Episode 142- Decorative finishes update – mettre en valeur

plaster stucco stencilYou might remember that I posted about the first two stages of the process I have developed for stucco-stencilling walls. Check it out here in French house salon.



I have now completed stage 3 and it looks even better than I hoped. You may know that I did lots of research on stencilled patterns in old village houses and thought long & hard on whether this kind of flourish was appropriate.

I did NOT want the ubiquitous flat, single colour stencilled effect of the 1980’s

This raised stucco- style stencil design and subtle colours suits these old, raw, colour washed lime plastered walls of ours.

The French phrase “mettre on valeur” suits what we have done here better that any English words might, meaning “to develop, emphasise, highlight, show off to advantage”


stage one above- stage two below left- stage three below right

I basically applied a very small amount of clear furniture soft  wax (Liberon) with a small cloth. working from the edges of each part of the design inward.

It’s a subtle difference (can you see it-right?) but I am happy with it now


Posted in Art, design and inspiration blog, Renovation and restoration diary- France, What we did, how we did it and what we used | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Les Chaises- repaired, restyled, refinished- Part 2

So you remember these four dining chairs posted a few days ago?


below is after photos-  & if you want it, details of how we rescued these trashed pieces and turned them into desirable treasures are set out here.



First we picked a dry sunny day (you cannot do this indoors) and cleaned the frames thoroughly with plastic scourers and a soapy wood cleaner, wiping off excess and letting them dry in the sun.

The underside of the upholstery was steam cleaned to rid it of any dust mites. As we were keen to preserve the aged finish of the two original leather seats and the two faux leather reupholstered (in the 1940s) seats; and the amazing patina on the upholstery studs we did not disturb these elements. Worn but not torn leather upholstery is very rare.

Two seats were functional and stable, but (ironically) the ones with the 40’s recovering job had rotten webbing which we removed and replaced with new clips and zig-zag springing underneath these.

One seat had a weak frame, so Trevor carefully rebuilt part of it and braced this one with metal corner brackets without disturbing the old upholstery above.These two were relined underneath for neatness and finish.

What we did then was to clean the seats thoroughly with make-up wipes; designed for skin of course these work on leather which is also skin! Use good ones please, the results with micellar water wipes are excellent. Then we waxed five times to soften and strengthen and restore some flexibility to the battered finish.

The results were pretty dramatic –below left & right-


Next, we treated for woodworm and general wood chomping bugs. Then we rebuilt the missing/rotten feet. Solid stuff was stabilised with  a plastic wood modelling medium or replaced by splinting on new wood. There were no fatal deep cracks.

The finish could not be rendered super smooth like some old pieces without knocking it back to a ridiculous extent so we decided to celebrate the rusticity & honesty of these four pieces and go with that. Of course, we checked for any rough or splintered bits that might catch on clothes etc and rubbed these back.

The chairs had remnants of varnish and old paint on them so I was quite happy to refinish in an appropriate paint shade. The natural complement to dark red seats is one of our custom mix Gustavian grey/taupe chalky paints. two thin coats were applied by Trevor.

We do not, by any means, go for a distressed look on all our painted pieces, but this set was shouting at me for this look. It’s  so easy to go wrong here and it’s a question of experience and judgement where you should rub back your new finish; the best thing to do is to take loads of photos of each piece so you know exactly where each one  got worn and damaged over the years  (for example, where they were picked up  by the ridge at the back, where someone had sat or leaned on them, where the corners and front legs got knocked and scraped, where bored children kicked their feet on the stretchers etc etc) just follow the original marks for an authentic look!

In any set of chairs, one will ALWAYS be more knocked about than the others.

Then I designed a simple folky/country motif and hand painted each chair front and back. Each chair is slightly different as these are hand made, not factory jobs, so I was careful to ensure that each motif was a little different also. I then took a good sable lining brush and outlined the pretty pierced backs and also painted the carved apron details to front and side- all this in watered down antique white chalk paint.

Personally, I don’t generally distress furniture with sand paper; why destroy your old pieces further!!! I wait 2 hours after painting, then use a damp plastic washing up scourer to rub back. Safe, disposable, effective.  This way you control where you get back to the bare wood and where you just take off a thin layer of paint.

The chairs then get three thin coats of clear wax, polishing between and allowing 24 hours for the wax to cure between coats to be tough enough for daily use in their new home. A final polish sets the finish, but it’s a low sheen, not an unnatural glossy shine.

Posted in Antique and Vintage finds, Art, design and inspiration blog | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

The Thursday Three- 1901-1910

DSC03217Did I introduce you to this chair?

Who knows? I can’t remember.

World, meet my Ewardian with a hint of Egyptian Revival chair. It will be a bedroom chair in either the cave or the tulip room.

EER chair, meet blog world.

I went through a certain degree of adventure to collect the mirror. It’s worth it. Unusually, I have provenance: it came from a chateau sale via an antique fair in Paris.It’s in remarkable good nick considering it came from the same very narrow window of time as the chair (1901-1910).

I don’t have to do a thing to it. That makes a refreshing change and saves me some time. The problem with most old pieces is the amount of labour required to rescue them .


I don’t have to do a thing to the French wall lantern of similar vintage either. It’s already restored and rewired to 21st century standards.

Hip…. Hip…..Hooray!


Posted in Antique and Vintage finds, Art, design and inspiration blog | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Les Chaises -saving four special dining chairs for someone – Part 1

2This is what we started with. Four interesting and slightly unusual dining chairs in a terrible state.

They had been in a  cellar in several inches of water and had rotten feet, damaged and stained seats and various bits of shellac/varnish/old white paint on them.

The wood was very degraded so a light clean and French polish was a no-no and stripping chemically would have partially dissolved them!

Issue two is the slight top-heaviness of the design which went slightly beyond quirky toward visually odd. I look at a piece for ages before deciding what to do and these definitely needed a lighter look. And I didn’t want to reupholster and lose the characterful leather seats; but these are quite battered.

So they are being painted and patinated & waxed in one of our mixes. s-l1600

The chair bottom right above & right(before) and below (after)- was the first to be completed. If anyone wants a “how to rescue something that looks like it’s beyond economical repair”post, I will be happy to detail the process…


Posted in Antique and Vintage finds, Art, design and inspiration blog | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

Friday French Property P**n Fix

Five more lovely rooms









top-bottom & left to right


http://www.mysweetgite.com/la-maison-verte/ http://sottoilmontevineyards.blogspot.co.uk/2009/01/interior-designer-frederic-mechiche.html    http://www.anindiansummer.in/2014/11/frederic-mechiche.html


I have posted photos of Frédéric Méchiche’s medieval village house in Hyères before. The red toile bedroom is in his place. I like the fact that he has different summer and winter textiles in here (see link below)

I am particularly interested in how a famous French designer has approached a restoration similar to ours and his take on French style is simple and refreshing. He has preserved the old and original and added in his own pieces and finishes seamlessly.

Interestingly, he does not hesitate in using an occasional more luxurious piece or grander textiles here and there. A true family home would evolve this way over the years.

I have seen so many overdone places in France; this is a house that truly celebrates what it was and what it now is; to me it is quintessentially French- see more at   http://www.hemis.fr/?idPageWeb=95&afficherVignetteDuSujet=519&nouvelleRecherchePhoto=1


Posted in Art, design and inspiration blog, Renovation and restoration diary- France | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

In which I consider channelling Madame Récamier

Portrait-of-Madame-RécamierThis is Parisian it-girl Juliette Récamier, born in  1777 and much admired and painted by many, including David & Gérard and even (in spirit) Magritte


Picture above found on – http://architectdesign.blogspot.co.uk/2014_10_26_archive.html

This lady was  generally depicted draped across a “meridienne”. This is a type of day bed which we English speakers generally call a chaise-longue. Interesting, isn’t it, that we use a French phrase that the French themselves would probably not recognise?

Apart for the appeal of doing nothing more arduous than drape myself languorously over some sort of sofa in the salon, I love many elements of the room in that picture- the rugs, the colours, the paintings, the bookcase, the drapes, the view……….. this interior would look every bit as stylish now as it did then. Timeless.

Now, where can I find a carved black and gold harp?

Posted in Art, design and inspiration blog, Renovation and restoration diary- France | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

Friday French Property P**n Fix

19a unknown, kitchen, dining cabinetMy current obsessions are-

*Kitchen dining storage –Left-http://decordeprovence.blogspot.co.uk/2011/04/spring.html

I love open shelves, I know many don’t . We have them in the UK and they are no more hassle, cleaning wise, than cupboards with doors.

*Small bedrooms- Right- thedecorista.tumblr.com


I am particularly taken by the fact that the small size of this bedroom has not precluded statement curtains.



and Bizzyella, didn’t you stay in the room below?


Posted in Art, design and inspiration blog, Renovation and restoration diary- France | Tagged , , , , , , , | 14 Comments