A Small Room Reveal

On the top floor of my house there are three bedrooms; the two belonging to the children and a tiny single room that I thought they could use as a study – the room with the mango custard floor. It was relined at the same time as the children’s rooms were redecorated and rewired, so technically it is finished.

lined and rewired

preparing the walls

Except that I couldn’t decide how I wanted to decorate it. Other than painting the walls an off white, I hand’t given it much thought! Except for getting rid of the mango custard floor, of course. You will have heard designers say this before “it’s really hard being the client,” there’s so much choice and I can be decisive for my clients in a way that I can’t be for myself. So the decision making process has been slow for this little room. That and the fact that I didn’t really want to spend any real money on it. Then we had a string of guests and needed an extra bed, so a sofa chair was purchased to be housed in the little room. The desk that had been in my daughters room at the previous house also needed a home, so that too is in the little room. Then we needed some shelving (thank heavens for the summer sales) and all of a sudden this little space was getting dangerously close to becoming the unwanted objects corner.

A decision had to be made because the more stuff going in there meant the less space to manoeuvre when the decorating was finally planned. So while the children were on holiday I moved everything out into their bedrooms and got cracking.

My guilty pleasure over the summer of house moving and unpacking has been a programme called ‘Escape to the Chateau.’ Oh how I love Angel’s decorative style – and it got me thinking, I’d thought of doing something very similar to one of her schemes, but had never had the right space to do it in…

Enter the box of wallpaper samples.

Over the years I’ve amassed hundreds of wallpaper samples for clients and the rejected ones all ended up back in my studio. In the moving process I had gotten rid of quite a few samples that I knew I would never use (dated, not to my taste and probably discontinued by now anyway) but none-the-less there was a sizeable collection of many different colours and patterns. I started sifting through and found that I could gather a collection of blue/grey samples that was a good start to a feature wall. I calculated that the wall was twelve samples wide and seven samples high, but here’s the annoying thing, they’re not all the same size, even a standard A4 varies from one supplier to another. Was I going to cut each one so it was exact? Groan.

As I pondered this I realised that the walls weren’t in any way regular; neither the ceiling nor the floor were level, so I decided I would just go with it… and cover up any messy joins if I needed to.

The tools I used were a cutting mat and Stanley knife, wallpaper paste and a brush, a damp sponge and a printing roller to smooth out any air bubbles. I also used a spirit level to set my plumb line and I did this one column into the wall. I decided not to start in the middle because of the varying sizes of the samples and felt that there was enough going on for it not to look anything other than a part of the design to have a narrower column at the window end. This will also be covered by a curtain in time, so I really didn’t focus on that the way a professional decorator would have done.

I pasted each sample individually and worked two at a time so that one was softening while the other was being put up. The paste allows for quite a bit of repositioning and straightening, so any real unevenness could be moved gently. I then sponged each piece to get it smooth and rollered from the centre out to remove air bubbles. There were some joins that were really off which I could do nothing about, so I cut out flowers from other scraps I had kept and used those to cover the gaps.

It’s a very bold wall. But now this tiny room has an identity and is the patchwork room, it’s a bit of a time capsule too because papers that we’ve used in other homes are also on this wall and various childhood books and some toys have also found their way in there. The colours have been the unifying link and that’s fun as well, because I’ve popped in to find that the children have added a few things to the space. The curtain will finish it in the same faded blues and greys – but I have to get out the sewing machine yet!

Getting Crafty

Every so often I get included in a Twitter conversation that really seems to set people’s imaginations alight. Last week it was about getting creative. Maybe it’s because spring has definitely sprung and everyone is in the mood to do work around the house – or maybe it’s that handcrafts really are inspiring people to have a go themselves. The thing about making something yourself is that if you like what you’ve made, you’ve created something you can be proud of. And if it happens to be functional too, then you’re connecting with the network of craftspeople who through the ages have created and embellished objects for their homes that have enriched their surroundings.

winebox storage

Not only that, handcrafts are often skills that are handed down through the generations – if we don’t learn how to knit or sew or decorate furniture, these are skills that our own children could miss out on. And in a disposable society like ours, not knowing how to patch or mend something, leads to another item heading for landfill. So, a couple of weeks ago a friend asked me if I had any use for some wooden wine boxes. Considering I have a shed full of furniture waiting to be made over, I should have said no! HA.

You will need:

Wooden wine boxes, fruit crates or even old drawers
fine grade sandpaper
emulsion paint
wallpaper scraps
wallpaper paste
decorators glaze
rawl plugs
screws to attach the boxes to the wall

With the sandpaper, give the box a good rub down to smooth out any roughness in the wood. You’ve not going for a perfect finish, rather something that won’t snag things, or graze your skin, if you should brush past it without thinking. Then with the emulsion paint you’ve chosen for the inside of the box, evenly coat the wood making sure to follow the direction of the grain. Because the wood is raw, it will absurd the paint quite quickly – I didn’t mind this as I wanted a vintage look. If you want the paint to be very even, wait for it to dry and give the whole inside another coat. Sand gently to knock back the wood slightly, adding an aged and gently distressed feel. Wipe clean with a damp cloth.

painting the interior

Next cut out some motifs from a scrap of wallpaper. I gave them a narrow border and grouped them so that the box could be used as storage and still have the embellishment visible above. When you are happy with the placement, use wallpaper paste and stick them in place. Pay careful attention to the edges and take some time to make sure they are sticking properly – if necessary cover with a piece of cling film and put a weight like a book on top to aid the bonding.

When the glue is dry, coat the interior of the box with decorator’s glaze to seal the paint and wallpaper. Allow to dry.

decorator's glaze

decorator’s glaze

Now for the outside. With a contrast colour – or the same shade if you so wish – coat up the outside of the box. Take care with the branding of the box as this looks nice on the top – try not to work the colour into the indentations. Allow to dry and then with an emulsion paint similar in colour to the branding, pick out the lettering and logo with a narrow watercolour brush, allow to dry and then with the sandpaper, knock back the paintwork to give an aged feel to it. Wipe with a damp cloth.

Pick the colour you want for the edge of the box and then using a stamping roller or a small brush carefully coat the edge of the box. Check to make sure there are no dribbles or brush marks on the outer or inner ‘walls’. Wipe clean if necessary.

finishing touches

finishing touches

When the outside is totally dry coat with decorator’s glaze.

capturing different styles

capturing different styles

Drill holes in the back of the box large enough to fit over a screwhead and then position the box on the wall. Check that it is level, draw a pencil mark inside the drill holes onto the wall. Remove the box and drill the holes in these positions, fit with a rawl plug and screw. Your box will now hang in the position you’ve chosen.

You can create a whole wall of storage this way , or simply a bedside table. Whatever you choose, your handiwork will add character to your room. And even better the box was packing material before you gave it a new identity!

shelving cluster

shelving cluster