Over the last fortnight, having been struck down by the cold-like virus rampaging through London, I’ve been obsessively catching up with The Great Interior Design Challenge. The series fills me full of inspiration…..I loved the kids rooms and am now staring at O’s thinking I really could do better. It fills me with a feeling of inadequacy….why don’t I ever complete a full ‘scheme’? Do we have even one room completely finished? And of course it fills me, as so many reality programmes do, with disdain…..carpet tiles? Really? Worse….it would seem from this week’s brain-aching musings that watching The Great Interior Design Challenge also fills my head with bucket loads of bonkers ideas.
As I watched contestant Fiona take an old chair from an Edwardian style front room and start to paint it purple I probably joined many other viewers in guffawing at the TV.
“Never gonna happen….” I murmured to the cushions as I munched my way through a bowlful of cheesy biscuit bites. ….my go-to sofa snack of late. Indeed it certainly looked like it would be a disaster as the patchy paintwork began to give way to persistant old water stains determined they would not be purpled over. The layer of PVA she then applied would only, I thought, serve to make the fabric even crunchier than surely it was going to be anyway? I shook my head in exasperation. Twenty minutes later (in TV time as opposed to real time you understand…..from the sound of it poor Fiona was pretty sick of the sight of it by this point) we saw her rubbing wax into what looked like surprisingly pliable fabric. The chair, it seemed, was a success. Even series judge Daniel Hopwood, (who incidentally loves a ‘layer’ – pronounced as one syllable – as much as his Bake Off counterpart Mary Berry) was impressed.
“It looks fabulous.” he exclaimed . “Like a beautiful purple leather.”
Hmmmmm, I thought…..
You might remember I’ve a trio of thrift shop chairs which currently form a bit of a ‘cosy corner’ in the kitchen. Opinion is split on them. I love their shapes but appreciate the fabric is well past its best. O seems to love curling up on them with books or the iPad and S hates them….so very intensely that at a recent bonfire party he offered them up as kindling to get the fire going. Bought for a song on Ebay the plan was always to reupholster them but unlike so many of these multi-talented GIDC contestants I can’t re-upholster myself …I shy away from sewing on a button let alone digging out a sewing machine….and paying someone else to do it requires a re-mortgage. I can tell you that from experience having re-upholstered in cognac leather an old cat-scratched Balzac sofa and armchair I had bought online for not very much at all. The upholstery price tag, at the time eye watering, feels worth it now as they look divine and will last us, in all likelihood, a lifetime. I’ve the sneaky suspicion, however, that S doesn’t really want my three junk-shop chairs hanging about for the rest of our lives…..
As the credits rolled I settled myself down, iPad on lap, to do some research. A search for ‘chalk painted fabric’ pointed me directly to Annie Sloan and a hilarious demo for a US homes programme where lots of people stand around woodenly as Annie herself nonchalantly brushes red paint onto a seat cover interrupted by questions at every stroke. Others offered more detailed step by step instructions to the process such as this collection from Apartment Therapy, this from Bella Tucker and this from Little House in the Big D. I returned to the Annie Sloan website and bought a sample. What harm could it possibly do to try? I thought, by now intrigued.
Yesterday my sample arrived. I’d chosen Coco as the nearest colour I thought might emanate leather as, with a three year old with jammy fingers and a penchant for nestling on the ‘cosy chair’ with a plate of hot toast, it would be my material of choice. Along with the paint I’d also bought a tub of soft wax…the secret ingredient, it would seem, to turning crusty fabric back to cosy. By the time the samples had arrived I was of course a fully paid-up inhabitant of my new dreamworld ….entirely filled with leather-look fabric chairs costing pennies to revamp. In my head my already successful cosy corner project had expanded to include the transformation of the blue sofa currently sticking out like sore thumb in my grey and green scheme in the snug. Dreams, as you know, rarely concern themselves with fact and I had selectively chosen to ignore the one about all of my chair shaped victims currently being covered in textured fabric. The likelihood of any of them turning miraculously into Daniel Hopwood approved leather was highly improbable. Deaf to any kind of sensible voice of reason, however, I ploughed on excitedly with my experiment.
Taking an old cushion cover from the blue sofa and dutifully mixing my paint with water as instructed by several websites I applied the first coat. It didn’t look promising. Deciding to forget the bit about watering down the paint I tried a neat section at the other end. More suede then leather it still looked a bit on the dodge side.
Then, turning a final chair over, I tried a section on its underbelly. This one, admittedly is the most repulsive of all of the chairs. The fabric is ribbed with long haired polyester-shimmering ‘velvet’ and applying paint to this simply made it look like the chair had been reupholstered in the hide of a wet dog.
I sighed, my fantasy dreams crumbling. Clearly painting fabric really is as hair brained as it at first sounded.
But then my eye caught sight of the green clay paint samples on the table.
I have, for a while now, been wondering if the cosy corner needs an injection of colour and had ordered the samples to test out my theory. Maybe, I thought, the drab ‘coco’ colour wasn’t doing the chairs any favours. Maybe a punchy green might be the way to go? On went the paint and with a hopeful sigh up I went to bed. All this thinking was hurting my head.
This morning, following an unsuccessful application of the wax to my tester patches, I came to my conclusion. Save up for leather and get an expert in.
So now I’m left with another conundrum. Do I go green in this corner? Or should I just leave things be and get back to watching TV?