What is your thing? A question I have been asking myself recently. I love to make things, my background is; art, then fashion, textiles, teaching design and now a combination of all those things, lending themselves to interiors.
Creating a room, where do you start?
The dining room design has evolved over time. Perhaps this is my lack of design experience, obviously interior designers can’t live in a space before they design it, they just view the space and then put ideas together? Well if it’s your own home, I strongly recommend living it, for at least 6 months before doing anything. I understand the concept of white washing first and changing later. I usually start with a wallpaper and once I have decided on that the rooms colour palette comes together. The dining room hasn’t been that simple.
Our dining room is a vast space, a small table gets lost in this room. One of the first things we purchased for this room was the table. Even if the room was not decorated, we still use it everyday. Ross, Fred and I eat our evening family meals in the dining room every day. I love cooking and entertaining, we have always dreamt of having a space to do this in. We have had several family birthday and celebratory meals here, even before I started to strip the wallpaper and plaster the walls. We even ate in there with stripped back walls.
To help decide on the size of the table we used a roll of lining paper, measured the desired size and placed this on the floor. Acting out how the space would work around it. Making sure there was enough room for chairs and be able to walk around the table comfortably is obviously important. . Our kitchen and hallway doorways are at opposite ends of the room, so this becomes a walk through, important to allow enough room for this. We went big and decided on a table 350 cm long and just over a metre wide. I have since discovered that you can’t buy a table cloth this size, so have made a few myself since. At least you can get an unusual print and colour, making it yourself. Shop bought ones can be boring and plain.
Ross and I are both from a design teaching background, so wanted a eclectic range of antique dining chairs. No matching set for us. We love visiting antique shops, always on the lookout for an unusual one off dining chair design. It has taken a while, but after 3 years collecting, we have 14, we are still on the look out for a few more. Here is our favourite, we love the carved fox detail on one of the legs.
Problems to solve
Above the window is a balcony and we discovered after our first summer ended and the Yorkshire rain started, that it leaked. This soon became a priority, we resealed the balcony and when the ceiling was stripped back (this was a very neck aching job) of the thick wallpaper, I found a hole which once housed an oil lamp, also discovering several cracks all across the ceiling. The whole thing needed cracks taped, plastered and then sealed with a water repellent paint.
The ceiling was plastered, something I’ve tried and soon learnt that I need to leave this one to the professionals, who are a very skilled trade. I had to wait a long time, as the plasterer was booked up. Top tip, always factor in trade delays!
Highlighting the period features.
In the centre of the room is a very large decorative cornice. This is an incredible feature that I wanted to showcase. The previous owners kindly removed the light fitting, so we had to get the electricians in to reinstall the wiring and help add a new light. I decided to highlight the features with gold paint and leaf. This was quite a task, something that I have no experience in, lots of YouTube video’ later.
I have seen some cornices online where people have to strip layers of paint to reveal the details. Luckily this one was very untouched and just needed an undercoat. I then picked out details with gold leaf paint and then gold leave details. The gold leaf adds an additional texture that is further highlighted when the light is on. Remember before you gold leaf you have to use a glue called size, this has to dry for 20 minutes before the leaf is applied, a very long process. Doing at a height is also very trying.
Choosing the wallpaper
The walls, I love wallpaper, so that was a given, on my list for the room. Picking the right one was the biggest issue. I originally really wanted a wall mural, but this would mean doing away with the original panelling and I wasn’t prepared to do that. We want to keep as many original features as we can in this house. Add them, highlight them, definitely taking them away is not an option. I ordered so many wallpaper samples, I actually now have a folder specially for the collection.
Also the saying goes, ‘never go into business alone’. You need another persons brain to broaden your ideas and my good friend, Sally definitely helped me decide on the wallpaper. She directed me to , wallpaper direct website. You simply either put in the theme, colour palette or designer and it filters down the range. I wanted Japanese, blues and pinks. I decided on a paper by Jean Paul Gaultier.
My colour palette came from the colours in the rooms stained glass windows, another of Sally’ brain waves.
So I decided on the blue as the main colour for the paper. I liked the way the background had a metallic finish. The colours in the paper, are a great way to structure all future colour choices too. My dinner plates are blue, cutlery gold, I have used pink velvet with a black Japanese cotton for the curtain lining. Pink and blue glasses, black candles, napkins, chair upholstery.
Before I could wallpaper I needed to paint the wall frames, the frames that surround the wallpaper, I used gold paint for this. I had to order several sample pots, before I got the right shade of gold. I also used this for all the ceiling cornice. I had to tape around every frame, this was a day’s work in itself and lots of green frog tape later.
Challenge and learning curve
Painting the cornice: Another epic challenge. Let me explain why; stage 1, undercoat, 2 top coat, 3 gold paint details, 4 paint details with size glue, 5 gold leaf, 6 rub away gold leaf, 7 varnish. Put it this way, I put in a lot of steps going up and down the ladder and also had a very sore neck and back for a while after. This took a couple of weeks to complete.
The wallpapering, I self taught, same for everything I have never done before. I watched lots of YouTube videos and bought myself a plum bob. Who knew how helpful such a thing would be. I enjoy wallpapering, but do recommend making sure you have a block of time, no interruptions (children and or dogs) as it’s nerve racking. Wallpaper I like tends to be the most expensive, so any errors cost!
Here comes the trade delay. Before I could wallpaper, I needed to have the radiators removed. This also adds pressure, as these need to be put back afterwards. So the plumber needs to come back. Another unforeseen cost, the radiator pipes are all very old, so needed to be replaced with new copper ones. A simple radiator removal in an old house like this, it is not.
My Wallpapering tips:
- Take your time with measuring and allow for pattern matching.
- Buy a Plum Bob and pink wallpaper paste, the colour helps make sure you have an even spread of paste.
- allow lots of uninterrupted time to paper
- Good wall prep is essential. With period properties there are lots of lumps and bumps, firstly I had to remove the very old wallpaper. I found a message from the previous wallpaper person, dating it to last being papered in 1974.
- I had to wear a mask, when removing this as the old paper, as there was a lot of old toxins which can make you feel quite unwell.
- Sand the walls smooth. The walls were in quite a good state, so didn’t need plastering, especially as I would be covering them with paper. I did spend a lot of time sanding the walls smooth. For some of the surrounding walls ,that were to be painted I used a wallpaper liner, to give a better, covering hairline cracks and give a smooth finish. I had to mask off all the panelling, which on 4 metre high wall is a days job in itself and a lot of green frog tape later!
Back to wallpapering, matching the pattern and deciding on where the pattern starts is a brain challenge and can be mentally exhausting. However I do love how quickly wallpapering a room can go from looking so unfinished, to instantly transforming a space in just a couple of hours. It’s really worth it!
I nearly forgot, we also removed the laminated floor boards, these were covering the beautiful original wooden floor boards, some stretching 3 metres in total. These needed sanding back, sealing and varnishing. This could be a whole other blog. The floor is very big, so I mixed my own wood filler to fill the very long draft gaps. Another job that took a good 7 long days. I mixed the sawdust from the floor sander with wood glue and water. Much cheaper than the shop tubes. We had to hire a heavy duty sander and the boards were soon transformed. We had to seal all the doorways and windows, even after doing this the house was still covered in dust.
Back to colour palette. I decided to paint the ceiling a very pale pink, called Middleton pink, the walls the same colour as the hall, called Dimity, this is a posh word for cream or beige. The ceiling in the living room is the same colour. Again colours that all add to future choices for the dining table.
This year we hosted a New Year’s Eve party for 18 people and I loved dressing the table. I had been researching and collecting all the parts to this display for some time. A dining table dressing is again another whole blog. From table clothes, mats, cutlery, candle holders, serving bowls, glasses. It’s epic!
Once the room was decorated, you would think that was it done right, well not quite. We had to install a bespoke curtain rail for the unusual bay style windows, I made the curtains and reupholstered several antique chairs. I’ve made lampshades from the scrap wallpaper and cushions to match the curtains. I have even made napkins from different Japanese cottons. We have added a few pieces of furniture, picked up at antique auctions. I would like to replace or cover the ugly radiator one day and add a small bar area. We have a record player, so would like to display our vinyls on the wall and add some art work. All in good time!
I hope you like what we have achieved?