Archives

Embellish, Embellish

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.

img_3229

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.

IMG_3231.jpg

IMG_3235.jpg

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.

IMG_3244.JPG

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.

IMG_3252.jpg

IMG_3254.jpg

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.

img_3262

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.

IMG_3274.JPG

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.

dresser2

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.

chair2

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.

 

 

 

February Freeze

Being typically British my blog would not be complete without a good old discussion about the weather. It feels like a lot of the winter has been mild but windy and wet, however I did buy an exquisite umbrella, that almost, and I stress almost made me look forward to a wet day. It is by Lulu Guinness and has a birdcage design on it.

IMG_0367

One morning this week as I stepped out early to walk to the station, my breath visible in the air, morning was starting to light the street, which makes a pleasant change from going to work and coming home in the dark. The fingers of Jack Frost had lightly caressed everything, from the early daffodils to the wine bottles left out for recycling. That time of the morning is incredibly peaceful with just the sweet melodious chorus of the birds and the milkman going about his round. The winter sun eventually breaks through and burns away the frost after bathing everything in a beautiful golden glow when the frost twinkles like diamonds.

So February has brought winter with it which pleases me immensely as I can wear the rather expensive pompom hat, which I purchased from a stall in London’s Hayes Galleria the last time it got a bit cold; only for it to warm up again a few days later!

Bobble hat

Pompoms have been big this season, with a real peak at Christmas, although the trend has continued into 2016. Many fashion writers have said they represent the ‘fun’ element that has been missing from fashion. There are some lovely pompom shoes available, especially this pair by Aquazzura which are sadly way beyond my budget.

Aquazzura shoesI couldn’t resist the hat as well as getting a bag charm. Fendi was the first to showcase the pompom bag charm with its ‘bag bug’ which was a pompom with eyes; and other designers and retailers have been quick to follow suit. A pompom bag charm can instantly update any bag for the season, which saves our pockets when we are still paying for the expenses of Christmas.

This pompom I bought from Asos is designed to look like a rabbit rather than being made of rabbit fur as some pompoms and other clothes are.

Rabbit pompom

Fashion and Fur has had a long and turbulent history.  Back in the Stone Age furs were worn for warmth. In the middle ages, fur was generally used to line garments but the Victorians brought about the change of wearing it on the outside, with the fur coat as we know it. Fur has long been seen as a status symbol with the more exclusive furs being reserved for the upper classes. Fashion designers widely embraced fur in their collections and it wasn’t until the 1980’s that real opposition to it began. Activists would throw red paint at people in fur as seen in the Sex and the City movie when an activist throws paint at Samantha whilst shouting ‘fur is murder’.  PETA have done various prominent advertising campaigns against the use of fur in fashion including the 1991 campaign ‘rather go naked than wear fur’ which numerous celebrities took part in, including Kate Moss.

About a billion rabbits are slaughtered every year for their fur. This is an issue particularly close to my heart, mainly due to the fact I have kept rabbits as pets for most of my life.

IMG_1110

My wonderful rabbit Rufus

I would never eat rabbit and have even boycotted a restaurant because it is on their menu. I realise however that this is a small stand to make considering I still wear leather shoes and eat meat and other animal products, something Karl Lagerfeld was quick to come back with to the critics of Fendi’s use of fur.

I think the key is that animals should be treated humanely whether they are being used for food or fur and many so called fur farms just don’t do this and of course that is wrong. It seems abhorrent that an animal should suffer in the name of fashion; especially as faux fur has come on so much.  Some would argue against the use of the faux fur though as it is made from an oil base which is not a sustainable resource.

Britain and the USA have quite stringent rules on the treatment of the animals used to produce their fur but other countries are unfortunately not so scrupulous and many of their exports are not clearly labelled so you may well be buying their products unwittingly.

It is a shame that in recent years fur has become more popular in fashion again and even some of the models who opposed it in that 1991 PETA campaign have since been seen wearing it.

Everyone is of course entitled to their own views and as I say unless you are a vegan being against fur does have some sense of hypocrisy to it but in my mind, cruelty to animals is never ok and I am quite happy to wear faux fur.  I think that it should be law that things are explicitly labelled so that the consumer can make an informed choice about what they buy, whether it be food, clothes or cosmetics.

Political rant over, I shall get back to the weather and what I have been doing, whilst staying in the warm and the dry has appeared to be the better option.

I completed my first shabby chic project, following a course I did last year which you can read about here.  My husband inherited a rather ornate but very old fashioned cabinet in a dark wood from his Grandfather.  I must admit that it wasn’t something I was that keen on in its original state but was the perfect canvas for shabby chic.  I used Autentico Vanille paint for the base and then used Autentico Pitch Green to paint the panels on the doors and bring out the detail on the drawers.  I finished it off with Autentico clear wax and put new drawer pulls on.  I was quite pleased with the finished result in the end but I did learn a few lessons for the next project.

Shoe Cabinet

This weekend I braved the weather and headed up to London for the Vogue 100 – A Century of Style exhibition which you can read all about in my next blog.  In the meantime try and keep warm and dry and roll on summer!

 

 

A Lesson in Vintage

Shabby chic – a term most of us are now familiar with, was coined in the 1980s by an interior design magazine. The style originated in Britain’s country houses in the early 1900’s, when the economic state of affairs meant that people were less able to spend money on the up keep of their stately homes, leading to faded and tired interiors. Popularity of the style probably started in the late 1970’s with the modern bohemians and it has certainly been top of the interior fashion stakes for a number of years now.

In 2014 eBay reported selling over 3000 shabby chic items every day. The term essentially refers to old furniture which is showing signs of wear/age; often with many layers of paint and those underneath showing through; sometimes this can be natural aging but at other times items are distressed after purchase using various techniques. It is a kind of romantic, French chateau, relaxed, cottage style mainly using white and pastel colours, with a popularity of the rose print (think Cath Kidston) though Italian influence has led to a greater diversity of bright colours.

Some of this popularity has been down to our general fascination with vintage. Once celebrities began wearing vintage fashion, old suddenly began to be equated with fashionable. Television has also played a role through the period dramas it shows. The internet has made finding vintage items far easier than trawling local charity shops –although find the right area, and the charity shops and markets, can still furnish you with very original pieces along with being an amusing way to spend an afternoon.

Another influence on the growing popularity of shabby chic has been the awareness of sustainability with a drive to recycle as well as upcycle. With recycling, an item is broken down into its parts and then made into something different whereas upcycling is simply renovating the original item.

One Sunday this month, I attended a beginner’s furniture painting class at The Vintage Dove in Rainham, Kent. I want to upcycle a dining table and chairs but was reticent to try without some advice and practice. The class was £55 for 4 hours which I thought was very reasonable and we had to bring a small piece of furniture with us. I took a vintage wine crate which we found in the shed.

IMG_0793

The shop is inviting as soon as you walk through the door, with a country cottage feel. It is split over 2 levels and has a lovely range of home accessories, small furniture items and gifts. The shop is a specialist in Autentico products with a comprehensive range in stock and the option to order others. If the thought of painting Granny’s dresser is all too daunting – they will also paint items for you for a fee.

Stephanie, the owner of the shop welcomed us with a much needed coffee before explaining a bit about the range of Autentico paints which they stock. Autentico are chalk based paints which come in a number of finishes and a multitude of colours. The paint is water-based and made with natural ingredients. It will stick to almost any surface meaning that there is no need for extensive sanding and primer before applying it. The only preparation required is to clean your surface with sugar soap.

IMG_0809

Picking from the 140 colours proved difficult for the four of us that attended but as I had just been to Crete – I picked a shade of blue called Crete and a white called Corfu white.

IMG_0795

Stephanie advised us to paint in only one direction to avoid rubbing off what you had just painted and also to paint from the middle out so that you didn’t end up with a big blob of paint on the edges. The painting was actually very therapeutic and I can see how it can become addictive. Stephanie explained how the shop had been born; simply when she couldn’t find a suitable dressing table for her daughter, so got an old one to upcycle and has been painting ever since.  She commented how lucky she is to have a job she loves and her enthusiasm is certainly infectious.

When I had painted the box white all over and dried it off with a hairdryer, I then set about painting the outside of the box blue.   Once this was thoroughly dry – Stephanie explained the different methods of distressing, these are dragging a wet sponge over areas you want to look faded; dry brushing which is generally used when you have a light base coat and you then dip your brush in a darker colour – dry it off and then drag it over the item. The final method was to use very fine sandpaper on the edges and other areas that would be likely to show signs of wear. I went with the sandpaper option and just used it to highlight the engraved wording on the box. The box was then finished with a coat of wax.

IMG_0807

Stephanie also gave us a preview of the things you would learn on the advanced course and I will certainly be back for more! This follow on course looks at paint effects such a crackling and applying transfers.

I really enjoyed my day and would highly recommend the class to anyone with an interest in vintage furniture. The class was accessible and fun and was a small number of people so you got plenty of opportunities to ask questions and get some one on one tuition. I will be trawling eBay, the many charity shops in Rainham and the pop-up shop behind the White Horse pub in Rainham for future pieces to work on. Happy upcycling!