Recently I mentioned that we had re-introduced a rug into our home after a long period of incarceration in our loft during the dirty work of the refurbishment. It is, I think, Middle Eastern in style …certainly it was bought there by my mother in law. She gave it to us to provide a cushion for tiny new-born knees when we first had O and lived in a flat with hard flooring throughout. Then, once here at the Pebbledashed Pad, it was employed again as a temporary measure to cover up the nastiness of the carpet in our lounge. In neither situation was it ever factored into the room’s decorating ‘scheme’ so subsequently its beauty has always been a bit lost on me. Now, though, I’ve become really quite fond. I love its colour, (green and graphite flecked with a deep terracotta), texture (silky soft underfoot) and pattern (hmmm – that ones a bit harder to describe but take a look for yourself)
The drawback however is that it’s introduction into the kitchen has meant that the grey Ikea throws I’d swathed the blue sofa with no longer work.
So this weekend I whipped them away to reveal the statuesque curves of the seating beneath.
The sofa stems from S’s bachelor days and like a lot of the stuff he buys (and unlike a lot of the stuff I buy) is quality. Its from Heals and the shapely build with its high back and sides make for extremely comfortable reclining. But its colour has never quite worked for me. It’s a denim-blue, not unlike the Stiffkey Blue I painted our bedroom, but sitting as it has done within either our kitchen or our snug the tone has just never seemed to work. The blue had to go, I impulsively decided, and so began my fixation on the idea of reupholstering the whole thing in caramel leather. Realising that the expense was prohibitive the Ikea throws were my short term solution and seemed to work well enough for a while.
However, my epiphany came during a family (Spring?) break when, sat in front of a roaring fire with hail pelting at the windows, I leafed my way through back issues of Homes and Antiques. There, upon their glossy pages, I came across an image of a denim-blue painted house with its window boxes overflowing with green plants. Placing the magazine down on my lap I hmmmmmed.
“Green…….and blue?” I wondered….
Since then I’ve seen other similarly inspirational pictures such as this one from DesignRulz
and even this months cover of Elle Deco which exposed blue and green gallivanting, quite literally, in bed together and making quite a happy marriage as they did so.
Its fair to say that nowhere in our house have I really pushed the colour envelope and so this radical combination came as a bit of a revelation. I’m guilty, as S pointed out in no uncertain terms recently, of gravitating instead towards grey. This is probably as much for ease as it is for aesthetics. Everything goes with grey (er….apart from a Middle Eastern rug) and it seems to have staying power, having been billed as the ‘new neutral’ for about the past ten years. Grey feels like something I can easily live with when colour can sometimes feel a little more scary and transient. And in a world awash with infinite numbers of possible hues, all of which end up looking completely different once you have them on a wall, grey just feels pretty bankable and fail-safe. I think too my tendency to limit myself to Farrow and Ball Down Pipe is also not for the kudos, quality of pigment or even their eco-credentials (which whilst a bit forgotten in my writing for this blog now, were an essential part of our decision-making regarding the refurbishment originally). Rather my regular visits to the paint emporium are more for the curation they offer in a world saturated with possibility. Colour can feel, at times, overwhelming.
Recently my friend A asked me for colour advice for her lounge, hallway and bedroom and I heard myself offering her a tip I so rarely follow myself.
“Take your inspiration first from clothing or a poster, a rug or artwork…where experts have already put together a sophisticated palette that you know works.”
So we busied ourselves in the next weeks pinning gorgeous colour palettes to a shared board on Pinterest (come on over….@pebbledashedpad). We found nude pinks butting up against forest greens punctuated with mustard yellows. Teals next to caramels and ivories. Rust oranges next to china blue and putty. Chanteuse against charcoal and turquoise. Firey reds against sea green and navy. And by the end of it, with our virtual board bursting with beauty and our heads bursting with ideas, we discovered that indecision still prevailed. A was not really any clearer on what colours she would like to go when so many just looked delicious whilst I had (dangerously, S would claim) started re-considering rooms at home with a more critical eye.
Were they all a bit too simple? Too obvious? Too unimaginative? I hadn’t followed my own advice after all and instead had worked on the naïve premise that only a handful of colours can be used in any one room. So in our kitchen I had considered only rustic wood and green….in the wooden units, green enamel lighting, the glazed tiles and an avocado-green wall. But perhaps there was room to introduce blue, maybe even with a little accent of that terracotta, and create a room which looked all the more interesting for it.
I looked at the sofa configuration again. To make it work, I decided, I must make the blue look less like an accident and more like a considered design choice. And for that to happen I figured I needed to introduce more blue, rather than less.
Off I went (again) to F&B
“Can I get a small pot of Stiffkey Blue?” I asked.
“Emulsion or eggshell?” asked one of the two coiffed assistants who had zealously stepped forwards offering customer service.
“Emulsion” I said.
“2.5 litres is the smallest” she smiled, her enamelled nails tapping at the tin “unless you go for a tester pot.”
I looked pensively at the huge tin.
“What’s it for?” the other asked helpfully.
“A chair” I said.
“You’ll need eggshell for a chair” advised the assistant.
“Weeeell….” I began hesitantly, not quite wanting to admit to my plan.
“She’s painting the fabric….” my mum explained.
The assistants stared. Then smiled. Telepathically they had decided it was probably best just to relieve this crazy lady of her money and be rid. No more questions asked.
And so my experiment begins….testing first the hypothesis that blue and green should really be seen, particularly if you come to ours for dinner. Secondly I shall test this claim, made by Annie Sloan and her vlog-making disciples, that you can indeed paint fabric.
A care-home chair is about to have a blue makeover.