December 5, 2013
We use many different paint brands at Ruby Rhino (Farrow and Ball, Johnstones, Dulux, to name a few) but tend to stick to chalk paints in our painting workshops since they dry so quick and allow us to cover many techniques in a short space of time. We started using Annie Sloan a few years ago and have more recently began experimenting with Italian brand, Authentico (which we prefer).
The main selling point of Annie Sloan paints and Authentico's Vintage range is that they are quick, easy and surfaces don’t require any prep or priming before you apply the paint. Yet many of our past students who have used Annie Sloan paints previously reported poor results - finding them gloopy and difficult to apply. Not exactly user-friendly, right?
So, we’d thought we share some top tips from our workshops to help more of you achieve better results with chalk paints. I should add that we’re not affiliated with any brand and do not sell paint – this advice comes from years of practise, trial and error and striving for the best quality finish for our customers. We cover all this and much, much more in our monthly furniture painting workshops, which you can find more about here – new dates will be added in January.
We're going to focus on a basic solid paint finish - which you can distress for an aged look if you like.
1. Preparation is key
We’re putting it right out there – we always prepare furniture before applying paint. Yes it’s more time consuming than slapping the colour straight on, but you’ll be pleased you made the extra effort in the end. After all, if the surface is dirty or sticky or covered in dust, how can the final finish possibly be any good?
Now, obviously we have a responsibility to our customers, but we still prepare if we’re doing pieces for ourselves at home and urge you to do the same. Preparation really is vital to achieving a professional finish. So how do you do it?
2. Clean & sand
Start by cleaning your furniture inside and out with sugar soap, then take a clean, damp cloth and wipe off the solution, ensuring the surface is completely clean.
Now if you’ve used chalk paints before, you’ll know the ones specifically for furniture (particularly Annie Sloan) specify you can apply it to any surface without prep.* But at the very least, we recommend sanding the entire piece with a high grit sanding pad. The goal isn’t to try to remove whatever’s already there, rather just get rid of any loose old paint and create a ‘key’ for the new paint to adhere. Thoroughly clear off any dust with a clean, dry paint brush (we keep a brush specifically for this purpose).
3. Thin the paint
Chalk paint tends to be quite thick and gloopy – not unlike PVA glue. While this is supposed to lead to better coverage with a single coat, we find it can lead to sluggish application and a lumpy finish once dry. Ugh.
So, as we do with any other paint, we give it good stir and decant an amount into a paint kettle and add water – a little at a time - to thin it to the consistency of double cream. You’ll find this much easier to apply and notice that it dries quicker with far fewer brush strokes
Many paints thicken over time and chalk paints are no exception – they even thicken if you leave the lid off for a short time during your project. So, if you’ve left it out in the garage for a few months, it’ll definitely need a good stir and thinning before it’s ready to use.
4. Sand between coats
So you’ve waited patiently for the first coat to dry and eagerly preparing to apply the second… before you do, hold off and grab a low grit sanding pad. Rub lightly over the surface of the entire piece, paying close attention to any areas where excess paint has collected or debris has dried in the paint. I’m talking grit, brush bristles, pet hair, your hair… you’d be amazed what you might find. Lightly is the important word here though. The aim isn’t to distress the paint and reveal wood… not yet anyway.
Once you’re confident that the surface is as smooth as possible, sweep off the dust with a dry paint brush and get cracking with that second coat. If you’re doing this on a different day, keep step 3 in mind to ensure the paint is the right consistency.
5. Professional finish
Once your second coat is completely dry, give it another really light sand to smooth the surface. Two coats is ample for most projects but if you feel it needs another, go for it.
If you’re going for the distressed effect, sand heavier on areas that would naturally get worn, such as edges, corners and around handles – but go steady. It’s better to build it up gradually than really go to town and it look overdone and contrived.
Take that clean dry paintbrush again to remove any dust. Now apply your chosen wax or varnish. Annie Sloan and Authentico are water based paints, which means you’ll need to use a water-based varnish. Varnish tends to be harder wearing and better for heavy use surfaces, like table tops, but I personally prefer the feel and finish of beeswax. It’s your call. Incidentally, we’ve found that Annie Sloan’s soft wax is the best option if you’re using her paints – other waxes don’t tend to work as well.
We've really only scratched the surface of painting furniture here, but it should give you a good basis to get better results with chalk paints. It's funny, while painting furniture can be quick and easy, there's also a lot more to it than many people realise - particularly if you want a professional finish.
We're going to start running more How-to guides in 2014, so stay tuned for more top tips for different paint techniques; best practise for waxing and varnishing; our recommended products - and more more.
*If using non-chalk paints, this next step varies widely depending on the existing finish of your project piece (painted? waxed? varnished?) and the commitment you’re prepared to make to get the best possible surface to apply your paint (happy to tackle an orbital sander?). This is whole other how-to post, which we’ll cover soon.
July 25, 2013
After my desire to forget it went ignored, I ended up having a fabulous 30th Birthday this week. It all started with a lovely surprise meal with good friends and family at the Lost and Found in Birmingham on Saturday night, followed by a surprise overnight trip to York for my actual birthday on Tuesday. If this is an indication of the next decade, I think I’m going to like it!
I absolutely loved York and will definitely be visiting again. It has such a buzz and a wonderful cosmopolitan vibe set against a fascinating historical backdrop. I really think I could live there. We stayed at The Lawrance apartments in the city centre (highly recommended) and Gav booked a meal for us at The Blind Swine.
We were completely in the dark about what to expect here – the website is under construction and there is no menu – you simply book and turn up. Gav was able to book a table fairly easily for a Tuesday evening, but I think there’s a waiting list on weekends.
The dark décor is understated cool, with mid-century style wooden tables and chairs, collage artwork and amp speakers fixed to the wall. There is just a handful of tables and a slick, shiny bar.
We were presented with a very unique cocktail menu, before tiny dishes started to arrive – served by the chefs who had prepared the meals in the open kitchen. We had 15 small dishes in total – including cocktails, plus savoury and sweet plates. I won’t go into them all – as I think it probably changes by the day – but you can see how beautiful they are (I was also rather smitten with the serveware, from Wonki Ware and Jars, if you’re interested!).
Our favouties dishes were the squid ink bread with beetroot butter; pork belly with burnt pineapple and squid; and salted white chocolate cream. I also loved the vodka sours with beetroot and balsamic vinegar, and horseraddish and juniper martini.
There was an element of Heston's style in the unique flavour combinations and quirky presentation (the nut-encased foie gras was designed to look like a Feast lolly), but it felt very fresh and modern. There were twists on tradition, like the watermelon and passion fruit puree that looked exactly like beef tartar with an egg yolk.
The service was excellent and it is such a great place to go for something a little different. The perfect special occasion meal for anyone who appreciates creativity and is crazy about food.
WARNING: While exceptionally tasty and fun, the dishes aren't very substantial - and if you order cocktails or other drinks on top of those included in the set menu, you may find yourself more than a little merry. Hic!
All pics taken by me at The Blind Swine, York.
July 16, 2013
Bright green is one of the most popular colours with Ruby Rhino customers. Furniture in this colour tends to sell quickest and one of our very first green pieces, this sideboard Harvey, is our most re-pinned piece on Pinterest.
I must admit, it is one of my favourite colours too, alongside yellow, and we’re currently painting our metal garden furniture in an eye-popping shade of green (I’ll share pictures once the spare is more presentable!).
Although very vivid and eye catching, bright green is surprisingly easy to live with, and looks very clean and fresh in kitchens and dining areas.
I love how the colour is used in the two rooms below to provide a pop of fun and interest. In the first room it clashes beautifully with splashes of bright blue, pink and yellow, while in the second it provides a jolt of colour in an otherwise neutral space.
I especially like how the high-gloss finish of the table enhances the shade and highlights the contrast with the vintage plywood chairs and mattblack paintwork and accessories. So what do you think of this summery shade, are you a fan?
July 10, 2013
The highstreet fashion scene seems really strong to me at the moment and River Island feels particularly cool. I loved this store in my late teens, but then lost interest when pieces became a little too bling and cheap-looking.
Now it’s back with a vengeance and a bevvy of stunning Isabel Marant-inspired pieces that are perfect for giving your wardrobe that well-traveled jet setter vibe. Here’s a few pieces I’ve got my eye on. It's typical they’re not in the summer sale, but they’re good transition pieces that will work well into autumn.
Tribal blazer, £40
Tie dye kimono, £35
July 9, 2013
PS. Some of our exclusive handmade reclaimed wooden wall plaques are also on offer in the NotOnTheHighstreet.com summer sale - go see here.
July 5, 2013
The sun is finally shining and I’m making the most of the lovely weather, planning picnics and BBQs before it disappears. A potato salad is a stalwart of the outdoor dining menu, but I’m not one for the cloying, mayo-laden versions that leave you feeling a bit sick. I wanted to try something lighter and different, to take on a picnic in Hyde Park tomorrow and to my dad’s birthday BBQ next weekend.
Inspired by the Swedish fare of mustard and dill, I came up with this simple recipe and surprised myself how good it was. The sweetness of the honey pairs nicely with the tart mustard and the dill adds a lovely, light fragrance. At tomorrow’s picnic we’ll have it with smoked salmon, horseradish dressed prawns, green salad, Swedish crispbreads and cheese, and then with herby trout and chicken at next weekend’s BBQ. The dressing couldn’t be simpler and really takes the humble spud to a new level. I hope you’ll give it a go.
Dill & mustard potato salad
750g new potatoes (I used Jersey Royals but any will do)
2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp honey
1 egg yolk
Generous bunch of dill, finely chopped
Pinch of Maldon sea salt
What to do:
- Slice the potatoes so they are all roughly the same size – bite-sized chunks work well. Cook in a pan of salted boiling water until tender. Drain.
- Meanwhile, whisk all the dressing ingredents together and taste for seasoning. Add more salt if required, or more honey if you’d like it sweeter.
- Toss the potatoes with the dressing and tip into a serving bowl. Top with extra chopped dill.
July 1, 2013
Last weekend I headed out to Ibiza with 11 girlfriends to celebrate our friend’s 30th birthday. It was a last minute decision for me to join them and I’m so glad I made it. There’s nothing like a bit of sun and chill-out time with your girls.
We stayed in the most gorgeous villa called Ses Arcades in Cala Moli, just outside a little village called San Jose. It was absolutely amazing with stunning views and beautiful rooms, excellent facilities and spotlessly clean. We felt like celebrities! I highly recommend it.
My last visit to Ibiza was 10 years ago and this was a very different trip to that one, which at age 19, was the kind of mad holiday many people associate with the white isle. This felt more relaxed and sophisticated, but still full of fun, mischief and lots of laughs. Good memories for sure.
Find full details about the villa Ses Arcades here.
June 28, 2013
When storage is an issue like it is in our kitchen, you’re forced to get creative. As we are short on surface space, I wanted something to hang and take up some vertical space instead. Enter the hanging basket. We’re familiar with them in our gardens, but not so much in our homes it seems. Well, at least not in the UK, as I searched high and low and finally tracked one down to an eBay seller in the US.
When it arrived, the copper was much shinier than I imagined, but I actually really like it now. It works a treat hanging above the kitchen work bench, next to our upcycled spice crate. What do you reckon? What creative storage solutions have you used in the kitchen?
Here's my inspiration:
June 21, 2013
Things have been a little quiet on the blog lately and I’m thrilled to finally reveal why. We’ve been uber busy developing three brand new product ranges over the past few months, which are now ready and available to buy in our Etsy and Not on the highstreet stores! They will be available here from the site shop too, just as soon as we make a few tweaks backstage.
Our pieces are designed and handmade in house, ensuring the very best quality. The new items continue our love for all things reclaimed and we are SO happy with them. We hope you love them too!
First up is our range of upcycled Parquet flooring tables. I am completely in love with these babies and we have received some fantastic feedback already. The tabletop is made from original teak Parquet flooring - painstakingly restored in individual tiles and assembled in the traditional herringbone pattern. This sits snugly inside a handmade-to-measure steel box frame with subtle rusting to give the table a cool and contemporary industrial feel.
Next is our range of upcycled wall art handmade from reclaimed wood. Each piece is a true one-of-a-kind as the timeworn wood retains cool quirks and character from its former use. The reclaimed wood is gently restored to reveal the grain and sealed with beeswax for a natural yet durable finish. They are perfect rustic touch for your home, and work wonderfully for styling up weddings and events too.
Reclaimed wooden hearts (medium and X Large) available here.
We have used the same reclaimed materials and technique to create giant letters - available singularly or as the words EAT, LOVE, OK. This range really channels my love for typography and the letters look so fabulous mounted on the wall or casually leaning on the floor or a piece of furniture. They are a great way to personalise a space, while being nicely relaxed and rustic.
My love for all things made from Kraft card is well documented so it seemed perfect to launch my own stationery range using this lovely 100% recycled card. First we have tags and labels in cute and quirky shapes - perfect for gift wrapping, wedding styling and many other uses - to be followed by many more goodies very soon.
NEWS FLASH: We are thrilled to report that we are now a partner at Not on the Highstreet and have a shop front on the wonderful site where you can buy our wares. Have you heard that NOTHS founders Holly Tucker and Sophie Cornish have been awarded MBEs? The award is for their services to small businesses and enterprise and wholeheartedly deserved I think.
June 19, 2013
Obviously we're very keen on all things green and upcycled here at Ruby Rhino, and we try to do our little bit at home as well with simple measures that help cut energy consumption and ultimately save money too.
So when we were approached by Andrex Eco to get involved with their new campaign, fronted by top eco designer Oliver Health, we were eager to take part. See the great little video below with a peek into Oliver's wonderful eco-friendly house, plus his tips on making small changes around the home and insight into sustainable design. If you watch to the end you'll see Oliver answer my question about how public opinion to eco design has changed for the better.
I was interested to read the findings from the Andrex Eco study, which found that nearly half of Brits (48%) say that they would like to be eco-friendly but think it is too expensive and too much hassle. I think it comes down to priorities and if being green is important to you, you'll make the changes no matter what. It takes time to build a habit, but think how many of us recycle our food packaging now without a second thought? As Oliver explains, similar changes can be made with a little thought and time. And regarding the cost element, well using less energy and repurposing materials leads to saving money, so it really is win-win.
Is eco-friendly living important to you? I'd love to hear what measures you put in place at home.