A furniture painting Masterclass with Out of the Dark

62a668_de9d61af450ef7ade2bab3aeead88800.png_srz_140_135_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_png_srzSometimes there is no substitute for experience.  Out of the Dark have plenty of experience of “How to Revamp Your Furniture” and this week ran an evening workshop at Heal’s on Tottenham Court Road to share some of the tips of their trade.

If you haven’t heard of Out of the Dark, they are a charitable social enterprise that recycles and restores salvaged furniture employing young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and training them in furniture making and restoration.  Based in High Wycombe, the 19th century chair-making capital of the world, think the classic Windsor chair and Chiltern woodlands, Out of the Dark is proud to draw on this rich heritage of traditional skills.  Much of their work is for boutique hotels and commercial clients (they just shipped a hundred chairs to Kuwait), but their work is available to all online.

ottd1The three hour workshop at Heal’s drew an attentive crowd with smartphones full of images of projects in the pipeline.  The evening started with tips on where to source furniture: keep an eye out for skip finds; for more economical furniture source further afield from London; or drop into Out of the Dark and have a look at their unpainted stock.  Look for a solid piece of furniture in a shape you like, and free your imagination.

Do be deterred by a lot of chipboard, but not by a little wood worm.  The former needs sensitive handling to preserve the veneer, the later can be solved with some white spirit or worm treatment and left for 24 hours before painting.  If there are any wobbles tighten them up before you start preparing the piece.

ottd2Planning and preparation are key to achieving a polished look, and easier than tidying up a hurried piece at the end.  Jay, co-founder of Out of the Dark, Travis and Yasser talked us through sanding, priming, painting and finishing before unleashing us on some pine boards to have a go.

I have learnt from experience to always sand in the direction of the wood grain, and start painting chairs upside down.  I scribbled these and many more tips down in the notebook provided, but there is no substitute for actually painting a piece under the watchful eye of one of the Out of the Dark team.  They have a real attention to detail, patient perfectionists with paintbrushes!   You have to literally get a feel for it.  Tactile is a word that crops up a lot.

ottd3Heal’s were game to allow a group of amateurs loose with aprons and paint in their showrooms!  The evening was an intense transfer of Out of the Dark’s knowledge gained from working with all manner of pieces, and products.  Osmo finishes are a particular favourite for their performance and environmentally-friendly footprint.

ottd4It was engaging to chat to Travis about his quiet passion for the traditional crafts of caning, painting and upholstery, as well as appreciate the confidence he now has working with wood.  It may take a matter of minutes to spray paint a chair in a factory setting compared to the several days by hand, but the skill, satisfaction and story are far from comparable.

If you are short of time, or the inclination for lots of elbow grease then Out of the Dark run a commission service to spruce up your un/loved pieces.  If you are keen to try your hand, the event cost a very reasonable £15, and all proceeds went to support Out of the Dark’s work.  You can find out about future events at Heal’s here.  News of Out of the Dark events and workshops and open studios this June can be found here.

Out of the Dark have a very exciting collaboration in the pipeline for later this year which bring their work to a wider audience and deepen their knowledge and skill of traditional furniture-making. So watch this space!

Related link:

Out of the Dark: restoring furniture & direction to troubled teenagers

 

 

 

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Revamp complete!

chairsAfter many hours of elbow grease, painting, and waxing, I was delighted to finish revamping the interiors of two flats for a private landlord.  It was a first for us both.  As a rental flat, there were budget tight constraints for me, and for the landlord it was an experiment to furnish the flats with a lower impact, at a similar cost to the conventional alternative.

The landlord had some chairs from former tenants, an Italian restaurant that had closed, and another who was downsizing.  The chairs are in perfectly good condition, just a bit too country house kitchen for a city flat pitched at young professionals or couples.  You can find similar at secondhand furnitures shops, or at your local furniture reuse and recycling centre.  The Furniture Re-use Network is a national body supporting charitable re-use organisations across the UK.  Re-use enterprises combine social and environmental aims.  Typically, they collect unwanted furniture or domestic appliances that are then refurbished providing work opportunities and training for the socially excluded, and helping people in need turn a house into a home by providing affordable furnishings.  Every year the sector re-uses 2.6 million items of furniture and electrical equipment and diverts 90,000 tonnes of waste from landfill.  Anyone can donate or find furniture via the network.

Look for pieces that are solid, in good working order, and whose basic shape you like, then you make it your own.  I selected a set of chairs for each flat and set to work sanding where necessary, painting and waxing.  The chalk paint from Annie Sloan has a smooth, matt finish and can be used on almost any surface from wood to plastic, inside and outside without much preparation.  It is low odour and low VOC (volatile organic compound).  It dries fairly fast, so you can apply a second or third coat without too much delay, before sealing the paint with soft wax.  The Annie Sloan website has a series of short video tutorials, or you can contact your local stockist to ask about workshops.  We sourced a drop-leaf table and some bedside tables from Sunbury Antiques market.

cranhurstThe bedside tables were treated to a livery of Annie Sloan paint on the sides, sanding and clear Auro matt varnish on the front to accentuate the grain of the veneer, and decoupage.  The Auro varnish is environmentally-friendly and free of solvents.  It has a milky colour when you apply it, but dries clear.  I used an off cut of a favourite fabric to cover the top of the bedside table, using Auro universal adhesive, a natural latex milk adhesive, and then a few coats of the matt varnish to seal the fabric.  I used the same fabric, Carnival, from Christopher Farr,  to soften the black faux-leather headboard.  The fresh, exuberant print of pomegranates in blue and green on the fabric gave the room a focal point making economical use of an off cut and staple gun.

Beeld-handle-4Another trick to quick refresh a cupboard or set of drawers is to change the handles.  These leather handles (pictured left) from Nu Interiuer Ontwerp were featured in the March issue of Elle Decoration.  Simple, elegant and available in four colours.  Chloe Alberry, on Portobello Road and online, has an encyclopaedic range of handles in glass, wood, ceramic and other materials.

If you are daunted by the thought of DIY then look for a course in furniture painting or restoration at your local adult education college.  In London, the Goodlife Centre runs a range of courses in upholstery, furniture restoration and painting that are said to be “Suitable for absolute beginners. Enjoyable for everyone.”  Maybe a Mother’s Day treat for someone?

WWT-21_largeOr if you like the look, but not the effort, then three of my favourite up-cycling ventures in the south of England are Out of the Dark, Xylo Furniture and the Restoration Station.  The sleek monochrome matt finish of this drop-leaf table from Xylo Furniture (right, £280) highlights the craftsmanship of  the beautifully shaped legs, but brings it bang up to date.  As well as working on their own stock, Out of the Dark can also work on yours.  The OOTD team can refresh an heirloom so it sits more comfortably in a contemporary home, or repair wooden and upholstered furniture.  Restoration Station also take commissions. So bring a little spring zing into your home.

Photo credits:  Nu Interiuer, Xylo Furniture

What a hottie!

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The cold winter nights are still with us and one way to warm up is with a hot water bottle.  Who wouldn’t love a cuddle with one of these?

The warm tones of the Seed hot water bottle from Seven Gauge Studio (pictured left) alone will spark an inner glow.  Each cover is knitted on a hand-powered machine from top quality lambswool, then individually washed and slightly felted for a softer cuddle.  They are priced at £45, including the bottle, and made to order in England.

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The hottie covers from Laura’s Loom (pictured right) are made from Bluefaced Leicester wool that is sourced from the Yorkshire Dales.  The lovely colours of these Howgill fabrics deliberately evoke the colours and textures of Britain’s northern landscapes.  All Laura’s Loom products are designed, sourced and made in the UK, proudly celebrating Britain’s woollen heritage.  The hotties are available in the three colours shown, priced £24, and fit a standard 2l bottle (not included).

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An upcycled alternative, is the selection of hot water bottle covers made from vintage Welsh blankets that have been damaged beyond repair available from Jane Beck.  The blanket remnants are salvaged to make limited numbers of mini and full size hot water bottle covers.  Prices from £19.99 for a mini hottie, with bottle included.

hottiebottie400px_250pxx370_99241f4dd82b68b3c9669f6c284a545bFor a homemade option, the Hottie Bottie hot water bottle cover felt making kit from Gilliangladrag includes the wool tops, ready cut plastic template and full step-by-step feltmaking instructions written by Gillian Harris, author of “Complete Feltmaking” and “Carnival of Felting”.  A basic felt making kit (bamboo mat and net) is also required.  I am quite tempted to sign up for a Learn to Felt course, £65 for the day at the Fluff-a-torium in Dorking.

cherrystonebagThe cherry stone bag from Momosan is an original, and understated alternative to  conventional hot water bottles.  The 100% African cotton bags are filled with cherry stones that are a by-product of jam and kirsch making.  Apparently, Swiss distillery workers traditionally heated bags of the stones on warm stoves to sooth bumps and aching muscles.  If you don’t have a stove to hand, you and I  can heat the cherry stone pillows in the microwave to soothe muscular tension or warm feet in bed.  The bag can also be chilled for use as a cold compress on sprains or headaches.  The bags are available in 9 different patterns and cost £22.

Nights need no longer be chilly!

All pictures are from the suppliers websites.

New year’s resolutions?

SatelliteAs the sun shone on Sunday, a herd of runners pounded past me on the Heath.  Mens sana in corpore sano, a healthy mind in a healthy body is promoted to the top of the agenda in the new year.  If a luxury boot camp (here are Lonely planet’s top picks) is a step too far, then there are plenty of ways available to reboot and reinvigorate mind, body and soul closer to home.

Don’t fall into the trap of signing up to annual gym membership, the National Trust’s website has plenty of advice for the outdoor gym, (see picture).  There are tips to get you started, videos and a 31 day plan.  Not only is the outdoor gym free, but you’re more than likely to get a healthy glow from vitamin D,  work harder on uneven natural surfaces, and burn 20percent more calories as a result. 

blog-nettle-teaHealthy body on the outside generally follows a healthy body on the inside, so have a look at the Eden Project’s list of ‘Seven foods to help fight those January blues’.  Drink nettle tea (pictured), which is surprisingly refreshing, if slightly grassy, and eat all the colours of a rainbow.  If you need a little inspiration on how to prepare your super foods, or enliven your diet, try a raw food course at Nama Foods.  At the end of the month they are running a fermentation workshop, not beer but sparkling drinks for all the family.

Detoxing is more than a physiological process, it is also a mental one.  Detoxification is letting go of the old, and releasing what no longer serves you, whether clutter in your home or patterns of behaviour.  Clearing away the old stories to make way for the new.

What will be the your inspiration?  A new skill? All around the country the National Trust runs a wide range of courses and workshops from hedge laying and drystone walling, to photography and painting. Check the events pages at your local museum or craft centre.  In London, the Victoria and Albert Museum run a varied mix of workshops, or try Kew Gardens for a one day course to grow orchids successfully at home and bring a bit of tropical colour indoors.

Lamp_image_2_jpg_130x86_crop_q85You could refresh a room at home.  Elizabeth Cake, author of ‘Make Your Own Lampshades’, runs workshops to make lampshades (the next is with the How to Academy on 4th February). A screen print made at a workshop with the Print Club London to frame your new year’s manifesto?  Take it further and hand print your own wallpaper at the Papered Parlour later this month. Or learn about furniture restoration, reupholstery or repainting, with Goodlife Centre.  There is even an Introduction to Rag Rugs, if your toes feel a bit chilly when you hop out of bed in the morning!

Picture credits: National Trust, Eden Project, Victoria and Albert Museum website

Bedside beauties

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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).

5 of the best table lamps

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The clocks have gone back, and as the nights draw in, Diwali, the festival of lights, this week celebrates the victory of good over evil, light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance. And it has been Bonfire Night too.  So it seems fitting to shine a light on five of the best table lamps.

1. The Rod table lamp by Sebastian Cox has a shade made of compressed hazel fibres, and the stem is a steam bent hazel rod (H 5 4x W 12 x D 20 cm).  The coppiced hazel is grown locally and harvested in the winter as part of a sustainable woodland management programme.  Hazel is light, strong, with a fine grain and fast-growing.  The lamp is an honest, elegant piece that brings a bit of native British woodland inside. The lamp costs £175 including an LED bulb.

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2. The Flos Kelvin mini task lamp, designed by Antonio Citterio, is widely available from retailers including John Lewis for £175.   In sleek contrast to the Rod lamp, but with eco-credentials nonetheless as it is  made of recycled aluminium.  The arm and head are adjustable for focused light from the 30 LED lights which contain a chemically-etched diffuser to soften the light.  The lamp’s dimensions are H30 x W12 x D12cm.

diy-table-053.  After natural, renewable and recyclable materials, I have end of life in mind when including the DIY Table Lamp designed by Rona Meyuchas  K from Kukka.  This is a traditional lamp, with a twist.  It could be used at home or the office, or where ever you choose.  It is made of 6 screws, 7 pieces of beech wood, lamp holder and cable. The wood is unfinished, so you could paint, lacquer or sand it to suit your style or leave it natural.  If you want to short-cut that detail you can order it in a range of 7 colours.  The dimensions are 53 x 43 x 10cm, and the lamp costs £115.  The lamp is supplied with a 40w reflector bulb, an LED alternative would use around 85% less energy and last 20 times longer, or an energy-saving halogen bulb, which would be around a 30% saving on a standard 40w bulb.

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4. Drws y Coed, means to door to the woods in Welsh, and the dappled lighting of their table lamp creates a sense of connection with woodland.  The products are made from birch plywood and local Welsh timber. Digital technologies, such as laser cutting enable a micro manufacturing in North Wales close to sources of timber, and inspiration. The Merddyn Gwyn Lamp (pictured) is based on a beaker from Merddyn Gwyn Bronze Age archeological site in Anglesey. The dimensions are H38 x W12 x D12 cm and costs £90.  In a waste not, want not vein, the pieces of ply laser cut out of the top of the lamps are repurposed as coasters!

5.  D.I.Y. Either refresh an existing lamp, revive an ebay purchase, or start from scratch.  A wine bottle is a popular choice for a lamp base, or a vintage find.  You can buy table lamp kits online, and follow instructions online from Wikihow, or find a local course.  In London, the Goodlife Centre runs How to make a lamp evening courses. Be sure to read and heed all warnings and follow the directions with the lamp kit.  For simple instructions on how to make a lampshade visit the Channel 4 website, or find a local course and get some tips from an expert.  Lolly & Boo run lampshade courses in a couple of locations in the south, and Rustiques run workshops with Annie Sloan paints and fabrics in Aberdeenshire.  Have a peek at Folly & Glee for a range of DIY lamp making accessories and inspiration.

Get creative, get personal at Liberty for 10 days

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For ten days it is time to Get Creative, and get personal at Liberty of London.  This august emporium of beautiful things famed for its distinctive fabrics, Arts and Crafts heritage, design, craftsmanship and innovative collaborations is inviting us to have a go.  As well as bespoke products, there are a variety of interactive workshops where you can emboss, engrave or monogram products to put your stamp on them.  You could literally stamp your mark and design your own bespoke shoes in conjunction with English shoemakers Grenson (starting at £360 for women’s shoes!).

For something closer to carefully curated’s remit, Rowan are running a craft session everyday from 12pm-3pm in the Haberdashery department on the 3rd floor where you could make a Christmas bauble, make a needle case, or an Advent calendar (from Button Bag, the craft kits for children).  By way of a last hurrah, Etsy hosts a couple of sessions on the final day, including making origami greeting cards led by Gemma Gileard of Etsy shop, Gx2homegrown.

Use your hands, connect with your inner creativity and allow yourself to be inspired. The full calendar of events is here.

Xylo Furniture with a story

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Check out the new website for Xylo Furniture which has just launched telling its story and showing its wares.  Xylo is a social enterprise, created by the Wlliam Wilberforce Trust, that sources pre-loved furniture that was created by master craftsmen and gives each piece a new lease of life.

The William Wilberforce Trust Employability, Enterprise and Re-Use programme is part of the national Furniture Re-Use Network, and the London Re-Use Network.  LRN and FRN will collect all sorts of things from your home and sell them on at a fair price.

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And it really works, each year the sector diverts 110,000 tonnes of furniture from landfill, re-uses 2.7 million items of furniture and electricals, and saves those on low incomes millions on essential goods, as those benefits are often entitled to a further discount.

For the Xylo trainee, facing significant barriers to employment, the 16 week Employability Programme, provides workplace experience, training and mentoring.  The Xylo trainees gain valuable skills and fuse their story into that of the restored Xylo piece.

Xylo pieces combine age-old craftsmanship with modern, hand-painted finishes. Items of furniture are selected because they have been made to a standard that is now rare; they have been built to last.  This eclectic set of six dining chairs (£400) spanning the 19th and 20th centuries are tied together in cobalt blue coat with the feet left bare to show their provenance.  Not only are they colourful pieces of upcycling, but the very essence of sustainability, with physical and emotional durability as they have been treasured for generations, and can be for many more!

Photo credits: Xylo Furniture

Where’s woolly? Here it is

 

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And voila!  The result of my first experiment in knitting at the Knit Nation class with Wool in the Gang at John Lewis earlier this week.  The whole project took between two and three hours for this complete beginner.  The Zion Lion knit kit (£30) had very clear, concise and easy to follow instructions.  I have been bitten by the knit bug!  My daughters were both fascinated by the process, and very excited to receive their one size seems to fit all beanie hat.

There will be more to follow……

 

London: Hidden Nature

London’s landscape constantly surprises me, even after more than a decade living in the big smoke I am still finding patches of green, whether a tucked away garden, living wall, overzealous buddleia.  Later this month, 21st September, professional photographer, Roy Matthews is leading an adult learning event at the Royal Academy for photographers of all abilities and camera types to capture London’s hidden natural landscape.  The shift of season into autumn will no doubt only add to the atmosphere.  The day workshop, London: Hidden Nature, runs from 11am meeting at the Royal Academy for a practical session outdoors, followed by a critique at the RA.

Capture an unfamiliar image of London to savour at home or share.