So last week I shared with you the before and after of the snug….revamped with a rug and a bit of black paint. But it wasn’t all plain sailing.
Approximately 55 seconds after S left in a taxi to the airport, away for a week on business, I was up in the loft retrieving the junk shop furniture he had banished there.
The record unit that I extracted dangerously and thumpily has always seemed a bit surplus to requirement. It originally had doors (which may still be around and might, thinking about it, look quite good back on) but these came off a while back when I turned it on its side and tried to use it as cookbook shelving. That looked a bit pants, largely due to the plinth on the units bottom (which in this new configuration was on its side) which gave the game away immediately. So then it was put in the office, again on its side balanced on top of two filing cabinets, and used to store paper and envelopes. There it looked a bit cumbersome too. So into the loft it went and in all honesty I thought the only time it would see light of day again would be as firewood for the annual Pebbledashed Pad summer BBQ.
The standard lamp was also a piece S hated, more so when I brought it home in two bits, it having snapped seconds after parting with my cash and leaving the shop. He’d refused to fix it (albeit silently….by simply never doing it) so I’d gotten the handyman to do it which he did the same way he does most things, slightly on the squiff. But upright (in a Pisa-esque way) it now was and was lighting up a corner of the spare room. I figured with a new look it might qualify for a move downstairs…
The third element to my snug plan was to paint the fabric of one of the ‘care home’ chairs. Followers of the blog will remember me buying a cohort of second hand chairs on eBay which S likens (regularly) to those found in a care home. He’s hurting their feelings of course as under the ugly upholstery is a shapely midcentury style chair and so, in the absence of hundreds of pounds to spend on reupholstery and (probably) strengthening of the frames, new springs and new padding……aka practically building a brand new chair……I’ve been experimenting with the Annie Sloan approach of painting fabric. My first attempt, the blue chair of last week’s post, worked rather well but I knew the likelihood of this one working would not be guaranteed. It had long pile and the tester patch I had experimented on last year when I toyed fancifully with this whole painting-fabric concept looked like the hide of a wet dog. But I figured NOTHING could look much worse than it was, and if I could just take that awful stripy beige away I could cover the seat with a (fake) sheepskin throw. (Available for a tenner at IKEA should you be wondering…..though the real thing at £30 is, on hindsight, a better use of your money).
So about 9pm on evening 1 of S being away, fuelled by the resurgence of energy felt when the children are in bed and no longer need me, I got out the paint and got started. Stealing hours from the night, I slapped coats of Annie Sloan’s ‘Graphite’ chalk paint onto first the unit, then the lampstand and after that, with an hour to go before midnight, I tried some white Earthborn claypaint on the fabric of the chair. A tin had been bought in readiness for sprucing up some well worn patches around the house (particularly around heavy-traffic areas like the kitchen and stairs) and I’d wondered if being of a geological make-up it might be interchangeable with the recommended Annie Sloan chalk paint. Certainly it looked like it might work as I applied it, and a light sand the following morning gave it loads of its suppleness back, albeit leaving an ant-hill sized pile of chalk dust beneath.
“Why does anyone even bother with re-upholstery when painting is this easy?” I had practically sang, whistling as I worked. But I was shortly to discover that I was deluded.
Clocking the time, I woke the children and set about our morning rituals in preparation for our respective busy days. Mine was to be an especially exciting one for two reasons. The first being that one of the dance companies I work for was appearing at the BBC so I would have a rare chance to soak up the atmosphere of a TV studio backstage. The second being my proximity to John Lewis in Oxford Street into which I ducked quickly en route home to pick up an armful of faux foliage in readiness for finishing touches. The snug, getting no natural light, has difficulty sustaining any living green so I had decided that a fashionable compromise (I promise you, faux is the way to go!) would be to fake it. However this option isn’t without substantial initial financial outlay and the skilled shop assistant managed to persuade me to part with much more of my cash than I’d planned so it was two lush bouquets I brought home rather than the few sticks of eucalyptus I was after. But these would, I’d thought, give me the flashes of green I needed to provide coherence through the bottom level of the house, linking the green of the lounge and kitchen……and possibly the green of the hallway if indeed I ever mustered the courage to tell S I fancied repainting it (and to be fair he is partly to blame as the idea occurred to me after he criticised the house….or rather me of making the house…. too grey. But that is likely to be another story for another day…)
That evening I repeated the whole process again: a coat on each of the pieces of furniture plus a coat of white on the chair. And then, the paint having already dried on the furniture, I thought I’d rub on a top coat of Osmo oil on to seal. Then, as the little hand reached the 1 of morning, I hauled my paint splattered body first to the shower and then to bed. A few hours later I was up again soothing the baby and a few hours after that the alarm dinged to say it was time to start again. Feeling bleary eyed and aching I ventured downstairs to get my essential shot of caffeine and to check out my handiwork of the hours before and it was then my heart sank and, I’ll admit, tears came. The dim light of the snug on an evening had meant I had missed bits on the unit, had left drips on the lampstand and finished up with a chair which looked like I’d spilt chalk dust on it. Worse, the Osmo oil hadn’t married well with the chalk paint and the result was a patchy mess. I retrieved the iPad from under a pile of magazines to Skype hello to S and it was then I realised that my day had gotten even worse, and though I’d planned to work from home and had a to-do list as long as my arm, I had no wifi. Indeed, nor had the entire street. I felt broken.
After more frustrated tears and words of consolation from S, albeit from the other side of the Atlantic, I figured I needed a change of plan. So giving myself a day of annual leave I decided I’d use it productively by fixing the mess I’d made in the snug.
I worked that day like a demon. I sanded the chair, coated the wood in Osmo and gave it two coats of graphite chalk paint which covered the beige stripe much more effectively. Then I sanded the upholstery and waxed it before finishing it off with a sheepskin throw and a patterned cushion.
I bought satin black paint for the woodwork and repainted the unit and lampstand. Then I painted the area behind the computer screen in black emulsion to camouflage the monitor as you look in from the kitchen and finished it off with a new £20 green spotlight from B&Q and a vase of the faux flowers.
(In fact I then switched my ‘made over’ lampshade for the yellow one in the lounge as I wanted more light to penetrate through in the snug and less in the lounge where it reflected in the TV)
I found and old light fitting in the loft and sprayed that gold too to hang from the central pendant.
I revamped an old lamp by giving it a new patterned shade (the one I’d taken down from the central pendant) and leaned a woollen soldier toy up against it.
And I laid the monochrome rug, arranged the furniture, layered up some additional lighting, lined tins of pens and pencils along the mantelpiece and added some references to childrens fairytales in books and a wooden nutcracker (a charity shop find).
And I added further playful, fairytale inspired links in the artwork as a way of trying to marry the functions of children’s playroom with a grown-up office and library.
Recounting the story to S I got no sympathy.
“I don’t know what to say, pet.” he sighed from his hotel room. “I don’t know why you do it to yourself.”
Because I love it, I thought.
So in actual fact the colossal inconvenience of a day without wifi was, in actual fact, a bit of a treat.
I think I’ll write to Virgin and ask for a few more…..