Is antique furniture for people like me?

Chair upholstered by Sally Bell//Photograph of chair upholstered by Sally Bell via The London Chair Collective

As I plunge headlong into the wonderful world of upholstery, I have started to reassess how I feel about antiques.

I have always assumed that having ‘antique’ furniture in the house would  be synonymous with choosing to live cocooned in a bourgeois bubble. And as well as the politics of it, I have thought the aesthetic itself to be too concerned with its own status, too decorative and too, well, much. Now I was not quite stupid enough to lump all antiques together but whilst I happily broadcast my love for a retro side table or a charity shop bargain, I have always felt like auction houses and fine antiques were not for people like me.

Having been on the hunt for antique chairs to practice my traditional upholstery on, it’s all beginning to grow on me. It turns out that antique furniture is not half as expensive as I thought it might be and even paying someone (or me!) to reupholster it only brings it up to the same sort of price as a new piece. The dimensions of antiques tend to be a bit smaller than lots of modern furniture, particular chairs, leaving rooms looking more spacious. Plus reusing has got to be better for the planet.

And you might not be surprised to know that the past is all very current. The world of interiors are currently enjoying all things Victorian and people are increasingly choosing a mixture of old and new furniture for their houses.

If it’s not for you, great. But maybe antique furniture can be for people like us. What do you think?

Crafts, chairs and charity at Decorex 2014

Today I went to Decorex, an interior design exhibition, thrilled to bits as I clutched my ‘Joanne Mass – Upholsterer’ entrance badge. It was packed full of beautiful things and well-shod people. (I once read about how commenting on people’s shoes is a very English thing to do. Tut! Fancy making eye-contact!)

Here – just for you – are a few of my highlights.

I was sad to miss my fellow classmate Chris talking with Kit Kemp and Katy Emck about the brilliant Fine Cell Work and their stand was always too full of people to take a decent picture!

(I might do another trend-spotting post if that’s the sort of thing you’re in to. To be honest, I haven’t decided if I am or not.)

My toddler’s multi-coloured bedroom

I have been meaning to upload the photos of my son’s updated room for ages but here they finally are. We had recently painted the room white and wanted to update it without painting it a different colour so we used wall stickers, storage and new bedding to give it a bit more character.

The room used to have hastily cobbled together furniture and toys spread everywhere.


Before: toddler's multi-coloured bedroom makeover


I’m really pleased with how it looks; it’s not too fussy or themed but it feels calm, colourful and child-like. I forgot to take a photo of my charity-shop-bought rocking horse that sits proudly in the other corner so I’ll add it in a bit!

Back-to-school interiors inspiration

When I was a child, going back to school was a creeping fear in my stomach calmed only by the beauty of fresh notebooks and rows of colour-coded pens. Now it’s my children going to school, I feel pretty much the same.

Here’s my aesthetic attempt to organise and control my childrens’ impending move towards independence.


Consume less; create more

I have been thinking a lot recently about consuming less. Not so much trying to eat less (although less coffee and sugar would definitely be a good thing) but being less of a consumer – rethinking whether I really need what I buy and why I buy it. At the same time, I have been rediscovering my ability to create and I wonder more and more if they are opposites of each other.

Handmade tortoise toy from old shirt

Today I spent an hour making ‘Stripes’ the tortoise out of an old shirt with my 4-year-old. It has not left her side since. For her, an item’s value is not about cost but about worth. And I think she’s got it right.

Obviously I can’t make everything I need (or would like), even if I could make more. So what about when I do buy things? We’ve been persuaded by our friends at Wrapped in Newspaper that the food we choose to buy matters and love getting our locally-grown veg delivered. For interiors, this post by Fenton Art + Design makes a good case for buying home-grown products. The thought of paying sixty-four pounds for a cushion makes me feel as queasy as the next person but buying less, better quality and more local products seems like a good plan for individuals, communities and the planet.

So, like slow food, is the idea of slow design forging a path? I hope so.

Christmas 2014 decorating trends

I am sorry. So very sorry. The autumn term has not even begun and I have been and gone and mentioned Christmas. My children are already adding items to their mental Christmas lists every time we venture near any shop but for the rest of us, I know it is a long way off. Nevertheless, it has become a Paint chart joy tradition to make Christmas decorating trend predictions (particularly as I didn’t make a fool of myself last year after all). So – brace yourself – here it is:

Old school

You know how you’d dress a Christmas film set if you wanted it to appear timeless? Wreaths, decorations in simple fabrics and twinkly lights. As far as anyone still alive can remember, it was never in or out of fashion.


For a more modern take on Christmas decorations, I think we’ll see a lot of chevrons, stripes and other bold, geometric patterns in the shops this Christmas.

Stripes, chevrons and spots washi tape Christmas//Photograph via Chickydoodle


Remember the strange assortment of inherited decorations in weird and wonderful shapes and colours you used to wince at each year when your parents retrieved them from the cupboard? Well, now it’s cool. Honestly. Dust down your fluted baubles, hang those honeycomb paper bells and display the knitted snowmen. Or visit your local charity shop.

Modern Scandi

This year, I think we’ll see the Scandinavian style given an update with the addition of black or grey to the traditional red and white.

Modern Scandinavian red, white and grey Christmas//Photograph via Lushome

So how will you be decorating your home? I would love to know. Nearer the time, of course…



5 easy home decorating ideas for the long weekend

Want to feather your nest ready for autumn but still want to enjoy the last of the summer sunshine? Here are some suggestions for the long weekend that will leave you plenty of time to do other things…

Small mantelpiece display with flowers, vases and candle

1. Enjoy what you already have

You don’t need to spend money or agonize over decor decisions to change how you feel about your home environment. Why not show your house some love by re-ordering kitchen storage, making a seasonal display, rearranging your books or displaying some hand-picked greenery?

2. Do that job that’s waiting to be done

I’m always surprised how a room can evolve by actually doing that thing you’ve been meaning to do for ages but haven’t done because you need to use a drill/ make a picture mount/ measure. It may feel like it’s too much effort now but it’s great when you have those hooks/ mirror/ children’s artwork display up.

3. Paint something

Anything! Be it a shed, an old bed or a junk shop letter rack.


Painted blue shed

4. Make something

I have been pondering the importance of making and creating things of late (more of this to come, no doubt!) and this is what I hope for my bank holiday weekend; to perhaps dig out the silk scarves that were the subject of my very first post to make a cushion or to use the kilner jars my husband bought me as an anniversary gift to preserve the elderberries that my children picked today.

5. Visit your local charity shops, antique shops or reclamation yard

If you’re local to me, I can recommend The end of the world reclaimed centre, Returned to Glory, Swan Antiques and flea market and The Old Flight House. If not, I can thoroughly recommend charity shops as a great place to find interesting and affordable furniture. You may find something as lovely as my dressing table!

1950s retro dressing table


Charity shop upholstery project

Charity shop mid-century nursing chair with Donna Wilson cushion

A trip to my favourite local charity shop this weekend left me hauling this little mid-century nursing chair down the high street. It is currently covered in a pale green velour that is in a decent enough condition to use for the time being. Plus, everything looks good when you put a Donna Wilson cushion on it.

However, I’m hoping it will not stay like this for too long as I will start my upholstery training in just over two weeks. I’m going to be learning at Wendy Shorter Interiors and I’m excited about the future possibilities it will bring. Hold on tight for tacks, trimmings and twine!

Autumn’s coming

The brambles in our garden are already thick with blackberries and, despite Mr Paint chart joy’s denials (verbal and sartorial), the start of autumn is all but here. To celebrate, here are some of my current autumn inspirations.





What I want my desk to look like (and what it does look like)

After writing earlier this year about a place to call my work despite being a stay-at-home mum, I have finally got round to trying to make a workspace at home.

This is what I said I wanted it to look like:

Work space with old desk, lamp, windows and comfortable chair//Photograph by Hus & Hem

And this is what it does look like:

Work space chair cushions

Hmmm… Perhaps it has a little way to go…

From the list I put together last time, I think I still need somewhere to see my ideas in progress. And it’s looking increasingly likely that I’m going to be needing more of a workshop space in the future. I’ll keep you posted.