Ambitious Pursuit of Magazine Life

We’re decorating the spare bedroom.  My role during performance of a particularly delicate decoration operation is to take cover outside the blast zone and pretend it isn’t happening.  Attempts at diffusion are misinterpreted as supervision, and nuclear fission swiftly results.

As my contribution, I decided to paint the spare room bed.  We bought the bed from a charity shop for a pittance two years ago, and while neither of us were in love with it as a piece of furniture, it is a solid workhorse.  It didn’t look noticeably awful in the spare room, because the rest of the spare room always looked like shit too, so there was a happy harmony of decor dissonance.

Now that the spare room is being addressed, the vexing question of the foul appearance of the spare room bed must be answered.  The shape is acceptable, even pleasing: it is the vibrant orange sun-damaged pine varnish hue that is desperately off-putting.  Observe:


OK, it doesn’t look that bad in this photo.  That’s because it’s outside in sunlight and the photo is weird.  Inside, this thing is orange and shiny.   Believe me.

So, I thought, I will paint it.  This will be productive: paint is cheaper than a new bed, the bed is solid wood and very sturdy, and it could not look worse painted than it does now.  It will be easy, I thought – I read articles about how to do this stuff all the time.  It will be satisfying – it is very many years since I did something even vaguely creative with my own bare hands.  It will bring this piece of furniture bang up to date in terms of fashionable interiors – painted shabby chic furniture is all the rage.  Thinking ambitiously, I decided I would artfully distress the bed so that it looks like an antique that belongs in a manor house rather than a piece of crap we unearthed from the damp section at the back of the YMCA shop.

You will no doubt be shocked to discover that magazine articles can be misleading.

In the magazine, the preparation phase is over in the time it takes to flip the page.  In real life, after three hours of arm ache and finger burn and the disintegration of huge wadges of coarse steel wool, there will be no discernible difference in the appearance of your potential masterpiece.  To wit:

If through my tears of fatigue I had examined it through an electron microscope, I may just have been able to detect a slight difference in the surface of the wood.  I was covered in dust, which indicates that something was happening.  Just not the magical transformation I’d been expecting.  I hoovered the dust off the wood, and then wiped it carefully with a damp rag to make it really clean.  K-man, who was not convinced this project would work and who forbade expense other than cheap paint in the pursuit of improvement, was practising his Skeptical Eyebrow.

By this time four gruelling hours had passed and I had begun to question the wisdom of my endeavour.  Still, the really worth-it part was fast approaching: painting!

In the magazine the lady of the house spends money like it is going out of fashion, buying industrial quantities of the best paint on the planet.  In real life, there’s a husband who declares the expensive paint verboten, forcing a compromise of some clearly inferior product.  In the magazine the best brushes are worth the investment because money is no object.  In real life, the aforementioned compromise restricts the decorator to two cheap old brushes with the few remaining bristles sticking out in every conceivable direction.  In the magazine, the painting environment is a carefully air-conditioned sensitively-lit studio of wonder.  In real life, the blazing hot sunshine and the outdoors makes life uncomfortable in a number of ways.

Let me count the ways.  The paint will dry very quickly.  It will dry on the wood almost instantly, on the brush itself shortly thereafter, and in the paint pot within the half hour.  It will be virtually impossible to achieve the desired smooth finish and instead brush-strokes and lumps will be clearly visible.  Sunburn will be a significant issue, and insects will be strangely attracted to fresh paint, becoming embedded in it  up to their shoulders.

I would have done it indoors, if I didn’t have a husband who convinced me this was a job that would be better done outdoors.  Like a fool, I listened.

After another four hours of tirelessly cutting in to get all the detail, the first coat looked like shit.

At dusk it looked otherworldly, like the malevolent ghost bed of childhood nightmares.  At this stage I was dead on my feet and gasping for a beer.  I tried hard to focus on the fact that every time I have painted anything, I have always thought it looked crap after the first coat and restored my faith with the second coat.  K-man was looking less bemused and more impressed, which I took as a good sign.

The next morning I couldn’t face the bed until after lunch: I knew the magazines were misleading with their implication that a second coat goes on in the time it takes to cancel your subscription.  At 2pm I recommenced.  The second coat was looking much more promising, and though the weather was even hotter and the drying issue was even more pronounced, it did seem to be working out.  Behold:

At the time, I was just so bloody relieved to have the thing finished by 6pm that I didn’t much care what it looked like.  I painted it in Old English White by Crown, and there are some weird grey streaks in the dried finish which I am not very happy about but which K-man says add to the character and charm, and will make it look fantastic when it has been suitably ‘distressed’ by my steel wool and furniture wax combo.

All I can say is that it had better look damn good in the new spare room.  More on that next week.




3 Responses to “Ambitious Pursuit of Magazine Life”

  1. 1 Jen September 12, 2012 at 8:54 pm

    That pretty much sums up my paint projects too, except that mine usually include some sort of paint spill of horrible proportions.

    I’m looking forward to seeing what you do with the room.

  2. 2 Louise September 13, 2012 at 9:50 am

    hate sanding, I dont know if this makes it easier or worse, but it is impossible to paint without good paint or brushes. Use egg tempera. You cannot go wrong. it sticks to anything and is super nice to work with. You can even makre your own for cheap.

  3. 3 Jenn @ Juggling Life September 15, 2012 at 2:54 am

    I think it looks great. I don’t paint things. Ever.

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