Easy craft projects with pom poms for Christmas

It always takes me a little while to get into the Christmas spirit, and I still have one leg in summer really, but hey, if you want that garland finished by December, you got to get your act in gear. Today’s post features some fabulous easy-peasy projects for making Christmas decorations with pom poms! Yes, pom poms, those fluffy colourful woollen balls that you probably made as a child. A fun alternative to your usual decorations. They are super versatile and you can use them as tree baubles (the kids would love them!), on wreaths and even as gift toppers. If you have children, get them involved as it makes a great rainy Sunday afternoon craft project too.

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A super colourful tree by Paint the Gown RedPaint the Gown Red


First things first, let’s learn how to make a pom pom – in case you have forgotten. You can use cardboard, a fork or even your fingers, so I am sharing these tutorials with you today.


How to make pom poms

This is the way I learnt it as a kid. The bigger the cardboard circles you cut out, the bigger the pom pom.

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Make pom poms using a fork

This is a genius way of making pom poms. No need to cut out cardboard, just use a fork! Watch the video to see how it’s done.

 


Make a pom pom tree garland

A nice alternative to your plasticky glitter garlands; one made out of wool. This one used paper straws to separate the pom poms, but you can of course just tie the pom poms on a pretty ribbon or a string too.

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Image and turorial on Elsie Marley


Make a pom pom tassel

This could either be a tree decoration or something to hang on a wardrobe key or a door knob. Or even your hand bag. Very pretty and so easy to make.

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Pom pom tassel via True Blue Me and You


Gift toppers

Looking to jazz up your wrapping paper? Pom Poms make everything look Pinterest-worthy. Go and make some small ones just for this purpose.

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Image via Lia Griffith


Wreaths

Christmas isn’t Christmas without a beautiful homemade wreath. Here are three very different style pom pom wreaths, so take your pick! I love them all.

Make a Giant Hula Hoop PomPom Wreath

This is a gorgeous one. I love the purples and browns on it and the simple wooden hoop with some green as a base layer.


Make a colourful wreath with baubles, bells and pom poms

What a gorgeous mix of shiny baubles and colourful woollen pom poms. This would brighten up any door at Christmas. Just tie them individually to a styrofoam or wire wreath with string. And don’t be afraid to overdo it, the more things the merrier!

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Image via Molly Makes


Make a snowball wreath

I love this one. Just using white or off-white wool, making lots of fluffy pom poms and securing them onto a wreath for a wintery effect. Nice. It makes you want to stroke it, so soft.

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Image via Etsy

Give your room a quick update with stylish wall stickers

Do you like the idea of updating your walls, but the idea of wallpaper is a bit daunting? I definitely feel like that sometimes. I have no problem getting the paint brush out and giving a wall a totally different colour in a day, but the idea of pasting on wallpaper always makes me feel a bit nervous. I love the look of wallpaper and would use it in my designs for clients, but it can be quite permanent, and I like a change in my home every now and then. I mean, stripping wallpaper is not a nice and quick job, now is it! Today I am going to show you something totally different to update your walls: stickers. Sophisticated ones.

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Gorgeous floral wall sticker from sticker company Tenstickers


Wall stickers have been around for quite a while now as wall decoration and are especially popular in nurseries and kids’ rooms in the shapes of animals and trees (or in our house, my boys’ own spontaneous creative half ripped additions from their sticker books). But there are some very pretty designs around now to use in other parts of the house too without it looking too gimmicky.

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I also like the more abstract, geometrical sticker designs, to just give the walls a bit of interest. Add a strip across the length of the wall, or just a a focal point above your desk or in the hallway.


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A lot of wall stickers can look too cheap and glossy or have a lot of material around the actual picture. I came across online sticker maker Tenstickers, who seem to have sorted those problems. Their stickers don’t reflect the light, so look part of the actual wall rather than well, yes, a sticker. They are easy to apply too, with no air bubbles and they supply a piece to practice with. Handy.

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I definitely need one of these reminder on my wall, who’s with me??


Apart from wall stickers, Tenstickers also supply laptop, car and even fridge stickers, if your appliances could do with a new look.

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You can also order personalised stickers with your own photos, drawings or text. Hmmm… that opens up some pretty cool possibilities and interesting alternatives to traditional picture frames too. How about a large photo sticker of your family summer holiday to cheer you up over breakfast before heading into the office…?

Reader discount

I am excited to being able to offer my readers a 15% discount if you fancy some wall sticker yourself! Just visit the website www.tenstickers.co.uk and use the code NINAS15 at checkout before the 1st of November.

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PS: Please do send me pictures if you are jazzing up your walls with some cool stickers, I love seeing people’s room makeovers!

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DISCLAIMER: THIS IS A SPONSORED POST. FROM TIME TO TIME I GET CONTACTED BY BRANDS AND COMPANIES WHO ASK ME TO FEATURE THEIR PRODUCTS. I ONLY POST ABOUT BRANDS WHICH I FEEL FIT IN WITH THE STYLE AND ETHICS OF NINA’S APARTMENT. 

How to choose art for your home

Art is a funny thing. I absolutely love art and have always been interested in it, from when I was very little. I just need to have art around me, whether it is paintings, photographs, sculpture or ceramics. I yearn for the handmade, original qualities of a piece of art. Problem is, I keep buying it, even though I have long run out of wall and shelf space to display anything.


I find it amazing how art just seems to have the ability to ‘grab’ you and you feel you need to own it, probably because it is such a one-off, unique piece and you adore it. Well, that has happened to me more than once. Even though I sometimes couldn’t justify it and it was not in my budget. One time I was working at the Glasgow Art Fair for a previous employer and during a little wander around suddenly this big orange Rothko-like painting stared me right in the face and drew me closer. I couldn’t walk away. It was as if the devil himself had taken over my sanity and before I knew it I took my card out and spent every last penny of my hard earned savings. Utter madness. But it is still my favourite painting and it has pride of place in my house. Countless visitors have looked at be baffled and don’t see why on earth I love the painting so much, but that is the thing about art: it is not about what other people think – it is very personal and if you love it and it means something to you, it is worth buying. Even if you have to live on porridge oats and water for the rest of the month.

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My own orange masterpiece on my wall.

 

 

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If you spot something you like – or even more than one piece, don’t be put off buying it because of lack of wall space. Group pictures together to create an interesting gallery wall. And don’t be scared to buy something large either. Nothing worse than a tiny picture frame on a massive wall. Here’s a great website explaining you how to create a gallery wall: decorationchannel.com

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Image: Rise Art


If you are not too familiar with art buying, you might feel a bit at a loss when finding something great for your walls and may choose to be safe, going for a picture that matches the colour of the curtains rather than that it makes you smile or evokes any emotion at all. Such a missed opportunity, because why not make your home a place that inspires you? Fill it with things that are meaningful, not mass-produced.

Still, if you feel you know very little about art or claim you are “not really into art”, then where do you look for something that ticks those boxes? Here are a few ideas.


First of all

  • Don’t care about what everyone else may think about your choice of artwork or whether it is by someone famous. If you love looking at it, it is meaningful.
  • Pick something that ‘speaks’ to you. Does it make you happy? Does the subject have significance? Or do you just really love the colours or composition? You’re onto a winner.
  • Set yourself a budget if you don’t want to be swept away by crazy impulse buying tendencies. Yup – I am talking from experience.
  • Sleep on it. Do you still think about that artwork in the morning as worth it? Get it.


Where to find art?

  • Visit the degree show of the local Art School. Those fresh graduates are dying to make it big and have their art out there. You are bound to discover some pretty cool pieces and will make someone’s day (or month) if you go home with one of their works.
  • Go to local art fairs and markets. There must be some in your city or area. Stroll around, speak to the artists. These events are usually very lively and informal and feel less daunting than shopping for art in a quiet gallery.
  • Buy online. There are a growing number of online galleries selling original artworks at various prices. An easy way to familiarise yourself with different styles and see what you like. Rise Art is one of them. They have some more great tips on what to look out for when buying art. Oh, and if you don’t want to buy, you can rent! How cool is that?
  • Be brave! Dive into an actual gallery! Galleries may look scary for someone who doesn’t usually go to these kind of places, but trust me, gallery owners want to sell art and you are customer just like anyone else. You’ll probably find there are pieces of art at different price levels. You may not be a regular, but you have every right to go in and have a look around. Many galleries in the UK now have a scheme called Own Art, which let you buy an artwork with a 0% loan, so worth popping in for.
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Popular art with vintage lovers: the Asian lady series from the 1960s by Vladimir Tretchikoff


On a budget? Or maybe on the hunt for something more vintage?

  • The local auction house will have plenty of artworks too. Have a look in their online catalogue of items to see if it is worth bidding. You’d be surprised how often you could pick up a framed original for less than £50. Of course, as with markets and charity shops: it is hit or miss, but certainly a good way of buying quirky art on a budget.
  • Browse the charity shops, car-boot sales or flea markets for original paintings, etchings and vintage posters.
  • Feeling creative? Make something yourself. Paint, draw, sew, print or take photos. Frame a piece of fabric or wallpaper you love. Get the kids involved and let them go crazy with their felt pens and finger paint. It is amazing how good things look in a frame.

Have fun, start that art collection!

How to paint a dated traditional wooden kitchen

So I was tidying up the other day and stumbled across some photos of when my husband and I first moved into our house nine years ago. Our house is a detached 1930s granite house in an Aberdeenshire village. It has a kitchen extension built by the previous owners. The decor at the time was very dated throughout the house; terracotta walls, mahogany woodwork, pine staircase, green carpets and a traditional maple shaker kitchen. But the kitchen was solid wood, good quality, made locally and as moving house is expensive enough as it is we decided to try and live with it. We lived with it for six years! Today I will show you the before, the interim and the after.

So this how we found it. Oucha. Yellow walls and orange wood. But a good cooker!

Below: looking into the kitchen extension from the main house (the garden was also a little over grown, look at the windows! And what on earth are those light shades?). Excuse the poor quality picture – it is a picture taken of a print.

I thought about a colour scheme to somehow tone down the yellowness of the room and decided on steel blue-grey for the walls to combine better with the natural wood. We replaced the cheap sticky vinyl flooring with (also pretty affordable and very practical) dark slate look laminate, which is in fact still our flooring today. I painted over the 1990s yellow floral tiles with some grey tile paint and ordered some colourful tile stickers online. We also replaced the wooden door knobs with brushed steel ones and stuck a chalkboard sheet on the cupboard door. Oh yes, and that silly breakfast table went of course.

Here is the interim phase! Slightly better than it was.

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Below: the dining area. Looking pretty neat, I think, and much fresher in greys than yellow. (Those wishbone chairs? I sold those…I know, aren’t they nice?)

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We must have grown rather fond of our silly old kitchen, because six years later, when we decided to change things again, we amazingly still didn’t rip it out. We just hate waste and rather ‘upcycle’ something. The kitchen worked fine for us, so why not just update it a bit more? We also felt sorry for the kitchen – we are such a sad bunch! After all, it wasn’t her fault that she had gone out of fashion, was it?

So we took off the wall hung cabinets and another unit on the other side, painted the ones left, spent some money on a fancy big fridge, a freestanding dresser, oak shelving, new tiles and a slate worktop.

Of course, I would be lying if I said it all happened as by magic overnight. For a while I seriously doubted our decision. The dust, the disruption…trying to keep a baby out of the mess. You get the picture.

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In the end it must have taken us a good few weeks to paint the cabinets, organise tradesmen and redecorate. But the result was worth the effort. Hello contemporary country kitchen!

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So how do you paint an old wooden kitchen?

1. Prep & prime

You really don’t have to go and strip the cabinet doors before painting. Giving it a good sand to create a key – is key. Then wash off the dust with sugar soap and get the primer out. This doesn’t need to go on too neatly, but the bigger your brush strokes are, the harder to sand them smooth afterwards. Buy good quality soft brushes and do the brush strokes in the same direction. With the shaker style doors you will also have the beveled edges and corners to deal with. It worked well for me to first do the inside (lower) square in one direction (making sure to take away any surplus paint from the corners with the tip of my brush), and then the middle panel and outside frame. Once it is dry, use fine sandpaper to create a nice smooth base for your gloss (or eggshell). You may need more than one coat of primer, and remember to sand in between coats and wipe off the dust.

2. Top coat

For the final colour we chose Farrow and Ball Off White eggshell (water based), used on the cabinets on the right. A nice colour that looks neither white nor cream and sometimes even a bit grey depending on the light. For the ones on the left we decided to get that same colour mixed up as an oil based paint at a decorator’s trade centre (Crown). Why? Because it really makes a difference! Now, three years later the water based paint is starting to show some wear, whereas the oil based paint is still perfect. It maybe isn’t the most eco friendly paint to use but for a high traffic area like a kitchen you really don’t want flaking paint after a year or so. Oil based paint is good to work with, goes on smoothly, but takes longer to dry and can still feel a bit sticky for days while it is hardening. So don’t touch it! And don’t try and sand it when it is not hard yet. I must admit I did not sand in between the top coats, as the paint stuck fine and I was scared to ruin the previous finish. It worked ok.

For a more detailed how-to you can find plenty tutorials online including this one

3. Hardware and other upgrades

We reused most of the brushed steel knobs and handles we put on previously, which looked great on the newly painted cabinets.

Other alterations we made were moving the sink away from the window to create more work surface next to the cooker. Lethenty Cabinetmakers did an excellent job refitting the cabinets, placing a new worktop, tap and big cooker hood, steel splash back and the nice floating natural oak shelves.

Last but not least we had the wall above the work top covered in pastel coloured craqueled glaze metro style tiles and the room painted in a soft pale grey-white.

Do we still love it? Yes! The pretty slate work top proved a little bit sensitive to lemon stains and knocks…but hey, it is a work top after all so we just have to be careful. The kitchen overall feels lighter, brighter and more modern – but still very unique because of the choices we have made. We could have ripped it all out, but it feels so much better giving the kitchen a new lease of life. And we saved some money too. What we’ll do in the future? Oh, we are always full of ideas and no doubt there will be changes again in years to come. But the kitchen stays for now.

Below: a bit more of a ‘lived in’ and messy real-life picture after two years! (and oh, look, we also broke through to the lounge in the meantime! But that dusty episode I will leave for a future post…)

 

How to update a vintage armchair – before and afters

So you walk into a charity shop or second hand store or you inherit an old chair from your grandmother and have grand visions of it looking totally cool in a new piece of fabric. But it can be a bit daunting, the prospect of doing it yourself – if you even have the skills – or finding someone to do it for you. What fabric is suitable and what will look nice? And what to choose so you will still like it in a few years time, rather than a quick funky makeover that you might only like for a little while?

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A vintage Lloyd Loom chair I transformed for a customer, using Farrow and Ball paint and a gorgeous piece of purple and grey patterned fabric.

I have revamped a number of chairs for customers and to sell in the shop. In some cases I did it totally myself (the more straight forward type of seat) or I would come up with the design and hand the actual job over to a professional upholsterer. It is amazing to see a smelly and tatty old chair being transformed into a fabulously stylish piece. My advice? Go for it. There are just a few things to keep in mind.

There are pros and cons for both tackling a project like this yourself or getting someone else to do it. If you are on a tight budget and have lots of time, then it might be worth-wile learning how to do it yourself. It will be a fantastic achievement and something to be really proud of. On the other hand, especially when you have little patience, some things are better left to people who make a great job of it and spend that little bit extra to get the result you are after. After all, ask yourself how much you would spend on a new chair in a high street store. Probably not even of the solid quality of your old vintage find.

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For a more complicated vintage wing back chair I selected the fabric and designed the new look and asked a professional to reupholster it for me. I painted the feet in a graphite chalk paint to match the fabric.

People are sometimes surprised by the cost of getting a chair reupholstered. It is however a mistake to think that just by buying a second-hand chair that needs new covers, you are going to save lots of money. Apart from the amount of time and material it takes to bring a chair back to life, it’s not about saving money really. It should be regarded as a different, far more interesting and exciting option. Plus you are saving something from being thrown away by giving it a new lease of life. How cool is that?

Here’s a quick comparison of doing it yourself versus handing the job over to someone else:

Doing it yourself:

  • Pros: you will be learning/practicing new skills, potentially saving some money, get a feeling of great achievement and have a fab creative project to work on.
  • Cons: it will probably take you a long time to do, it is quite technical when trying to tackle a big chair such as a wing back. You may not get the professional looking result you were aiming for.

Paying a professional:

  • Pros: they know what they are doing, using the right materials (fire retardant etc) and make your chair look amazing. They have the knowledge and expertise to advice on fabrics. They work a lot faster than you!
  • Cons: it is more costly than doing it yourself.

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An old rocking chair I revamped using Ikea fabric, which is now living in the Dell of Abernethy holiday accommodation in the Cairngorms!

Choosing fabric

When choosing fabric for an a chair or sofa, make sure it is suitable for upholstery. For smaller seats such as kitchen chairs it is OK to use curtain material or fabric you would use for making cushions, but for the bigger chairs it needs to be suitable for upholstery and fire retardant. If in doubt, just ask a specialist fabric retailer.

There are of course millions of fabrics to choose from and it is totally up to you whether you want to go wild and patterned or choose a more classic and timeless fabric such as plain wool. I love the furnishing fabrics at Ikea. They are fun and inexpensive and most are suitable for (light) upholstery. Ideal for a quick makeover of kitchen chairs or box cushion seats. John Lewis also has some great fabrics, ranging from around £11 per meter for some of their printed cottons to well over £50 per meter for a quality wool. Keep in mind that for a wing back chair you will probably need around six meters of fabric, so the fancier your material, the more costly your project.

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I love the fabrics by Scion (Harlequin), which come in fabulous graphic patterns. This is Scion Axis Tangerine.

Other sources for finding fabric I have used are good old eBay (you can often find some good value remnants of wool, linen and other quality materials) and Fabric Rehab, a great website with beautiful patterned fabrics, which you will love if you like the Scandi look like me. Always try and get a sample if you can when buying online, to prevent getting a roll of fabric that is not what you were after.

Webbing and foam

Mid century armchairs, including those made by Ercol, often have rubber Pirelli webbing rather than traditional webbing, which is fairly easy to replace, using the metal clips that come with it. The rubber straps are quite costly, so make sure you measure up how much you need before ordering. Pirelli webbing can be found on eBay or online shops specialised in upholstery. Furniture from the 1950s and 60s also often has foam blocks inside the seats (as supposed to horsehair filling used in traditional, antique furniture), so this is another thing that is pretty straight forward to replace. You can get foam in various thicknesses and density. For an armchair seat I usually buy a 4″ thick block, for a kitchen chair 1″ or 1.5″ is often enough. A useful website to buy foam from I find is Easyfoam.

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Two Pirelli webbing projects I tackled myself: a small sofa and an armchair


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A gorgeous mid century armchair by Greaves and Thomas I replaced the Pirelli webbing and box cushion for.
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The small vintage mid century teak sofa, with new webbing and grey linen box cushions
Paint or strip?
Then there is the question of what to do with the woodwork. Strip it, paint it, leave it the way it is? I stripped a chair once (see picture below) and it was a LOT of work. I was super pleased with the result, yes, but it is not something I would want to tackle every week. Still, much better than the horrible shiny mahogany stain it had before. Painting is an option if you really don’t like the look of the wooden frame, but if it is a nice oak or teak then it is best to just give it a good oil or wax and polish and it will look just fine. (Please don’t ever ‘Annie Sloan‘ a mid century piece!)
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A £12 vintage find at an auction, stripped bare to a beautiful light wood, oiled and reupholstered in a black Marimekko fabric.
Conclusion? A revamped vintage chair is money and time well spent. A chair with a story to tell beats any mass produced seat any day. Whether you do it yourself or ask a professional to do it for you, the choice is yours. You will have a unique statement chair for years to come, that’s for sure.

Get in touch with us if you want advice, have a project you need help with or would like us to come up with a design and help select fabric for your chair. Or have a look at the vintage armchairs we have in stock, which would look great reupholstered. We are happy to help!

A few of my other local upholstery contacts:

Professional upholsterers in Aberdeen, specialised in traditional upholstery as well as mid-century, and who can do bigger things like wing back chairs and sofas:

Mid-century modern Danish chairs get a makeover

 

I have been busy in the studio recently, giving two chairs a complete makeover with some fresh seating and upholstery. The wooden frames are both sturdy and solid but of course show some signs of wear, to be expected for their age. The fabric and foam cushions are brand new.

Both chairs can be viewed and tried out in the shop.

1960s teak wood rocking chair reupholstered in a grey polka dot woolen fabric £350.00
Dimensions: 70cm wide x 82cm tall x 85cm deep.

 

1960s oak armchair, reupholstered in a Japanese style floral cotton. £140.00
 

 

Upcycling project: from smelly display cabinet to oriental chic

I don’t have much time these days to work on furniture as much as I did on this one, but I think it paid off. I found the display cabinet in a charity shop and it immediately caught my eye. It is always a guess what you come across in these places, but I just knew that this one had potential. Gorgeous carved detailing around the edges, rippled antique glass panels and a design on the doors that reminded me of Japanese patterns.

It was a smelly old thing though and the first thing I did was ripping off the old vinyl lining paper from the back wall, that obviously had been stuck on in the sixties. I considered sticking some kind of patterned paper back on, but then I remembered a patchwork I had been trying to turn into a blanket and never finished, made with a stack of vintage Japanese kimono silks. That would be perfect!

I chose a graphite chalk paint to cover up the dull dark brown varnish on the wood, and lightly brushed some dusky pink over the floral carving on the edging to make it stand out more. The inside I painted with the same pink. A wax and a bit of elbow grease gave the cabinet a nice sheen without becoming too glossy.

It is so satisfying to bring an old discarded piece of furniture back to life and I think that whoever owned it in the past would be pleased to see it being loved again.

Do you like this eye catching cabinet? It is for sale in the shop! Please get in touch if you would like to see it up close.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rocking chair revamp – patchwork project

I recently picked up a rocking chair – not incredibly ‘vintage’ (probably less than 30 years old), but a good shape and well built – possibly G Plan. The cushions had seen better days though and when a customer showed an interest in buying the chair I suggested doing it up for her in a patchwork style, using lots of lovely blue and grey fabric scraps I had lying around in the studio. I left the frame in its original blond wood state as I felt it matched the ‘Scandinavian’ look of the patterned fabrics and style of the chair. This is the result. I’m pretty pleased with it and I am sure it’ll look lovely in its new home!

The transformation of a battered old retro dressing table

I buy furniture mainly to give it a good clean, polish it up or paint it and then resell it in my shop. But sometimes I come across pieces that I keep for my own use. I picked up this £20 dressing table last week without viewing it, and when it was delivered at my house I was a bit disappointed with the state it was in. I know, what do you expect for £20, but still!

It had a lot of water marks and scratches on the surface and even a big black burn mark from a candle. I tried to give it a polish to make it look any better, but it wasn’t doing anything for me. So last night, as I was painting some other bits of furniture in Annie Sloan’s French grey chalk paint, I thought ‘well, it can’t get any worse than it is!’ and within an hour I had painted the top and sides of the dresser grey. I finished it off this morning with some bees wax to seal it and voila – revamped, updated and looking good!

I am keeping to myself, but if you fancy something like this – a dressing table, cupboard, sideboard, etc – I can hunt down and revamp a similar piece of furniture for your own home. Just get in touch!

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