Ever since I did my first shabby chic furniture course at the Vintage Dove, I have been keen to do the advanced class which goes into decorative techniques rather than just the painting. Many times I had been signed up, only to hear the course was cancelled due to lack of interest. Finally I got on the advanced course at Paloma in Rochester last October. Rochester as I have mentioned before is my favourite place and what makes it so are Kiss Kiss Heart, Rocket and Paloma – three shops all run by the same people. Ruth at Paloma, is trained by Annie Sloan and runs the courses at Rocket in Rochester. Annie Sloan brought out a range of chalk paints in 1990 and has gone on to write many books on decorative techniques. The Telegraph describes her as one of ‘Britain’s most influential female designers’.
We started with a blank plank of wood and painted a third of it in a colour of our choice, I chose Old Violet, and the rest white.
The first technique we were shown was gilding. We painted Gold Size onto the coloured part of the board. I chose to create letters and hearts with it but we could have just covered the whole section in it. We could then try gold, copper or silver transfers or leaf. I used the silver transfers for my letters and hearts and then added more gold size to form a border and applied copper leaf to this. I found the transfers much easier to use although the leaf gave a better vintage effect.
The next technique was decoupage. This was the technique I was most interested in and why I was so keen to take the course. Decoupage involves cutting out medium (usually paper) and pasting onto an object before covering with a lacquer or varnish and the name comes from the French word, decouper which means to cut out. It is thought that the craft originated in East Siberia where tombs were decorated with cut out felt.
Annie Sloan Decoupage is a water based glue and varnish. We painted it onto the wood in the area we wished to apply the image to. We cut our image out from wrapping paper and then pressed it onto the wood. We then built up layers as a varnish over the top. It needs about 5 coats to properly seal it and you need to allow 20-30mins between each coat. You can get images from anything to use for decoupage – old pages from books or cards for example. Ruth also showed us an option with napkins though which was very effective.
Image transfer is another popular technique and there are some great websites out there to download images from, particularly ‘The Graphics Fairy’. Images need to be printed out on a laser jet printer rather than an ink jet as the ink needs to resist water. The front of the image is painted with Decoupage medium and then placed face down on the board. Once the glue has dried, use a sponge to put a small amount of water over the back of the image and then rub away the paper with your finger. Remember that if you are image transferring text – it will need to be in reverse to start with in order for it to come out the correct way around.
Stencilling was the fourth technique we were shown. Paint can be put on with a roller or a stipple brush and you can also mix paints as I did.
Finally we were shown the craqueleur effect. Annie Sloan Craqueleur is a two-step process. Once you have covered the area with step one and allowed it to dry; you then paint over step one with step two. You can vary the size of the cracks according to how thick you put step two on – the thicker it is, the bigger the cracks. To really enhance the craqueleur effect you can then apply dark wax over the top.
This course cost £75 and was great value and a fantastic way to spend a Saturday morning, I highly recommend it and it inspired me to transform some more furniture using shabby chic techniques.
My mum gave me an old pine dresser which had seen better days. I transformed the top half and then fixed it to the wall as a shelving unit to display some of my china. I began by sugar soaping the dresser to ensure any dust or dirt was removed. I then painted two coats of Annie Sloan chalk paint in Paris Grey. To make the piece more interesting and add a further vintage angle to it, I purchased a chic moulding from The Vintage Dove, Rainham and glued it to the top part of the dresser after the first coat of paint and then covered it on the second. Finally I had a mirror cut to fit between the middle shelves. The unit was finished off by applying clear wax.
Over the Christmas break, I decided to transform a plain white Ikea chair using Decoupage. I purchased a book of old maps in a little shop in Holt, Norfolk. To enhance the effect I also used some vintage map stickers which I purchased in Paloma, Rochester.
The old saying ‘one persons junk is another ones treasure’ really is so true. There are no end to the transformations you can perform on furniture and it is a great way to make your home furnishings truly unique. So what you waiting for – get yourself on a course and then let your imagination run wild.