980’s, such as stencilling – and re-energise it with the same elegance and beauty it had when used over 100 years ago – but with a modern twist.  The ceiling below is a great example.

ceiling stencilled

You can see more of her work on her website here.


She has some really simple effects that just add depth to walls – beautiful washes and stippling.  I’m so inspired – I’m going to have to have a go at my dining room….

I really want to do a moody wash to create an atmosphere for dining and parties.  Watch this space for how it turns out!


Magic Mushrooms and a luscious laundry Thursday, Jul 22 2010 

Laundry waiting to be renovatedThis laundry was UGLY!  White tiles, chipped in places.

Laundry before

Firstly I replaced the sink and cabinet (with IKEA – good quality and reasonably priced) – and extended the bench along the full length.  (Had to replace the washing machine – but front loaders can be very eco-friendly and water efficient).

New sink and benchtop

Then there were the tiles…  Every time I thought of hacking them all off, the dust, the work, the debris…. I got cold sweats.  (I have tried to do this before, and ended up with cuts from flying tiles.  It’s not for the faint hearted).  So I resolved to cover them up.

I’d been dying to trying a panelling effect with pictures, so this seemed the perfect place.  I had a book on Fungi and Mushrooms from when I was a teenager, and had a craze on them.  I cut out the colour plates, and framed them all.   Then, I covered the tiles with 3mm plywood, cutting out holes for the framed mushrooms.  I then stuck these into the ready-made slots.  I wanted it to look as though the whole wall was panelled, and I wanted no reminant of the tiles.

Laundry after

I had to do lots of calculations to adjust the picture size so that I could get the spacing and sizing the same all round the room (maths was useful for something after all!).

Laundry door

I love this room now!  It’s one of my absolute favourites.

Completed laundry

Dressing up a dressing room Tuesday, Jul 20 2010 

Dressing room beforeThis walk in wardrobe has shelves and hanging space on two walls.  On the third, is a (cheap looking) mirror, some switches and a niche in the wall.  This wall really lets down the smart finish of the actual shelving.  In addition, this area serves two people.  More space and better light would be ideal.

Walk in robe before

This little space was begging to be covering in mirrors – to visually double the space, to bounce back more light, and to allow both occupants to see their outfits simultaneously.  As the shape of the room, the niches etc made it complex, mirror tiles were the cost-effective and easy solution.

The first tiles go on

Here you can see the first few tiles going on.  It’s important to use a spirit level to get these straight.  It also helps to measure and plan where the tiles are going, and the best place to start laying them.  From then on, it’s pretty straight-forward.

Walk in robe after

The strip behind the door went in smoothly.  Doesn’t it look so much more polished and sophisticated?  The onsite inspection was rigorous…. Diesel posted himself neatly where he could survey the handywork.

Cat inspects workmanship

The niche in the wall needs a frame to neaten it up – easy enough with a drop saw and some beading…

Dressing room almost complete

But the switches still need moving the make it possible to install the final few tiles.  The effect is already apparent.  The whole space feels much more vibrant, light and large. 

Mirrored dressing room after

The grid lines in the mirror don’t really break up the reflection, but they do echo the grid of the shelving and drawers in a pleasing way.

Murals, Stenciling and Trompe L’oeil Saturday, May 8 2010 

Painting pictures on your walls is such a forbidden delight.  I have such strong memories of parental wrath at the very idea of taking pen or crayon to a wall or furniture, that murals for me, hold an extra thrill.  Not only can you create something truly unique for your home.  You can also mess with those old parental messages.  Even now, the first brush stroke on a pristine wall feels naughty….

Which of course, is part of the fun.

Murals and stencils can look tacky.  Be warned.  And be prepared to paint over them if you don’t like them.  If I start with this in mind, things usually work out OK.

Stencils can look particularly home-grown unless they are either for children (see the tiger below in progress, who was an illustration of Tyger Tyger burning bright) or in an old house where they are a good replica of period decor.  Greek revival, art deco, these are the themes that respond well to stencils.

Tiger stencil for a child

Murals work best if they are rarely seen – a room that is used occasionally or perhaps only glimpsed, otherwise they have a tendency to grow tiresome.  I really enjoy trompe l’oeil, as I love that momentary deception, that first double take.

Here, the wall of a dull, rendered balcony was brought to life with fake sandstone blocks, and a fake niche filled with leather volumes.  This witty addition transformed a dull area into somewhere fun to sit.

Trompe L'oeil mural in a toilet

This mural is in a downstairs bathroom.  When the door is shut, there are no windows and no features.  At first glance, it appears as though the room is opening onto a garden.  Even when the illusion has faded, the mural means that the space doesn’t feel closed in or windowless.

The tiles are continued into the mural to blur the edges of reality.  The owner’s cat can be seen just peeking into the pool.

As this room is rarely used, it is a fun way to liven it up.  Such a mural in a main living area would soon lose its effect.

Red marbled stairway: faux finishes for dark corners Thursday, Apr 22 2010 

This stairway was always going to be dark.  There are no windows and no natural light and it’s leading down to the lowest floor.  It looked blank and utilitiarian and most uninviting.  It was never going to look light and spacious….

So why fight it?  It took a week to hand paint these walls to look like marble panels – white-veined marble with black surrounds.  To top it off, the offcuts from some kelim runners covered up the dated tiles on the floor.  This has created a dark and moody look, that at the very least, tempts you to see where it leads….

Why not recover a tiny washroom’s walls with maps? Wednesday, Apr 21 2010 

I always think you can go slightly crazy in the small rooms that you don’t use or see a lot.  You can use a decorative style that would be overwhelming or tiresome if you had to look at it every day.  I love the surprise of a tiny bathroom that is completely ‘out there’.

This little toilet was covered in unimaginative cheap square white tiles. Removing ugly tiles and replacing them can be a very messy, lengthy and expensive process.  Why bother when you can cover them up easily?

Here, we covered walls with a selection of maps from holidays and homes.  Doesn’t everyone have a box full of maps that are never looked at or used again?   This is something that men tend to hoard for some reason.  And if you’re going to keep them, you may as well enjoy them.  This way, you can revisit holidays every time you wash your hands.  Just be prepared for guests to spend longer than expected in there as they follow a trip down memory lane too….

Elegantly sustainable interiors Thursday, Apr 15 2010 

This site is dedicated to interiors that don’t cost the earth.

I have never been able to bear waste of any kind and now my passion for reinventing unwanted items and embracing other people’s cast offs has officially taken over my life.  I don’t really understand why you’d want to buy a piece of cheap, poorly-made furniture from a chain store, when you can have your own, personally designed and refurbished chair or table that has been beautifully made (a while ago – before cheap manufacture became so ubiquitous).

But not furniture that looks patched or ‘hippy’.  Furniture that’s elegant, glamorous or cool.  And you can have all this and more – for a lower cost (usually) and with minimal environmental impact. 

I’m also really into witty ways to design rooms and walls.  I love mural, marbling, trompe l’oeil.  I love a perfectly designed room that beckons you in and relaxes you.

So this, this is dedicated to all those rooms with furniture that has been revamped, preloved or reused.  This is dedicated to welcoming, stylish and chic homes that aren’t using up too many of the earth’s resources, or consuming too much of your wallet.  This is about using your imagination to create a home you’ll love, and that will sit easily on the planet.

In brief – it doesn’t cost the earth

« Previous Page