Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Old furniture, new style: Oliver Heath's tips on refinishing furniture

One of my true pleasures is finding old pieces of furniture and giving it a new lease of life; it’s the excitement of the potential, the burst of creativity and finally it’s appreciating what you’ve made – knowing that its totally unique to you. Vintage furniture will add character and identity and it can help make your home feel more human – taking the harder edge off contemporary design.

I often scour markets and thrift stores for classic pieces such as chairs, bureaus or cupboards– older furniture won’t have any of the chemical nasties found in their modern counterparts and they are often built to last with solid timber – so all it takes area few ideas and a little work to give each piece a new lease of life.

Why not try a few of these:

Sand the piece down (to give it a key) then re-paint it using natural paints- which won't have toxins.

If the piece is covered in layers of paint, sand it down a little to give it a distressed look.

Or even create the distressed look yourself by adding layers of paint and gently removing them once dry– tonal shades of the same color work best.

Paint the interior drawers a vibrant – even shocking- color for a real burst of life.

Paint a section in natural paints to match your room, and then cover other areas in patterned wall paper, although wrapping paper or squares of origami paper will be cheaper as they are available in smaller amounts.

Apply gold or silver leaf over sections of the unit to give it a soft but rich reflective glow.

Replace the handles and legs with something more contemporary and if there is a lock with a key, fit a decorative tassel for a touch of glamour. These smaller details really work wonderfully.

Use stencils – such as flowers, leaves, or historic patterns to add color and texture. It could even have a graffiti feel for a children’s bedroom.

Cover the piece in blackboard paint and then use it as a memo board by writing on it with chalk – which can look fantastic although it’s best done over a solid floor as it can create dust.

Use a paper decoupage (cut out images or text from magazines) and cover the piece – choose similar colored images or even just black and white for the most coherent effect.

For chairs simply recover fabric sections in something retro, vintage or even really contemporary – the change will work wonderfully.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Outside spaces: Living close to nature

Exterior spaces should be treated with the same care and attention to detail as the interior of your home. They are a chance to get closer with nature which I believe has a calming and grounding effect on our lives.

In my own home I have created two outside spaces by building a structural glass balcony above a lower ground floor patio area. The upper space has a neat fold down picnic table and chairs made from reclaimed timber (which folds away when not in use, so it looks like a timber wall) and is perfect for alfresco breakfasts and growing tomatoes - see the picture for this years crop!

The lower space, which is partly covered over by the glass balcony above, has a number of functions. As the glass allows a maximum of light to filter down, it keeps the basement floor to stay light and airy. Being protected from rain, its good for drying washing (without the need for a dryer) – and it makes a perfect retreat space in the summer, staying cool and quiet. I’ve made the space feel more luxurious by the addition of 2 chaise lounges from reclaimed timber and filled the space with exotic market finds such as vintage mirrors, tables, chandeliers, and bird cages – all of which give it an air of grandeur. Even the floor is sustainable – the decking is made from reclaimed wood and plastic –it’s non slip and won't go green and moldy like timber – so it's very low maintenance.

But if you have the space there’s no reason why you can't do more to encourage wildlife and make your own home more sustainable. You may want to consider a home composting system, rainwater harvesting from the water collected by you roof, bird feeding areas, and encourage native plants and grasses to grow.