Broken camera :(

If you look back on many of my photos you will see they are kind of funny.  Which was really frustrating because I thought I was doing everything correctly!!

Well it turns out my camera is a little bit broken.  I needs to be calibrated.  Which basically means that it needs a tune up.

So it is being fixed!  Hopefully it won’t take too long because I have many interesting projects to blog about!!

How I got started and where I am today…..

….it has been a while.  For good reason.  I am really busy.  And it is a good thing.  I thought I would tell my story to perhaps inspire somebody in some way.

I have been working as an interior designer in Warsaw, Poland for quite some time.  In Poland, when you buy a house, you buy it “shell and core” which means that it has nothing in it.  No floors, no plumbing, lights…..anything.  It is up to the purchaser to “fit it out”.

So I was doing the design portion of the fit out for clients and a carpenter would do the rest.  Besides doing the renderings and design, I also sourced everything.  Which meant that I spent a lot of time in my car driving from one place to another looking for tiles, sinks, lights….you get the idea.

About four years ago I was working on a project and while searching on the internet I came across Miss Mustard Seed’s blog.  She is very inspirational and a really great blogger and reminded me how I liked to paint and refinish furniture.  I have been doing this since I was a teenager but with changing countries and having kids I had pretty much forgotten about it.

But what really got me was that she wrote a review about Annie Sloan Chalk Paint.  I had been thinking for some time that I wanted to start refinishing furniture and selling it on the Polish version of ebay.  And then I read the review she did on the paint and I thought this would be something to bring to Poland.  I had never come across a shop that fixed up second hand furniture here.  There was a place that sold new pine furniture and had flowers painted all over it.  This really wasn’t my thing.

I love furniture and really like giving an old piece a tasteful update…not with flowers painted on it.

So the concept was there.  Second hand furniture and Chalk Paint.  Now for the location…..

Warsaw has outrageous rents.  It is stupid, actually.  And it doesn’t make sense.  I can say this with confidence because my husband is a commercial real estate broker in Warsaw and knows the market like the back of his hand.  So we needed to get creative.

We searched and searched and everything was too expensive and too small.  Then we came across a pre war building that was a bit of a mess but we thought we could give it a try.

This shop worked out for the year that I was in it.  Then people started finding me and I needed more space.  First good thing!  Then a Polish lady that was living in Ireland moved back to Poland and also opened a shop selling the paint- now there are two!!  And then I moved shops –to a bigger location!!

There were two of us for just over two years- then a former colleague of my husband’s desperately wanted to change jobs so I suggested opening a shop with paint……then there were three!!   And I became the distributor of Poland- which means the paint enters Poland through me and I distribute to the others.

Since I became distributor I have been searching for others in Poland to sell the paint.  It was an uphill battle.  I wrote loads of emails and people simply didn’t get it.  And then all of a sudden they did.  I have been getting emails and calls from people who want to do the same thing as the three of us!

So now- we have somebody in Szczecin, somebody in Gdynia, Krakow, Kozienice, two in Warsaw and one in Pruszkow!!  And I distribute to everybody.

My garage is full of paint and furniture….but it is a good thing.  And this is the reason why I have neglected this blog and the Polish one.  I am swamped!  But happy.

And another thing- my shop is a mess.  I have so much furniture in it- commissioned pieces that are waiting in the queue, that I can’t even stage a good photo anyway!

So once I get this cleared out I have plans to update my shop a bit- clean it up, add some lighting……and hopefully get back to some before and afters!!

 

So please hang in there…..I’ll be back!  (said in my best Swartzenegger voice)

 

Sherri

Two seater sofa- a la grain sack

I found this two seater sofa:

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Yes, it is hideous.  But the frame is in good shape.

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So…off with the old fabric!!

I use this great staple remover which makes this job go a bit easier. And took off the old fabric and the guts of this piece- right to its bones!

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IMG_7479So the  frame was in great shape as well as the webbing.  I started out by painting the frame with Primer red.  It took two coats  and then I waxed and lightly distressed to show bits of the white poking through.

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Yes, that is an Annie Sloan brush.  Yes, it is expensive.  Yes, it is totally worth the price.  If you paint a lot like I do- it is worth the money.  They hold a lot of paint and are really great to use.  This one is a medium sized.  It is a bit heavy- I would suggest getting the smallest one- I find that my arm starts to tire out quickly because of the weight of it.

IMG_7485This is after one coat.  Reds are notoriously finicky to work with.  It is the nature of the pigment.  But after two coats it looked really great.

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After the frame was complete—time for the guts!  The original chair had four layers of foam but I removed the top layer and added a layer of coconut husks to the base as well as a layer of batting to the top.

Then I made sure the stripe was down the centre and started stapling.

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And once the fabric was stapled on I trimmed the excess.

And now I am at a stand still because I need to figure out which kind of trim I want.  I was thinking of sewing a double piping…..but that is a lot of work.  So I am still thinking.

I hope to have it done this week, fingers crossed!!

 

 

Scraps of linen

I am a fabric hoarder.  I especially like linen.  And in my opinion Polish linen is some of the best out there.

I started with this very ugly chair:

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And loads of scraps.

So I had the idea of sewing a patchwork slipcover but on a larger scale!

So I measured and sewed….

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And made sure the cover fit really well.

And then I added a little box pleat trim to finish it off.

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And then I painted the legs and this happened:

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This is one of the hazards of painting old furniture.  You simply never know what you are going to get.  I painted the wood with Old White and red leached through.  Not sure what it is exactly- probably from the dark brown stain.

So I tried to seal the colour in with lacquer and repainted with Country Grey but it still showed through- not as much but you can still see the red.

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And this is the result!

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In the close up you can still see the red coming through the Country Grey but I am OK with it- there is a red stripe in the linen so it doesn’t actually look like a mistake.

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And I think the pleating adds a cute detail…..now I only have three more to sew!

 

 

 

Old Linen and new linen.

If you are familiar with Chalk Paint you will know that the European countries have a few colours not on the North American palette.  Original is one of them.  I even used to have a few different colours than  England because there used to be a factory in Belgium that made the paint for mainland Europe.  The factory in Belgium has since closed so now all of us in Europe get our paint from Oxford.  But I still have a few pots of paint from the old factory.  Old Linen is one of them.

This is a great colour.  It is a darker version of Country Grey.  I thought this style of chair would be super in Old Linen.  Of course it is a reproduction with a mixture of styles–just in need of an update.

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So my little helper got to work with the brush.

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Two coats of Old Linen hid the orangey oak colour.

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While the chair was drying I removed the staples on the chair seat using this great tool.  It makes life so much easier.

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And then once the old fabric was taken off I replaced it with this gorgeous new Polish linen that has a vintagey grain sack feel to it.

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While my little helper did the waxing!

I then lightly distressed with 150 grit sandpaper added another coat of wax….and this is the final result!!

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The shape of the chair is more apparent now- even showing the cute scrolling at the bottom–and most importantly hiding the awful orangey colour of the oak.

Colouring your wax!

A really great thing about using Annie Sloan products is the flexibility there is when painting.  This is a perfect example!!

Annie Sloan Soft Wax comes in clear and dark.  The dark is very dark brown and I normally use it when I want to give a piece an aged patina or something similar.

But what if you want to white wash a piece or create a verdigris effect?

Did you know it is possible to add Chalk Paint to your wax and then apply to dry paint?

Just think of the possibilities!

This is a table I painted a while ago.  It started out pretty sad looking but the legs are quite nice!

 

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I painted the legs and apron with the colour Graphite.IMG_6534

And then I thought it might be interesting to mix a spoonful of Paris Grey into the clear wax.

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And then I applied the wax to the legs.

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I did like this a lot but I thought the colour was a bit flat.

So then I mixed some Monet Blue with clear wax.

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And applied this on top.

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Then I gave it a light distressing to highlight the shape a bit as well as giving it a buff.  This gave it a bit of a kick!  I am trying to figure out what it looks like- maybe pewter or a metal?  I like it a lot.  I don’t have a photo of the full piece but I also did the coloured wax on the top- It has a base of white and then the blue and grey waxes on top.

This technique is really great if you want to white wash something.  Now there is no need to buy white wax- you can simply add a spoonful of Old White to clear wax.  Or perhaps you would like to create a patina that isn’t brown but more grey?  Add some Graphite to the wax.  I have painted a verdigris effect before by adding Antibes to clear wax.  It  can also be done with Provence or Florence.

Hopefully this will tempt you to try something you may never have thought possible!

Chalk Paint™ and Mid Century Modern

Mid Century Modern furniture is a classification of furniture that was popular from about 1935 to about 1965 (middle of the century).  It managed to spread across the world but Scandinavia and the States were definitely the leaders in this movement.  Houses in the U.S, mainly suburban, were constructed while furniture and ceramics were being produced in Finland and Denmark.

I see a lot of this style of furniture in Poland.  I love it.  And I have actually been buying more of it so I can prove that it is possible to paint all styles of furniture with this amazing paint!

This is what I started with:

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Over the summer we were traveling to the north of Poland when I became inspired by the trucks on the highway.  On the back of a transport truck is a fluorescent strip and I thought this would be something that would work really well on a MCM piece like this.  But…..I wanted the strip to be in the wood.

So I taped off exactly where I wanted the wood to be.

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I ran out of blue tape!  Anyway, this is what is on the back of a transport truck.  So I taped this off then painted the whole thing in Aubusson blue.

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When painting modern furniture–colour is extremely important.  Not all colours will work with all styles of furniture.  For example, you could never paint a Rococo style piece in orange or red.  It doesn’t work.  Similarly, you can’t paint an Asian piece in pink or light blue.  So if you want to paint an MCM piece, in order for it to work, you need to paint it in the colours that were popular at that time.  They were bright and bold.  Yellows, oranges, teals and other similar colours.  Because the original wood from this piece is slightly yellowy- I went will Aubusson to slightly dull the yellowness.

So I taped off the rectangle, painted, then removed the tape and then waxed.  And this is the result!

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I love this piece.  If I had room in my house I would definitely keep it.  The handles are original- I just cleaned them up.  The wood looks great in the rectangle- which is lucky because there was some damage, particularly on the top. (It looks a little patchy on the front because it is freshly waxed)

Don’t be afraid to paint different styles- with Chalk Paint™ there is a colour for every style.

 

 

My last pot of Amsterdam Green and the project that wouldn’t end.

I am trying to make a dent in the pile of furniture that is in my garage.  It is slow going.  A while ago I bought this blanket box.

Super cheap.

I was really looking forward to this.  I bought a very cute matrioshka doll stencil that I have been dying to use and thought this box would be perfect.

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I wanted the box to be quite dark but the existing paint is in such a mess so I repainted with Graphite.  And then this happened.

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So….no problem, I know what to do.  I paint over the mess in clear lacquer to seal in all of the spots and repaint in Graphite.  And the mess stayed the same.  I even tried dark wax and it didn’t work–which will normally hides most imperfections.

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And then I remembered that I am one of the last stockists to have the colour Amsterdam Green.  It is the darkest colour on the pallet.  It is actually my favourite colour to use.  And unfortunately it is not in production anymore.  My distributor doesn’t have any either….but I have one final pot!!  (there is a rumour that this colour will be put into production again!)

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And I paint over the Graphite with the Amsterdam Green.  And it worked!  It isn’t perfect but it works.  The spots are barely visible on the dark colour.  Yeah!  Now I can get on with it!
So my next step was doing the stencil on the box.  It is quite cute- can be folky or can even be a modern retro style depending on the colours you choose.  I wanted to keep it quite simple but pretty bold.

So I did the stencil in Original, which is only available in Europe.  It is a soft white with a touch of yellow.  I actually picked this white because the Boleslawiec knob that I put on there was a perfect match.

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And the stencil wasn’t easy either.  First I tried a stencil brush which leaked paint into all the tiny spaces.  Then I tried a roller which also made a mess.  And then lastly I tried a sponge stencil brush which worked really well except that it looked like I sponged it on.  I thought I would deal with that later, because getting the stencil on was most important.  So I did the majority of the stencil with Original and then taking inspiration from the knob I painted the flower on her body in blue and green.

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And I didn’t like it.  I wanted it to be more simple.  So sanded off the flower and then repainted and did a flower on top in Amsterdam Green.

And this is the final result: (after three days)

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As you can see I also repeated the flower detail to give it a Polish folklore feel.  I am thrilled with this box.  I would love to try this stencil again on a white background so I can use really bold bright colours.  I sanded the stencils down slightly so that the sponge marks were not so visible.  Also, most importantly, after I waxed the spots and spills were barely visible.

 

 

Wabi sabi……

She says with a straight face.

No kidding.

I have just come back from a whirlwind tour from Geneva to Brighton, England.  It was a paint thing.  (honestly, Chalk Paint has changed my life.)  I flew to Geneva where my friend/fellow painty person picked me up.  I camped at her house for a night and the next day we set off for France to meet another friend/painty person.  We stayed over in Brittany and then the next day set off to Brighton, England where the conference was held.  Thelma and Louis 2013.  We took the Chunnel.  Freaky that.

Anyway……while in a W.H. Smith book store we loaded up on English books (New Direction for the kids, design for me.)  I picked up the most amazing book “Elle Decor Country Living.”  It is full of the most inspirational homes and photographs that are simply drool worthy.

So, I am reading a story about home owners in France and part of the style description was “wabi sabi”.  Of course I had no idea what it was, I thought perhaps Japanese but the photos matching the description were nothing like any Japanese style I have ever seen.

So of course needing to know instantly what this is I turned to my trusty computer and searched.  And I felt as though a massive lightbulb just went off above my head.

Now this may sound silly, but, it is not very often  that new design terms are created.  Particularly one with such a silly name.

What is “wabi sabi”?

well, let me tell you!

Wabi sabi is a term used to describe a type of design that actually celebrates flaws and imperfections as part of design and living space.  It is life with all its imperfections and flaws.  It is accepting things the way they are and enjoying them.

It is a wooden bowl with a crack, it is a cabinet with a broken door, it is a wooden table with a scratch and it is a gilded mirror missing a bit of gold.  It is life.  It is living and enjoying everything that there is to the best of our ability and not worrying about the imperfections.

And this concept carries through from design to beauty to relationships to foods as well as to our jobs.

It isn’t perfect and we should enjoy it all for what it is and for the pleasure it gives us.

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A beautiful table with a natural stress fracture is no big deal…..

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Beautiful!

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The above photos may be too extreme for some people.  But it is the concept behind it that is important.  Learning to abandon the notion that everything has to be perfect.  It is human nature to want to be surrounded by beautiful things….but teaching yourself that even the cracked and broken also have beauty is a life lesson and something that should be handed down from generation to generation.

Perfection can be boring.

 

Finished brown table

So here is the end result!

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I had a hard time taking photos of this.  I forgot my tripod and today was a pretty dull grey Warsaw day.  The table is actually a bit darker than this- more like dark chocolate.

It really suits the style of my clients house….had it been my choice I would have painted the table in Graphite and finished with dark wax.  I don’t think a light colour would work with the claw feet.

I still have the same opinion about painting furniture brown…..I like wood- if I want brown I would stain and varnish it.  But it isn’t my table!!