Let's take a look around the room first. Imagine standing in the room and spinning clockwise. You can click on any photo to see a larger version.
This is how it looked when we viewed the house:
And this is how it looked when we stripped the room of the carpet and wood chip paper on the walls. We removed the mantlepiece after this photo was taken.
Inspiration came from my previous living room which can be seen here and my love of all things art deco, which Stephen, my partner in crime, luckily, shares. We painted the walls and ceiling (after the room had been rewired and totally plastered) the same Farrow & Ball Blue Black as my previous living room. Although it is a dark colour, it is warm and cosy and does not "shrink" the room. We painted the coving and skirting board in Crown's Millionaire metallic gold paint. Originally the skirting board was to be painted white and Stephen did start painting it, but I stopped him midway through as I knew it did not look right. Thank goodness for understanding boyfriends. The wall is stencilled with VN7 Chain Lightening from our Vintage Range. I used Sunset Gold paint which is a warm slightly orange gold. VN7 is a repeat pattern and it repeats horizontally and vertically to fill entire walls if wanted (which I did). It took me about 2 1/2 days to stencil this room (with a bit of help from Helen). Once you get going, it is quite quick. It was a bit awkward stencilling around the corners, but I cheat slightly by running a strip of low tack tape down the corners on each wall so I don't quite have to stencil right into the corner. It looks neat and tidy and saves me some effort. Stencilling with a single metallic paint can look very dramatic even if it is just a single colour.
I am a big fan of low light so had a dimmer switch put on the ceiling light and also on the main floor lamp so that I could play with the levels of light to suit my mood or needs.
This adds an extra dimension to the stencilling because just as you can see how the stencilling almost fades away in some lights and sings in others, so it is in real life. The walls are never the same when you walk into the room.
Stephen and I had to work on this together because the stencil was too heavy to stay up on the ceiling with Spraymount alone. I had the stencil cut into a quarter and on thick film for added rigidity, but it was still unwieldy. So I stood on a box with stencil brush and paint, and Stephen stood on a ladder and we managed to get the stencilling done that way. It took just over and hour and was painful to do (backs and necks did suffer a bit), but so worth it.
I have an extraordinary number of books and they have always been piled here, there and everywhere which although looking slightly eccentric (a good thing), made it difficult to dig one out when I wanted to look at it again. When we saw the living room layout, we decided we wanted proper bookshelves to house them.
It was a labour of love. Our budget did not stretch to bespoke inbuilt bookshelves so we had 1.8cm thick MDF cut to size and used a metal bracket and slot system available from most DIY stores. Stephen lost sleep over whether they would hold the weight of the books. The strips of slots are not just screwed into the wall, but bolted. We had to pop around to the neighbors several times to apologise for the noise from all the drilling. They were most understanding though because a) they are cool and b) they refurbished their house from top to bottom so had been through it all themselves. We painted each shelf and we sorted all the books by height. As a shelf would dry, we would slot it into place, fill it with books of a uniform height and then work on the next one. It took several days, but was, again, worth the effort. It also had the added advantage that the shelves are placed to accomodate the exact size of the books, so no space was wasted. We can move the shelf levels if needed. I don't know what it is about books, but they really make a room very personal. The whole dynamic of the room changed once the books were in place and it started to look like a home.
I chose white carpet for this room to offset the dark walls and ceiling.
It is my homage to Syrie Maugham, the "it" decorator of the 1930's famous for her white rooms. Yes, it is probably impractical and most people think I was mad to choose it, but I love it and it does lift the room. I just have to take care of it and if anything is spilt on it, I will clean it. Only time will tell if I have made a mistake, but I take full responsibility. It does look fab though.
I didn't buy anything new (or rather old as I only seem to buy old stuff) for this room except the rather splendid fringed lampshade,
the painting of Miss Irma (painted in 1927)
and the deco curtains featured in a previous post.
Everything else came from my previous living room or other rooms. I daresay I will still manage to find the odd accessory or artwork to add here and there. Hurrah for ebay. I was very pleased to note that our furniture fit perfectly. Both the sofa and chairs are quite petite, thank goodness, as it is not a large room.
I found the tapestry cushion in RE in Corbridge several years ago. My sister think she looks like Kate Winslet in "Titanic". She has a point, but as this is an old tapesty, I think it preceded the making of the film. I placed our fantastic jade painted (with original chinoiserie stencilling!) card table behind the sofa and it is turning out very useful to sit at.
The card table has 4 chairs and soon after we bought the house and I was starting to plan the layout and schemes, I had it in my mind that the table and four chairs would easily fit into the bay window area with space to spare. As soon as we got the keys, I realised my mind has a horrible habit of exaggerating spaces and making them much, much bigger than they truly are. The table and one chair just squeeze into the space.
The fire. What can I say about the gas fire.
I have a love/hate relationship with it. It is very much of it's time (we estimate 60's/70's) and a bit bashed. I love open fires. I would love to have them back but unfortunately due to budget constraints and the fact that both downstairs fireplaces (there is another beauty in the dining room) have been well concreted in, we knew it would take too much effort, building and money to get the open fires back just now. So we have no choice but to live with our gas fires. I had hoped if I squinted enough, this one would look slightly oriental and pagoda-ish and I could live with that, loving most oriental styles. But unfortunately, you have to squint so much to get that effect, your eyes might as well be shut. On the love side, it does throw out a huge amount of heat. I will say that for old gas fires...they do what they are supposed to. So for that, we are very grateful (and warm). The Chippendale-Morris "Girl in a Green Dress" definitely improves the space and draws your attention away from the fire. But when Chips looked at this photo to see his painting in place, he did say, "You need to get a new fire". One day....
And that is the tour of our living room in our new home. What did I learn from this decorating project (because there is always something to learn)?
1) Very matt paint is gorgeous and like painting velvet on your walls (oooh, just had a vision of pasting old velvet onto the walls and stencilling it in faded metallics - make mental note), but like velvet, change the direction of your brush stroke and you will see it (ie when you touch up bits, the paint will never quite blend in). This is the sacrifice for having such a matt lovely finish so learn to live with any touch up marks.
2) When stencilling with light reflective paint (ie metallics), make sure you have a good light source in the room, especially if working at night.
3) If you are going to work on a project with someone, best if it is the love of your life as he will be more understanding than many and forgive you most things (eventually).
4) Plan as much as you can when decorating a room. Create mood boards, paint samples, measure and draw out...whatever is needed to get the clearest idea of how the room will work. However, despite planning, sometimes things just don't work according to plan. Better to put the extra effort in and redo it then and there than try to live with something that just isn't right. It will only annoy you and take far more effort to correct later on.
5) Only work on one room at a time if you have a whole house to do. It is far better for your sanity to stay focused on one space. Also, it is great to get one room completely done so you have a place to retreat to when the rest of the refurbishing is all getting a bit too much. At last, Stephen and I feel we can take a bit of time to relax and have a lovely room to do it in.
All photographs by Stephen Egglestone