Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Oak Console Table with a Limed Oak Effect

We have a lovely antique oak console table in our store currently (take a peek here). Lots of people have asked me recently how to create a limed oak effect on a piece of furniture so I thought it might make a useful blog post although we also cover it in detail on the Paint Like A Pro weekend course.

I think it's really interesting that the technique we use today is designed to create an effect that harks back to a bygone era of the highest levels of quality and craftsmanship. In the 16th century, ceruse - a derivative of white lead - was used originally in cosmetics and highly favoured by the rich and famous including Queen Elizabeth I.

Snow white skin was absolutely de rigeur for the nobility classes and was thought to reflect the delicate femininity and wealth of those who attained the lofty heights of clear, pale and unblemished skin. The reality was that pox and skin problems were all too commonplace during the 16th century so women in particular resorted to a variety of slightly mad concoctions to pale the skin. One of the less brilliant ideals was to mix ceruse - a highly toxic lead substance derivative - with vingear and then apply it to the neck and face. As one can probably imagine, smearing your skin with such toxic substances is only going to go badly wrong and the end result was that users were left grey and shrivelled. Oh dear. The detrimental effect of using ceruse in this way became apparent and those in search of the clearest, palest skin soon moved on to other wacky remedies such a paste of alum and tin ash, sulphur, and also foundations made of boiled egg white which were apparently also very popular.

Although ceruse fell out of favour as the make up of choice, it became hugely popular with furniture makers who used the ceruse to fill the porous open grains of oak planks. Today we use a mixture of chalk white waxes and specialist liming wax to create this effect.

 This particular type of oak is known as tiger oak which has a really distinctive grain produced by quarter sawing, a specialist milling process reserved for fine furniture and architectural details. The stripes that are produced are highly regarded although the costs of milling in this way are much higher than normal due to the additional labour and time required.

In these closer up shots you can see how the waxes have settled in the grains giving it a really smooth and attractive finish.

Antique Oak Console Table available from West Egg.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Intelligent Matt Emulsion by The Little Greene Paint Company || The smartest paint in town

I think most people who know the paint company The Little Greene Paint Company realise they provide some of the best quality paints (and wallpapers) on the market. Their colours and recipes are totally unique to them, and what gives them the edge over ordinary paints is that they use 40% more pigment which gives a real depth to their colours.

Okay I admit, I started this blog post with the intention of sharing my favourite type of their paint but quickly, don't you love the dipped brushes above? I loved this paint brush display which they used at Decorex 2013. It looked absolutely amazing in real life. The hours that went into it, oh my goodness. It is made up of 8,000 paint brushes in 128 colours. You can watch the video of how they did it here. It is quite extraordinary.

So, anyway Little Greene have been on my radar for ages now, but especially recently as our new design springboard services has been really popular with couple who have young children. I think perhaps it's incorporating different functions into a space that is the most challenging. We have noticed a lot of requests for design springboards that are for open plan living spaces that need to incorporate entertaining space for friends and family, family friendly space for chilling out watching TV and relaxing, and floor space for play areas for little ones. While pinterest is an amazing resource and brilliant for ideas, it can be hard to translate those ideas into the spaces that you actually have to work with.

Anyway, when it comes to paint work we have been specifying in the majority of cases that people use the intelligent matt emulsion by Little Greene. It is by far and away the most brilliant paint on the market, a beautiful matt finish, it's also environmentally friendly and most importantly, it is completely washable! Certified completely safe for children's rooms and furniture in line with the Toy Paint Regulations' BS EN 71-3:1995, we just can't get enough.

I also just discovered that Little Greene have the most wonderful Flickr page, take a look here for some really inspiring images. I've posted some of my favourite colour combinations below.

Their Grey collection has proved to be exceptionally popular. Take a look here for the full range.

I'm not normally one for yellow, but Trumpet (195) really floats my boat especially in the image above. I really like it against the black, white and grey here, it works really well.

All images credits: The Little Greene Paint Company

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Nicky Heard

Last year I taught a  workshop on how to start up a creative business in London at The Decor Cafe in London. One of the participants was Nicky Heard. She came to the workshop because she had been to the island of Lombok and fallen in love with Ikat fabric. Nicky told us she had a lifelong passion for fabric, texture and colour and this shone through during the workshop as she talked about her business ideas with such energy and enthusiasm.

Nicky had done her research so thoroughly when she was in Indonesia and came back to England with bundles of this unique fabric. Ikat fabric is traditionally woven by men in the afternoons after they have finished working in the rice fields. The tradition continues today. When Nicky visited the weavers and saw the finished product, she fell in love with the beauty and high quality texture of the Ikat fabric. 

The first throw Nicky made from this fabric when she returned was a gift for a friends' birthday. That was the kick-start she needed to start up her business but she came along to our workshop to really put into action all her ideas and learn how to use social media, particularly, twitter to engage with customers. If you're on twitter you can follow Nicky at @nicky_heard.

Since she launched the business, Nicky has taken on a variety of commissions for interior designers looking for luxury cushions and throws, made from the highest quality fabric. Nicky's love of making things, and her passion for putting fresh and interesting colours together has helped her really stand out in what is usually a pretty crowded interiors market. She has also designed and made some more subtle pieces, such as these knitted cushions which I absolutely love. 

Products by Nicky Heard are now stocked on One The Square in Forest Row, East Sussex which is really exciting as they stock a really beautifully curated selection of ceramics, textiles and other homewares. 

I'm so thrilled to see Nicky getting on so well with her business and wish her every success for the future. I feel very privileged to have met Nicky at the start up workshop and then I was completely blown away by the testimonial she sent to us afterwards where she described the workshop as "a thorough, inspiring and professional workshop covering every aspect of setting up a creative business, a wealth of advice and tips including branding, marketing, online platforms, defining your market. It was exactly what I needed to move onto the next stage with". 

It's amazing to me to see how popular the start up workshops have been, and I feel really thrilled to have helped others find the confidence and motivation to start up for themselves. Because of a feature on Escape the City I did a few years ago, I often get emails from people who are stuck behind a desk doing a job they don't feel any passion or energy for. Although my old life working at a hedge fund seems a million miles away, I still remember that feeling. If you're reading this and you hate your job, get another one doing something you at least like. Life is too short. 

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Paint Like A Pro on the West Coast || Furniture Painting + Restoration + Upholstery -- Bainbridge Island, WA -- September 6-7, 2014

I'm so excited to let you know that I will be taking the Paint Like A Pro weekend workshop on the road and teaching on Bainbridge Island, WA this September 6-7, 2014. Yes! West Egg on the West Coast! I have teamed up with my friend, Liz Le Dorze who runs Komedal Road, to offer this workshop in the US at her beautiful new studio on Bainbridge Island, W.A.

It's a really inspiring workshop that covers a serious amount of material - by the end of the weekend you'll be able to restore, paint and upholster furniture to a professional level. If you're thinking of starting a business selling restored furniture or painted furniture, or if you just want to gather some new skills to use on projects in your home, whatever the reason, this workshop will give you the confidence, inspiration and motivation to take on really interesting and rewarding projects.

Absolutely no experience is required. Ideally, you will bring with you two pieces of wooden furniture (it doesn't matter if they are varnished or unvarnished) and an upholstery project such as a piano stool, small footstool with legs, or a dining chair with a drop in seat. If you don't have furniture that you think is going to be suitable, don't worry, just send us an email and we will source some pieces for you.

The cost of this workshop is $470 per person and includes the following:
  • All materials for the weekend, including paints and waxes etc.
  • A full set of notes for each stage of the course with a breakdown of instructions for each process.
  • Lunchn, snacks, all refreshments.
  • Skype follow up call (up to 1 hour) with me anytime after the workshop.

Below is an outline of what topics are covered:
  • Introduction to the workshop.
  • Choosing furniture; how to source pieces and what to look out for.
  • Preparation tips for all types of furniture including heavily varnished pieces.
  • Basic repair work, how to remove stains, guidance on the tools and materials required.
  • Furniture painting using Autentico chalk paints.
  • Waxing unpainted furniture and finishing techniques for unpainted furniture.
  • Different decorative techniques for painted furniture including distressing and authentic French country style, crackle effect, decoupage and gilding.
  • Finishing techniques including waxing, varnishing and sealing.
  • Basic upholstery - how to upholster simple projects such as a drop in seat dining chair, stool or footstool.

This two day workshop will take place in the stunning new studio premises of Komedal Road on Bainbridge Island, WA. The full details including the address etc will be emailed out once we have received your booking.

If you have any queries please do not hesitate to get in touch. 

A heads up...

The following weekend on Saturday, September 13th, Liz and I will be co-hosting a one day workshop which will be covering all the key aspects of running an interiors business - the workshop is called Style + Substance. We will be releasing the booking details for this workshop later this week, if you would like to reserve a place please email us at with the subject line "Style + Substance".