Saturday, 16 April 2016

The Redecoration of our Sitting Room

Warning: Long post, picture-rich!

Our sitting room faces north, and with the houses across the street blocking the light, the room is quite gloomy, and this was not helped by a cream colour scheme. The sitting room in our old house was considerably larger, so moving here, our furniture was dominating the room which felt cluttered and oppressive.

Now that Mum is no longer living in her flat (which occupies half the downstairs of the house) and is not able to return, we have moved some furniture into her rather sparsely-furnished sitting room, which we also used while ours was being redecorated – being at the back of the house, it gets lots of sun in the afternoon, as well as having direct access by a glass door into the garden – we have decided to use it more in the summer for this reason. With the removal of some of the furniture, our sitting room was already looking better.

I recently watched a house renovation programme in which the windows were replaced with new ones with powder-coated frames in bright orange, which brought a feeling of sunshine into the room. The presenter of the programme said that a cheaper option would be to paint the window reveals in orange.

Having decided to paint the walls and woodwork in white, I thought that some touches of orange, including the small portion of ceiling over the bay window, the picture rail and the ceiling coving, would bring this touch of sunshine into our gloomy room, and the addition of some orange stencilling under the coving would soften the look and bring the design together cohesively.

My original plan was to do all the decorating myself – part of my new post-cancer life, to take back a lot of things that I haven’t done for many years. It’s been all too easy to ignore my M.E. which has been part of my life for so long – I have adjusted to the way of life it has imposed on me, and the cancer and all that went with it last year overshadowed it so much, and I think this year I have been rather unrealistic in what I am capable of doing, and trying to run before I could walk! I certainly need to relearn the art of pacing because I’ve been in a boom-and-bust situation, overdoing things and then crashing, which is not too good.

My hubby made a tremendous fuss about my plans to do the decorating, and I was in denial about my capabilities, and then he spoke about it to our neighbour Gary and he agreed completely, that I’d be very foolish to attempt it! I caved, and agreed to let Gary do it, and I am so glad I did – I doubt if I’d have ever finished the project, and as a professional, he has all the right tools and equipment, and the skill and experience, and he completed the job, and several other bits and pieces (small repairs, some paint priming etc.) around the house which needed doing, in a week, and the result is professional, and stunning.

Here are some before, during, and after photos.


Working around the room from the door. I have deliberately left it untidy to show the normal state of affairs! (I have determined that it will NOT be the normal state of affairs from now on!) These pictures were taken on Monday 14th March.

01 Door Corner

The two cardboard boxes are still there 2 1/2 years after we moved, still not unpacked!

02 Clock Corner

One of them contained ornaments (no room for most of them) and the other my little camel stool and the tops of the Burmese screen which you can see in the alcove in the next photo. When I was packing this up to move house, one of the tops fell into two halves, and I could see that my grandfather had mended this some time in the past. Not knowing how to fix it, I just left them packed away, and had the screen without the tops. Gary said he did not feel up to repairing the broken screen top and suggested we got it done professionally, so my hubby has contacted a local furniture restorer we know, and is taking it over on Monday, together with another of the tops which has a couple of carved points broken off, which fortunately I have, and hopefully he can repair both tops. Once that is done, there will be photos of it in all its glory. The screen is solid Burma teak and weighs an absolute ton – it is intricately carved front and back, the bottom part of each of the three panels being solid and carved, and the top panels, and the detachable tops, are pierced through. It is a magnificent piece of work, and I was so pleased that nobody else in the family wanted it when we were clearing my grandfather’s house all those years ago. It has been my constant companion all my adult life, and a great treasure.

03 TV Corner

The black uplighter in the corner had a faulty switch and didn’t work (I have now repaired this) and we moved Mum’s standard lamp in to give a bit more light – 2 lamps in the corner was definitely too many! The white bookcase was an eyesore and was always a mess, filled with DVDs and clutter. The pictures just happened to be available and I stuck them on the hooks that were already there, but they did little for the room, not being carefully placed. The one on the right was a gift for a friend and this was never the right place for it.

04 Lamp Corner

The cushions were tired and lumpy and the covers are worn. Endless clutter was really getting me down! Too many projects on the go, and papers, computer, external HDDs and endless untidy cables everywhere.

05 Settee


The first few photos show the room with some of the furniture removed, and experimenting with the arrangement of certain items. These photos were taken on the evening of Thursday 17th March, after a shopping trip when we bought the new cushions.

A great improvement – the removal of the unsightly white bookcase!

01 Lamp Corner

I arranged the lava lamp and a few ornaments on one of the side tables, with a piece of Romanian embroidery.

02 Lava Lamp on Side Table

The settee with the new cushions.

04 Settee with New Cushions

I designed a stencil for the tops of the walls, adapting an art deco design I found online. The house was built in 1925 and has several original art deco features, including the fine wooden fire surround with its plinth, obviously designed to take a clock, an my original art deco electric clock with its chrome accents and Westminster chimes now has pride of place and looks as one with the fireplace, topped off with a modern art deco-style mirror, and a reproduction art deco lamp.

06 Sketch for Art Deco Border

This is the stencil I cut, together with some repositionable spray adhesive (eventually we used 3M repositionable photo mount which was better and had a finer spray), and some stencil brushes. The stencil is of one pattern repeat, and I cut it from an opened-out polywallet.

05 Stencil for Art Deco Border

The decoration begins. This is the state of play at the end of the first day (Tuesday 29th March). You can see that the room is considerably opened up with the removal of the third armchair which was in front of the window, and the absence of the coffee table.

07 End of Day 1 Decorating

On Wednesday 30th March, Gary began applying masking tape and painting the ceiling coving with the orange paint, which had a lovely name – “Bengal Tiger”! A couple of days later, Gary went to the garage for his van’s MOT and apologised for the state of his hands, saying “I’ve been painting with Bengal Tiger.” The man at the garage said, “Wouldn’t it be easier with a paintbrush?” Hahaha!!

08 Beginning to Paint the Cornice 30-3-16

You can see how much brighter the room looks with the white walls.

The coving completed, Thursday 31st March.

09 Orange Cornice and White Walls 31-3-16

We decided to retain the dark red walls around the window. They give some contrast and it’s a nice rich colour that goes well with our colour scheme – we had this colour in our old house too, so I was quite pleased to see it here when we moved. You can see that Gary has pinned up the curtains using clothes pegs. He managed the entire job without having to remove any of the curtains, and he didn’t get a single spot of paint on any of them..

10 Corner with Red Wall 31-3-16

The picture rail in Bengal Tiger. The next group of photos were all taken on Monday 4th April.

11 Corner with Red Wall & Pic Rail Painted 4-4-16

The coving and picture rail complete, in the alcove to the left of the chimney breast.

12 Cornice and Pic Rail in Alcove 4-4-16

Now for the really exciting part! Gary doing the very first bit of stencilling. We agreed that he would place the fan shape in the centre of the chimney breast and work outwards from there – this is the focal point of the room, and whereas for the rest of the room it would be OK to continue the stencilling around the corners, this part, which would draw the eye, should have the stencilling carefully placed and centred.

13 Gary Starting the Stencilling 4-4-16

14 Gary Stencilling 4-4-16

The first pattern repeat stencilled.

15 First Stencil Repeat Completed 4-4-16

The moment of truth – peeling off the stencil.

16 Removing the Stencil 4-4-16

Yippee – a superb result!

17 Stencilling - 1st Patt Repeat Completed 4-4-16

The chimney breast stencilling complete.

18 Chimney Breast Stencilling Complete 4-4-16

What I hadn’t planned as how exactly the pattern fits the chimney breast! I knew it needed to be about 6 inches in depth, and I drew it to match that proportion. Elsewhere in the room, too, the pattern fits neatly into the corners in most cases. Quite fortuitous, I can assure you!

Gary found that the adhesive needed reapplying periodically, and the stencil cleaning – the adhesive was lifting tiny spots of white paint (not so that anything showed on the wall) which was interfering with the adhesion of the stencil to the wall. You can see on the fan shaped portion that there are some long narrow pieces of stencil which needed to be well adhered in order to prevent them moving and paint getting underneath. I used Crafter’s Companion Stick Away spray to clean off the back of the stencil, and at the end of the day he found that if we soaked the stencil in hot soapy water, the emulsion paint simply lifted off.

He had a terrible job with the inside corners, particularly the first one, in the right-hand alcove – because the corner of the wall wasn’t straight, if he pressed the stencil into the corner, the second half did not run along parallel to the coving. He called a halt at that point, it being the end of the day, and we cleaned off the stencil, and he said he would just stick it down on the next bit of wall, lining it up correctly, and not stick it on the previous bit (if that makes sense!). Fortunately, this turned out to be the most troublesome corner of all, as it is the least visible in the room if anything went wrong (you’d never know, though), and subsequent corners became increasingly easier as he worked around the room.

Over the curtain pole there was not enough depth of wall to do any stencilling, and he ended the pattern at this point, either side of the curtain. However, we agreed that it looked a bit odd with nothing.

19 Under the Bay Painted 4-4-16

Finishing the stencilling on Wednesday 6th April. Gary began in the centre of the chimney breast and worked to the right, ending up at the left-hand end of the curtain pole. He then returned to the centre of the chimney breast and worked around the left-hand alcove and right around the room to the right-hand end of the curtain pole. Here he is, doing the very last stencil.

22 Applying the Final Stencil 6-4-16

To finish off over the curtain rail, he masked off a band which he then painted in solid orange, to match the band along the top of the stencil. He had to eyeball it as the ceiling is slightly bowed over the window.

23 Applying Masking Tape for Stripe Over Window 6-4-16

The band completed. You can see the orange paint over the window. Originally this was going to be in matt emulsion but Gary suggested painting it with the eggshell which has a slight sheen, and this reflects more light into the room. I am pleased with the effect.

24 Stripe Over Window 6-4-16

At this point, the decorating was completed, and he was able to move on to the various odd jobs that needed doing around the rest of the house.

On the evening of Thursday 7th April, my hubby and I unpacked the new flat-pack cabinet that had been stored in Mum’s sitting room till we were ready to assemble it. There was a huge quantity of panels and hardware, and I arranged them around the walls in order – each panel was fortunately numbered – checking them off the list of contents as we went.

25 Sorting the Panels for the Cabinet 7-4-16

I sorted all the hardware (screws, cams, drawer runners, etc. etc.) into separate containers with a label in each, listing the contents and the step number from the instruction sheets, so that we would have all the parts we needed for each step, and I could pass my hubby the relevant parts as he needed them. You can see the instruction sheets on the table on the right.

26 Sorting the Hardware for the Cabinet 7-4-16

I was rather amused that my hubby brought in a sledge hammer to aid in the construction! They said to use a mallet, so I provided a small mallet, but in the end we didn’t really need it, apart from tapping in one or two slightly tighter dowels for the joints.

When he’d finished the painting, Gary had moved the settee into the centre of the room to give us room to construct the cabinet. I laid the carpet down in this area temporarily, to give us a soft surface to work on, to protect both the cabinet and the floor. You can see that I have already hung a picture on the wall on the right.

You can also see that the dark red curtains do not come anywhere near the floor – in our old house these were floor-length! The ceilings in this house are very high. However, it doesn’t matter, because with furniture in front of these curtains, you don’t notice that they are too short.

27 Preparing the Corner for the Cabinet 7-4-16

That was the end of Thursday 7th April.

A finishing touch was the addition of some LEDs that I found on Ebay. This is a long thin cable with tiny LED bulbs at intervals along its length.

20 LED Cable Lights for Pic Rail 4-4-16

Gary stuck some of my heavy duty double-sided tape along the top of the picture rail and pressed the cable onto this. When switched off, it is invisible, but when switched on, the effect is sparkling and decorative, and a nice finishing touch. The cable beyond the connector, leading to the plug, was not quite long enough, but I found another one, complete with the correct transformer, in my drawer full of cables, and it runs down behind the curtains to the left of the window and is plugged in discreetly onto the extension bar for the TV equipment. I turn the lights on and off by pulling the connector apart and hanging the further end over the screen so I don’t have to bend down to switch on the lights. It works very well. These lights were available in different lengths, and with a choice of power options – mains (which I chose), battery, and USB. You can see how tiny the bulbs are, and they are pretty bright.

Here they are lit up.

21 LED Lights for Pic Rail Lit Up 4-4-16


The remaining photos show the completed room – at least, as far as is possible. We are still awaiting the arrival of the new chandelier which is on order. Once this arrives, I can phone the electrician and ask him to come and fit it. I moved the final pieces back into the room yesterday afternoon and hung some pictures.

Starting in the same corner as for the “Before” photos and working around. These photos were taken on Friday 15th April in the afternoon, and on Thursday 14th in the evening, with the exception of the final one which was taken on the evening of 15th.

05 Door Corner 15-4-16 pm

The corner with the long-case clock is now a lot less cluttered, with the Indian table having been removed. To complement the large blue and white china plant pot, I have added a couple more pieces of blue and white china on the bottom shelf of the table with the Tiffany lamp. I have also hung a picture in the alcove.

06 Clock Corner 15-4-16 pm

Moving on round to the fireplace. I think the new décor really enhances this original art deco feature of the room. I added the two black metal candlesticks and hung two small pictures which had been above the white bookcase in the old layout, and put some ornaments back in the hearth.

07 Fireplace from Door 15-4-16 pm

Here is another view of the fireplace, from the settee. You can see that the ceiling border of the opposite wall is reflected in the mirror.

12 Fireplace from the Settee 15-4-16 pm

Moving on round to the alcove on the right-hand side of the fireplace, you can see that I have hung another picture, and replaced the centre top piece on the screen. It looks a bit odd at the moment but will look great once we get the two repaired pieces back. You can see how the screen minimises the impact of the TV in the room. TVs are always a problem in interior design but we all have them, and they have to be in a fairly prominent position so that we can actually see them!

08 TV Corner 14-4-16 pm

The view of the bay window was very hard to photograph because the brightness of the window under-exposed the rest, and when I manipulated the photo, the room came out pretty grainy, but you can get an idea of how it looks. The coffee table is now in the window with its cloth and ornaments. I think it needs something taller in the centre but I haven’t got anything suitable, so I will have to think about that for a while – maybe a nice place to have a vase of flowers. In front of the table is the camel stool, which had been packed away in one of the boxes. I bought this at Karachi Airport in 1971 on my way home from my first Far East trip to Malaysia. Along with the Burmese screen, it has accompanied me all through my adult life and I am very fond of it! It has been sat on by generations of kitties over the years – it’s a wee bit small for humans to sit on lol! – but I couldn’t carry a larger one with my airline hand luggage.

11 Teddies in the Window 15-4-16 pm

You can also see the teddies sitting in the window! Shortly after we moved here, my hubby decided to do this for some reason, and he’s done it ever since, bringing them in at night so they aren’t staring out into the darkness and getting cold! I can see people walking along the street and quite a few look at the teddies and smile! Now that we no longer have the extra chairs in the room, there is nowhere to put the teddies at night so my hubby has started packing them in  box and taking them through into the flat. Last night Beatrice thought she’d muscle in on the act, and Phoebe was definitely interested.

Beatrice in with the Teddies 14-4-16

The corner of the room to the right of the window, where the old white bookcase used to be. The new black cabinet is a huge improvement, and there is just room for the uplighter and one of the surround-sound speakers beside it. In the foreground you can see the side table with lamps on it – more photos later. You can also see that I have replaced the two mismatched pictures with a single one better suited to the décor, and the new blue and orange cushions on the settee.

10 Cabinet Corner from Fireplace 15-4-16 pm

A view of the settee complete with its new cushions, as seen from the bay window, with the new picture above. It has already ended up with the computer back on it, and other bits and pieces, but to show off the room at its best, I’ve tidied these things away for now!

09 Settee from Bay Window 15-4-16 pm

The original central light with its red lampshade which really doesn’t let out too much light – the new chandelier will be a great improvement on this, and have more presence in the room, as well.

13 Original Ceiling Light 15-4-16 pm

Now for some evening photos, showing how the lighting affects the whole atmosphere of the room.

A view of the bay window with the table. I took these photos with the flash and unfortunately it makes the end wall look rather flat, and the curtains a lot more obvious than they are on real life!

03 View Towards Bay Window 14-4-16 Evening

02 Table in Bay Window 14-4-16 Evening

The new black cabinet. There is plenty of room for all my DVDs, and I chose ornaments with an orange colour to complement the room, to put on the shelves. Under the lowest shelf there are four drawers in which I have tidied away a lot of the unsightly clutter. My dad’s black marble clock looks great on top, and it breaks up the square outline of the top. It’s very nice to have the uplighter working again. This corner is a vast improvement on what was there before, and adds style to the room. The black cabinet does not dominate the room but blends into the dark red of the wall behind.

04 New Cabinet 14-4-16 Evening

On the side table I decided to make a display of all my decorative lamps – I had forgotten about the paperweight one which was packed in the box with the ornaments – there is a revolving disc in the base which changes colour and throws a rather attractive moving coloured circle above it on the ceiling. Likewise, the fibre-optic lamp (which was in the hall and never being used) changes colour in the same way. Together they make a nice grouping with a couple of glass paperweights.

Decorative Lamps 14-4-16 Evening

Here’s a little video I made of the lamps:

Finally, the LEDs around the picture rail. You can see them reflected in the mirror, too, and if you look closely there’s a rather intriguing reflection on the glass of the art deco clock on the mantelpiece – the convex glass creates a tiny reflection in a curve, and it looks like a diamond necklace!

14 LEDs Around Picture Rail 15-4-16 Evening

The arrangement of the room isn’t set in stone as far as the details are concerned, but we are more or less satisfied with the arrangement of the larger pieces. To sum up: the Indian table which was beside the clock, the standard lamp, the second armchair and the white basket chair are remaining in the flat; the coffee table has been moved and can no longer serve as a dumping ground and makes a feature under the window; I have introduced mood lighting and hung some pictures.

More photos will follow once we get the screen repaired, and the chandelier fitted.

I think you will agree that there has been a major transformation of this room. We are very delighted with it, and extremely pleased with Gary’s hard work and attention to detail – a really professional job.


  1. Wow, amazing transformation, Shoshi! You've created such a peaceful haven in your living space. Gary has certainly done justice to your stencil design and I like the bits of orange brightening up the place. I can't believe Nicholas brings in the teddies for the night - that is so sweet! Kitties always find the new thing in the house and take possession immediately, don't they? Love Beatrice sitting amongst the teddies! I enjoyed the before/during and after photos. Phew, what a marathon blog post! If there's ever a longest blog post contest out there, yours certainly should be a contender!

  2. Ohhhh, do I ever love your room!!!! As a art deco fanatic I was oohing and aahing at everything. The mirror over your fireplace is just IT! I love the lady figurine statue too on your fireplace. I love the stenciling. I think Bengal Tiger goes perfectly with Art Deco. I do think it would have been easier to use a paintbrush too. ;) Tigers get quite grumpy. Your lamps are just gorgeous. I think you mixed in art deco old with modern to perfection. Camel reproduction stools are so in right now. To have an original one is a treasure. You are so lucky. The night lighting is just stunning. I live in Missouri. Do you think Gary will come and fix up my home. :) He is very good. Please give him my compliments. I have a 1940's bungalow I bought three years ago. I am slowly fixing it up. Your post has inspired me. DH & I are gamer's and my beautiful vision of a Bohemian living room is turning into a gaming cafe. It is even starting to bother my husband. Thank you for the inspiration. We do have an orange tabby cat we can paint with. ;)

  3. Oh Shoshi, I absolutely love that stencilling, make such a difference. The white makes the room so much lighter, but without the stencilling it would look clinical and stark, but it looks really classy and fresh now. Thanks for shsring.


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