You know that you’re in the hands of an expert, when they make what they do seem easy and that is exactly what Ann Cope of ShabbyAnd…. (the Queen of shabby chic) does. I have never attempted to recycle furniture before, but when the opportunity arose, I jumped at it.
I’d met Ann at various Business Networks and her quiet confidence hides a passionate professionalism. She is so enthusiastic about transforming previously loved furniture into bright modern pieces that she really made me want to have a go.
As pretty as a pixie and the furniture she creates, Ann greeted me at the door of her workshop almost as eagerly as her dog and mascot of the business's, Teddy. Both made me feel very welcome, as did the other people who were there to have the experience alongside me. Only two of the five attendees knew each other at the start of the workshop, but the friendly banter and reams of laughter was a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of my daily life as a mum and business owner.
The myriad of colours hit you like the end of the rainbow as you walk into ShabbyAnd…’s light and airy studio, which is like Dr Who’s tardis. Rows of various shades of Autentico Chalk Paint decorated a wall and array of artefacts were displayed on shelves and windows sills; tantalising samples of what we all wanted to achi
eve in the 6 hours that lay before us. A row of tables in a U shape were decked out with containers of various brushes, paints and a plastic cover. Ann told me to pick a place to work and put on an apron. We introduced ourselves to each other as we waited for the last attendee to arrive; a birthday girl who was in for a special treat.
One of the attendees, Tina told me she had just moved into a new house on Mersea Island which needed decorating throughout. “I’ve never done anything crafty before, so I thought I would give it a go. I’m hoping to learn some new techniques that I can use to revamp my new home,” she said.
Ann has an air of authority and she lights up her workspace with her energy. She summarised what we would be doing over the next 6 or 7 hours. She would demonstrate the techniques and then we would try them out on samples of wood, before approaching our pieces of furniture. She checked over the attendees small pieces of furniture: atable, a small set of drawers and a bedside table. I had come to the workshop without a piece of furniture, but Ann was able to provide me with a second-hand oak table for £20. I couldn’t wait to get started and we all prepared our items by quickly cleaning them with diluted Omniclean solution to remove any grease or grime.
Ann flexed the bristles of the high-quality brushes we would be working with and demonstrated how to prepare a tin of previously opened paint by shaking it vigorously. The beauty of using Autentico paints is that they are natural and can be easily looked after. After use the debris can be quickly washed off under a running tap instead of having to use turpentine. Ann then told us to load the brushes with paint by pumping them up and down in the pot. Like an old master at work with expert precision, Ann showed us how to gently glide the paint to cover the furniture with paint by starting a little the way down a leg of my upturned table, which had needed a light sanding as it was varnished. She caught any drips of paint with her brush and then continued to gently cover the rest of the surface with a light stroke of her brush, avoiding the bristles splaying across the wood. She told us not to go back over the same area more than twice. If there were any patches or paint ripple or marks, Ann showed us how to smooth them out by tickling the surface with the brush like a feather, to create a gleaming finish. Throughout the day, as I worked on my table I kept reverting to my heavy-handed technique which I have used on my walls at home. “Sally, you’re doing it again,’’ Ann said firmly, but in a friendly tone.
Ann fussed over the attendees and their first efforts at painting with Autentico Chalk paint like a mother hen looking after her chicks. If we needed her help, she quickly came over and smoothed out any mistakes we had made, reiterating the correct technique that we should be using. When you see the wonderful pieces of shabby chic furniture in Ann’s shop, you never imagine that you could create one yourself, but under Ann’s reassuring guidance, we had soon covered our furniture with their first Strokes of Autentico Chalk paint.
The teas, coffees and biscuits flowed as readily as the generously paint-loaded brushes and in our mid-morning break, we all sang happy birthday to our birthday girl, Tanya, who had been treated to the workshop by her family. Ann brought in a birthday cake with lit candles as a lovely surprise from this special lady.
After two coats of paint, Ann told us to lightly sand the surface. This is when you can create the various shabby looks by gently sanding the corners and edges to reveal the paint beneath or the original wood.
One of the attendees encountered a drip that had dried on her wood and another had cracked paint appearing after drying it with a hairdryer. Ann quickly smoothed out any anguis
h by telling the ladies it wasn’t a problem. She would show them how to sand out the problem areas before reapplying paint.
Like an excited schoolgirl showing off her new toys, Ann brought in a box of wax or various colours, some with sparkles, and showed us what they looked like on surfaces. We all laughed as she told us: “This is when you can take your anger out on the wax.” She pummelled a wax-coated brush into the nooks and crannies of the surface like a champion heavyweight.
There it was, my beautiful chalk-painted table. It might not have the flair and finish of one of Ann’s fabulous pieces but it was all mine, painted by my own fair hands. I couldn’t wait to take it home and show it off to my family and it now has pride of place in my home!
Fancy trying your hand at some furniture painting and meet Ann you can click here or call the team on 01206 618920
The South of England's leading creator of shabby chic and contemporary furniture since 2013