As good as new drawers please!

prepMy eldest daughter is almost able to dress herself, and to incentivise her to put the clothes away as neatly as she puts them on, I gave this mid-century dressing table a facelift.

We bought the Uniflex dressing table, along with a couple of bedside tables at Sunbury Antiques Market.  The dressing table had been in the sun, and the varnish had turned a fairly unattractive yellow.  A through sanding revealed the  fantastic colour and grain of the walnut veneer.  It took an afternoon of elbow grease in the garden to sand the dressing table down.   Then all that was needed was a few of coats in a matt varnish in the kitchen (out of the rain)  once the kids were in bed.  I used the Auro matt varnish, which is water-thinned, free of solvents and wood preservatives and made of environmentally friendly raw materials such as linseed and rapeseed oils.  I shall spare you a full list of ingredients, but safe to say my daughter’s bedroom is not the place for VOCs (volatile organic compounds).

brushMy tool for the job was a professional quality Ecoezee 2 inch paint brush.  The brushes handles are made from bamboo, which is lighter than oak, highly durable and a fast growing, sustainable natural resource.  The brush filaments are a mix of recycled natural and synthetic bristle designed to work well with all paint types (I can vouch for varnish and chalk paint so far).  The ferrule (the band attaching the filament to the brush) is made from recycled stainless steel.  The packaging is recycled cardboard and a donation is made to rainforest conservation for every brush sold.  The brushes are widely available from Travis Perkins as well as other retailers, such as the Eco Home Centre.

desk

We are all impressed with the results.  The dressing table is now full of my 3 and 3/4 year old’s essentials, including cress seeds germinating in eggs shells in the cupboard before the rest of her t-shirts are moved in!

Bedside beauties

bedside

It was a frosty morning to be outside finishing the latest piece for my interiors project, but the deadline is looming.  There was nothing for it but a large cup of tea, flapjack and a lot of elbow grease (as my grandfather would have said) to finish the waxing and varnishing.  And tah dah, here they are.

I picked up this pair of Uniflex 1960s or 70s bedside tables, along with a similar dressing table at Sunbury Antiques market a few weeks ago.  The bedside tables had been given a heavy coat of dark varnish at some point.  I sanded them down to reveal the chevron veneer.  A light coat of Ronseal quick dry matt varnish, which is low V.O.C. (volatile organic compound) brought out the wood grain beautifully.  I sanded around the top of the bedside table to reveal the layers of plywood, as I like the detail and the honesty of showing the plywood.

The tables were still a dark colour, so I painted the sides with Annie Sloan’s chalk paint in Paris Grey to soften them.  Once dry, I waxed the sides with Annie Sloan clear soft wax.  Finally, I covered the top of the tables in some off-cuts of a linen fabric from Christopher Farr, that was made in England.  The fabric, called Carnival, has a vibrant, bold green and blue print. I used a natural latex universal adhesive from Auro to stick the fabric down before giving it a couple of coats of varnish once dry.  The bedside tables are no longer pure mid-century modern, but with a gentle refresh will sit well in a contemporary bedroom.  If you D.I.Y., you can have just the colour or fabric you want.  And be bold, all of the changes I made be undone, and it’s fun to experiment.

Oh and the Guardian article below has an easy step by step.  Or look out for local furniture restoration and painting classes, with a quick web search.  In London, try the Goodlife Centre (S), Phoenix on Golborne (W), or get a bit of help from Revived London (SE).

Decorex highlights

PETDecorex International was the long tail of my London Design excursions.  A design show that is definitely established, decidedly high-end, and distinctly for the trade, I was curious to see what it offered for carefully curated.  The ‘feature’ entrance, designed by Kit Kemp, was worthy of the superlatives.  ‘Beautiful’, ‘stunning’ and ‘luxurious’ can be overworked in the Decorex environment, but they are were fitting adjectives for the the display inspired by the Silk Route.  I loved the hanging pendants from PET Lamp.  The clue is in the name, as the lamps are made from recycled plastic bottles and woven using traditional artisanal techniques in Colombia.

Once into the fray,  I was spoilt for choice. I went to admire the new designs on the stand of Fine Cell Work, the social enterprise that trains prisoners in paid, skilled, creative needlework to foster hope, discipline and self esteem, where a needlepoint demonstration was underway.   Another organisation with a strong ethical purpose is GoodWeave who are working to end child labour in the carpet industry and boost educational opportunities for children in weaving communities in India, Nepal and Afghanistan.  Their website has a directory to find rugs ethically produced by GoodWeave approved producers.

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Then onto textile companies, and the riot of colour of at Timorous Beasties (seen here on their Omni Splatt cushion, £144), was in glorious contrast to the cool, clean botanical prints at Ivo Prints.  Ivo Prints have been producing textiles and wall coverings under license to The Royal Botanic Gardens Kew at their small factory in west London since early 2011.

FABRICSThe Kew Collection also includes  home accesories, cushions, bags and other gifts and a share of proceeds supports Kew’s conservation work .  The collection is closely connected to its subject matter, with evidence of the seeds in the weaving as a reminder of the natural and plant based origins of the cloth.  Only water-based, non toxic pigment colours are used to print the collection.

Water-based paints and pigments feature highly at Little Greene.  Little Greene Dyeworks started in 1773 making dye solutions to the cotton trade.  Today, all their products are still manufactured in the UK, with a determination to produce high-quality paints and papers that are environmentally-friendly.  They use only natural, organic and safe-synthetic pigments.   Oil-base paints use vegetable oils, making them child-friendly.  And a contribution for every paint and wallpaper sale goes to English Heritage, with whom they have collaborated to develop a range of authentic historical paint colours.  I particularly liked their sculpture, pictured below, which reminds me of the children’s song, “we’ve got the whole world in our hands”.

hands

Elsewhere, I was drawn to the tactile display of woollen fabrics on the Moon stand.  Established in 1837 in Leeds, Abraham Moon & Sons Ltd, remains the only vertical mill left in Britain.  From fleeces to final dispatch, they control the entire manufacturing process with dyeing, blending, carding, spinning, weaving and finishing processes all taking place on one site.  Their Natural Wool collection makes extensive use of un-dyed wools.  As well as furnishing fabrics, Moon also produces throws and fashion accessories including cushions, baby blankets and scarves under their Bronte by Moon label.   N.B. Abraham Moon fabrics are used to upholster the Moonshine footstool from Galvin Brothers – see my Tent London post.  Gorgeous!

Other highlights were the reclaimed antique tiles from Bert and May.  Bert and May are also able to make reproductions of any tile in their antique collection or your own design or specification to complete a project.  Their new showroom is opening next month.   Finally, and relax, in the folding rocking chair made from sustainable steam-bent beech by Wawa.  It folds to 15cm wide, and weighs only 5kg.  Perfect for confined spaces!!

chair