My best bargain purchases…

Or, Thank You to charity shops and modern house builders…

As summer slows to a halt and I start moving indoors more, I have started to cast the eye over the house once more.  You know the drill… time to start tweaking and changing and improving.

I have had a bit of a purge recently of overflowing cupboards, and whilst doing it I noticed that a lot of my furniture and household items are bargains bagged from charity shops, auctions and even the odd skip.  Not a lot is new at all, not that I would not love to go on a splurge in some of my favourite shops.

Most items of furniture that I have found have been mainly tall or long, and lingering in junk shops.  We have very high ceilings in our house, so the taller pieces of furniture fit brilliantly and most people cannot fit them into their modern homes.  As long as the basic shape of a piece is good, then it is amazing what some paints effects or a refurbishment can create.  My friend Gaby has the best comment for when a bargain priced item is found, she says “it would be rude not to…”.  Therefore in the politest fashion I can justify snapping things up.

This very tall Victorian glazed mahogany cabinet came from a Charity shop.  No-one else wanted it as it is a whopping 10 feet tall.  I backed the inside of the cupboard with some printed burlap that I had left over from an upholstery project, and it was ready to use.  Total cost £90

In the hallway, this orange-toned pine sideboard was very large and lingering in another charity shop.  A dash of Annie Sloane graphite chalk paint that I already had, and it was transformed.  Total Cost: £80

Whilst at the same shop, I also snapped up this large mirror for just £10, a lick of paint transformed it:

This armoire came from the same charity shop as the tall glazed mahogany cabinet.  A makeover with some leftover chalk paint, and a beautiful wallpaper in the panels turned it into a real gem.  Cost: £40 for the cupboard and £42 for the wallpaper on sale down from £90, (costly wallpaper, but I loved it!).  So a total of £82.

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My latest find…

And how to communicate with teenagers successfully…

After Christmas I received hundreds of sale emails from various interior shops.  One of them was from Cox & Cox, a great online retailer with quirky items.  I was not planning to buy anything, especially after Christmas, but this little beauty caught my eye, and it was also reduced so it would have been rude not too really….

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It’s a light box that come with lots of letters, and you can either wall-mount it or have it freestanding.  This has become the key way of communicating with my teenagers at the moment as they shoot in and out of the house, and they also love to leave messages too, so it is a two-way thing.

I have mine in the hall, so they can see it the minute they enter the house.  There is NO WAY they cannot get the message.  Unlike a phone that they can say they did not have on to receive a text or a voicemail, this sign is in your face and unmissable.

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When I first got it, I did a cheery message to get them ready to go back to school after the Christmas holidays:

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By the end of day one at school, it had been changed to this by a child…

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But generally it is a lovely sign to greet people and you can personalise it too if you want.

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But it also has brutal usages if so required…

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Genius, thank you Cox & Cox!

Turning a useless cupboard into a rather sweet one…

Remember the days when everyone had been travelling, went to India and came home inspired to create an ethnic look in their house?  This cupboard was the result of my travels in early years, and has been with me for ages.  However, it is really heavy, very dark, has ring marks on the top and did not fit in any more with the rest of the house, but it is a useful little item and so I thought I would give it a revamp so it sat better in the house.

IMG_8832This project was incredibly quick, took a couple of hours one afternoon and the cabinet has been transformed.  First I slapped on some chalk paint, Annie Sloan’s Country Grey which is great neutral shade, all over the cabinet and on the inside of the door.  I even painted the iron bars and the handle and catches.

IMG_8834Then I waxed the cupboard with clear wax and buffed it up to a nice sheen.  The bars still looked a bit odd and very Jali, so I found some fabric I had lying around, which is a hessian printed with alliums.  I cut a piece slightly larger than the opening in the door, ironed the hems back flat and neat and attached it with my staple gun.

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IMG_8851To hide the staples I stuck on some ribbon, and then covered the corner joins with some buttons.

P1090637The finished cupboard looks lovely, and tricked my husband into thinking it was a new piece for a while.  Job done!

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Wallpapering Furniture

I have had a Georgian cupboard for years, that I bought because it was quite scruffy and showed where at some point it had had a decorative paint effect applied.  It looks like someone has applied a woodgrain oak effect on top of the original mahogany.  But it is now a bit chipped and worn and needs an overhaul.  As I think the paint effect is at least Victorian, I can never restore it to immaculate mahogany.

I have seen lots of pictures online with cupboards and shelves having wallpaper set into the back panels but not many when wallpaper is used to the outside of the pieces:

Photo from House to Home

Photo from House to Home

I want to make my cupboard into something more exciting and came across this great piece by Dutch designer Piet Hein Eek.  I love the fact it is totally wrapped, and it starts to look like something like marquetry or hand painting that you might see in a very grand old house.

Wallpaper Cupboard by Piet Hein Eek

I am going to go for it with the cupboard and aim for quite a dramatic finish with a very dark/black base all over, but not by wrapping it totally in wallpaper as I want quite a large design and I think it will be too overwhelming.  I will start with papering the inset front and side panels and adding some brushstrokes of paint to those areas,  and will then paint the rest of the wood to match the background of the wallpaper.  Then with a glaze I think I can match the texture of all areas so it ends up looking like a hand painted piece, and slightly oriental if I use a shiny glaze.

The shortlisted contenders for the paper are below – I LOVE the House of Hackney paper as it is crazy close up with animals holding odd items but it is really expensive for a roll, and I also think the Snow Tree is a contender as the brushstrokes in the background can be replicated all over the other areas of the cupboard.  Samples are on their way so I can see the paper with the naked eye as that will also affect the choice.

More to follow on the cupboard saga, and any suggestions also most welcome….

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Cupboard Reinvention

I owned a scruffy victorian cupboard, and had used it for general dumping for a while.  It looked a bit sad, so I decided to have a go at making it into something more exciting.  I wanted to turn into into something that looked like a faded old french shop fitting.  I found some excellent template signs at The Graphics Fairy.  These are a variety of french worded signs that you can print out in reverse and use as transfers for the below method.  You need to print the transfers on inkjet printers as that ink can transfer onto your chosen item.

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First of all I painted the cupboard in a mixture of ‘Mizzle’ by Farrow & Ball used on the tops and door panels and ‘Duck Egg Blue’ by Annie Sloan on the sides and door frames.  It looked very pristine and bright, but I was going to add coloured wax after so knew it would darken down when applied.

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I then used Modge Podge, (this is a US glue product available from Hobbycraft in the UK, but you can use PVA as a substitute diluted about 2 parts water to 1 PVA).  I coated the front of the transfers with it so they were saturated.  This then was stuck onto the panels, smoothed on very well on the areas of font and left to dry hard overnight.

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In the morning, I soaked the paper with water so it was sopping wet, and very slowly peeled it off.  It leaves an imprint of the print showing the right way around.  After it thoroughly dried I sanded it back to make it look faded and old, I then waxed these areas very gently with clear beeswax.  I then waxed all the other areas of the piece with clear beeswax, and then rubbbed in much darker bison wax into all the cracks and crevices.  This gives a patina of age and use.

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The finished cupboard looks so much better and it was an interesting process to try out.

Upcycled wall lights

I wanted to have wall lights in my bedroom, but without the expense and mess of an electrician coming in and hard-wiring the walls.  In Ikea I spotted some very reasonably priced wall lamps called  ÅRSTID with plug attached, but when I got them home they looked too modern, bright and shiny for my room. arstid-wall-lamp-white__0103651_PE249969_S4 Rather than drive all the way back to Ikea, I got busy. Now they look very rustic and suit the room, plus I can move them if I want a change. First I made a bowl of 5 tea bags & hot water and dunked the shades in for a couple of minutes, this knocked back the whiteness of the shades.  When dry I attached ribbon around the base of the lampshade with glue.

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Then I painted the chrome bases with two coats of chalk paint.  I used Annie Sloan paint.  When dry I waxed them to withstand scratches and knocks.

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When they were ready to hang, I attached them to the wall as per instructions, however the white wires looked awful against the dark walls in my bedroom, so I painted them in leftover paint from the walls so they were far less obtrusive.

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