While I won’t say that I have particularly relished being confined to our home for weeks during the COVID-19 pandemic, it has meant that I have been finally forced to look at all the unfinished jobs around the house and have actually got round to finishing some of them. Years ago, when I worked for a large IT company we had a team-building day which involved personality profiling to help us to “identify our strengths and weaknesses and see how we would best work in a team”. It came as no surprise that I was far from being a ‘completer-finisher’! The minute I get inspired with an idea for a new project, I’m off – brain buzzing with new ideas and leaving a wake of little snagging jobs that I will finish off later. (Who am I kidding?)
It was February 2018 when we first started to look at the upstairs corridor. It was a long gloomy passage through the middle of the first floor of the mill with five doors leading off to bathroom and bedrooms – and not much else. Although there was a window at the end it was north facing and didn’t let in much light. The walls were papered halfway up with grubby dark blue paper and a very ’80’s border and the cream paint above was stained orange with nicotine. A single bare bulb hung from the ceiling, leaving either end of the corridor in darkness at night.
The first job was to get more light into the space, so we swopped the greasy bulb for soft downspots. Once we’d stripped and cleaned the walls there followed quite a bit of discussion about paint colours. The varnished woodwork was tatty and the previous owners obviously had anger management issues, as several doors and frames had been damaged by either zealous slamming or forced entry! But we liked the style so decided to repair the damage and hide the joins by painting them French grey. I was all for clean, bright white walls to reflect as much light as possible, but Colin wanted dove grey. So we compromised and painted one side dove grey and the other white!
The window at the end really needed replacing as it was single-glazed and rotten but we decided to leave it for a while and tackle it together with another two, when we did the landing.
The view from that window though is lovely, looking out onto a massive old weeping willow, an old stone bridge over the river and across the roofs of the hamlet on the other side. I wanted to put a chair there but just couldn’t find the right thing. The window is low and I didn’t want to block any light or the view, so the chair had to be quite low. And the colours had to be just the right mix of bright and calm and harmonise with the blue grey of the paintwork.
We don’t have much in the way of furniture stores in this part of rural France, so I trawled through discount furniture websites and online auctions, getting more and more frustrated.
You know when you have exclusive, designer, ‘I-don’t-want-some-mass-produced-rubbish’ tastes and a second-hand, clearance-corner budget? Well, that’s me.
And then I saw it. Just what I wanted! The right shape, height, fabric – Perfect! Only problem was it was a photo on Pinterest which someone had saved from a long-abandoned upholstery blog.
But the fact that it was a blog about upholstery gave me an idea. I had done quite a bit of upholstery back in the day, when my son was small and the budget was even smaller. I even went to an evening class at a local school to learn the traditional techniques. I could create my own chair.
I did a Google image search and managed to find the fabric design. It was an iconic Sanderson fabric but long-since discontinued.
Undeterred, I hunted through Ebay and as luck would have it, found someone who was selling one of a pair of curtains made of this fabric. The seller had only needed a single curtain when she bought the pair and the other had been sitting around for years, still in its original packaging in a drawer, until she had a clear-out.
The next lucky find was a second-hand ‘bedroom’ chair with all the right attributes.
Fired with enthusiasm I immediately set to, stripped the old fabric off, painted the legs and started to recover it…
…and then the weather turned beautiful, I had a brilliant idea for a new terrace in the garden and that was that.
That poor little chair has been sitting, waiting patiently to be loved and brought back to life until a couple of weeks ago!
And, ta-dah! Here it is!
The window did finally get replaced, the week before the COVID lockdown. Phew!
The floor was softened (and sound-proofed) with a carpet runner and the walls are the ideal place to display some family photos.
I was toying with the idea of adding a narrow console table between the two doors on the right hand side but though it might a) look too cluttered and b) I’d keep knocking into it on night-time trips down the corridor. What do you think?
Anyway, it now has the official seal of approval!