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April Garden Activity

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In this long-delayed Curiously Creatively update, I will be telling you about this year’s spring preparations in the garden. Over the autumn and winter months, I have been trying to continue doing odd jobs and not to let the garden become a bleak no-man’s land. It is all too easy on cold days to ignore the garden, except for fetching in another bale of peat or tipping the vegetable peelings in the compost bin. During the last couple of years, I have tried hard to be less of a fair weather gardener; I cannot say that I have completely succeeded, but I think there have been improvements. As we never entirely stopped gardening after the summer activity, it has been easier to pick up the work again in the spring.

So where does all this industry leave us then? Well, I am forced to say that we are never as far forward with various jobs as I would like to be at this time of the year. However, many seeds are a–sprouting and we have plenty of spring colours on the ground. Much of the colour comes from the very productive self-seeding forget me nots which have scattered themselves liberally around the garden. We have blue ones, but I do want to add some different colours to the mix this year. These little flowers are so useful for brightening up odd corners and filling in gaps. We have plenty of nasturtiums self-seeding again and this year I am determined to try to use them in the kitchen as we usually have a plentiful supply. Cheerful yellow Welsh poppies are also poking their heads up all over the place.

I am delighted to report that it looks as though we will have some lily of the valley this year, on the third attempt at raising them. I paid a visit to Homebase recently and succumbed to the temptation of having one more go at these lovely flowers. The shoots looked healthy, so I was optimistic of success, though the roots were imperilled when some nocturnal creature decided to dig in my newly planted patch. Fortunately, the roots survived being dug up (by said strange creature) and then being roughly stuffed back in the soil (by me). I have long wanted to have some lily of the valley plants because I remember them fondly from my grandparents’ garden, growing under the hedge. Fingers crossed that I will have flowers in a few weeks time.

While in Homebase, I had a rummage in the marked down section and bought seed potatoes in two varieties. As you might imagine, they were already considerably chitted. I have five each of Kestrel and Nicola, which have sat around in the shed awaiting my attentions (and becoming even more chitted into the bargain). Finally, I am pleased to say that my seed potatoes now nestle snugly in my new Dealz potato bags (€1.50 each). We have been able to use our own compost for some of our planting so far; with careful attention, I am hoping that our compost bin will yield a good supply this season. I do however have the perennial problem of an over abundance of eggshells in the mixture. Still, I suppose there are worse horticultural problems to have.

Look out for a further garden update soon, and do let us know how your garden grows…

Painting the Kitchen Shelves: Round Two

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This is a much-delayed update on the refurbishing of the kitchen shelves, the delay mainly due to the delay in getting around to the painting. Secondary to the late painting job I’m afraid to say,  was the delay in writing about the work. I had plenty of good intentions, but what with one thing and another, you know how it is. And then there’s always having the right weather for painting (or so I tell myself)!

Two Tone Shelves

First stages…

Luckily, I managed to find a spell of dry weather a couple of months ago so that I could set the shelves up outside and set to painting. I know what I am like wielding a paintbrush loaded with brightly coloured paint, so  I am definitely better with plenty of space around. If you remember the previous shelf bulletin, I had sanded down and done an undercoat, in preparation for playing around with some colours. Clearly, I left the job half finished for much longer than I intended, but I suppose that at least I did get around to it eventually. If you recall, we had been on one of our trips to Homebase and selected some bright n’ cheerful match pots to try. I chose two lighter tones and a darker one, with Moroccan Red, Village Green and Zest. As I remarked before, we were probably suckers for the evocative sounding paint names. 


Yet more match pots…

My original intention was to paint each shelf in stripes of different colours, as each shelf comprises four slats. As you can see from the photograph this was quite a tricky operation and I wasn’t confident of achieving sufficient neatness in the end result. I think it may have been possible to achieve a straight line using masking tape, but I decided to take the easy way out and paint each shelf a different colour instead. I also painted a different colour on the two front and back supports and picked out edges in red. Please note – I did paint the underneath of the shelves too!

Painted Shelves

Getting there!

The question of colour division produced a spell of dithering on my part but I did make a decision before the paint began to dry. In retrospect, I wish that I had put the red on the middle shelf to balance the tones a little better. Having said that, I’m pleased with the way the colours go together and the brightening effect they have on the kitchen. I am now considering what to paint next, but don’t hold your breath on a decision any time soon. These things take time…

After doing a couple of coats of colour over two days of painting, I finished off the shelves with some clear varnish as I did with the bedside cabinet last year. My mistake however, was that this time I didn’t leave enough drying time between the two coats of varnish. Probably I was also too hasty in bringing the shelf unit back into service, as the upshot is that the shelves are already showing signs of damage from regular use. I am going to have to do a repair job and be a little more careful and patient in my working methods. A lesson learned I think. Maybe I should have tried a gloss paint instead.

If anyone has any recommendations for furniture paint, do please drop us a line. Until next time…

Finished Shelves

Almost finished…


Painting my Pallets

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I’ve almost finished painting my two pallets and they should be ready to set up soon. I’ve chosen pots that fit in and planted them up with sweet peas, Italian Borlotti beans, dwarf beans and spinach. When the beans and sweet peas flower it should look very colourful.

Painted pallet

The small pallet in Wild Willow, Purple Pansy and Pure Duck Egg.

The pallets both needed scrubbing and sanding, the smaller one turned much lighter after that. I gave them a white undercoat first with some household paint, left over from doing a ceiling I think. I bought five match-pots, optimistically thinking that would be enough paint. I have two Home of Colour, Garden Colour paints, from Homebase and three Cuprinol, Garden Shades. The Home of Colour ones are in Wild Willow and Pure Duck Egg, the others are Purple Pansy, Barleywood and Sunny Lime. The Home of Colour paints have more in them and are better value but there is not a very large range of match-pots.

Painted pallet

The large pallet in Pure Duck Egg, Sunny Lime and Barleywood

I tried to do a couple of coats on most of the surfaces and to paint all the inside bits that won’t be visible but as some of the wood is splintered or gouged, there are a few white patches still. Everything went well until it came to painting the back of the larger pallet and I realised I didn’t have enough paint left. I painted a few stripes in the last of the Wild Willow and Sunny Lime. However, the rest is some leftover Dulux, My Space, Amazon Blue that I bought for painting a dolls’ house a few years ago. As you can see from the picture, the front of the larger pallet is still white. I have about half a pot of Dulux, Vinyl Matt, Summer Sun left over from the same dolls’ house project and I might finish that off on the front, although I’m not sure if there is enough. The Amazon Blue is indoor paint so I’ll have to varnish that part at least, although I might do the whole thing to make the pallets last a bit longer.

Painted pallet

Back of the larger pallet in Sunny Lime, Wild Willow and Amazon Blue

Are you doing any painting in the warm weather? Let us know what projects you have on the go!

Brightening up some kitchen shelves

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A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about one of our renovations projects, a bedside chest of drawers that we repainted in three pastel shades. This time the renovation project is a set of kitchen shelves that look rather tired and worn. The shelves were made up several years ago from one of those self assembly kits from B&Q. I always meant to either paint or varnish them but never quite got around to it. The shelves have moved house a few times as well as acquiring various marks, so I thought it was finally time to apply a little attention with a paintbrush.

kitchen shelves

The raw material…

We browsed the paint selection in Homebase once more, having again decided to play around with a multi-colour finish.  The idea was to choose three colours with a warm, Mediterranean feel that we could later pick up in other pieces in the kitchen. We have another larger shelf unit of similar vintage and a table and chairs that might benefit from an overhaul in the future. Without being too ‘matchy matchy’ about it, I think it would be possible to link these items together in a coherent way. Well, that’s our design theory anyway, let’s see what we can come up with over the next few months. After much humming and hawing we plumped for the shades shown here (match pot sizes) in a matt emulsion. We chose Moroccan Red, Zest and Village Green. The names alone sounded quite evocative, but that’s us falling for cynical marketing ploys I suppose.

This project was slated to be started right at the beginning of the school holidays but somehow it got pushed further and further back until it was no longer really even summer. Thus, one fine morning last week I cleared the pots and pans off the unit in a determined fashion and took it into the back garden for a scrub and sand down. The wood has never been painted or varnished and the surface is quite smooth so I didn’t really need to do too much preparation on the shelves. Fortunately I didn’t have any filling to do either, only a certain amount of residue from some stickers to remove.


Yet more match pots…

As before, I decided to give a base or undercoat to the wood before I started applying the colours. I haven’t used a specific primer, just a white matt emulsion to give a good surface to work on later. So far, I’ve only put one coat of white paint on, but I might do one more before starting on the colours. I’m undecided about how much grain I want showing through on the finished surface. As I don’t want a surface that looks too ‘finished’ I may end up leaving it at one base coat. Fortunately the weather held long enough for the scrubbing, sanding and painting process in the garden and I returned the shelves to the kitchen in the short-term.

For now, the saucepans are back in place until I earmark another day in the weekly routine to complete the next stage. If the dry weather holds, the Curiously, Creatively team may be in paint-a-thon mode at the weekend in a bid to get the task completed. That is, unless we get distracted by another activity. There are lots of jobs that need doing in the garden at the moment! But, for now here’s the stage I’m at: one partly finished piece of kitchen furniture which already looks brighter and fresher than it did before.

white painted shelves

The half-way stage

As I’ve said before, any painting tips are more than welcome as we’re working in an experimental, see what works, see what effects we can obtain, sort of way.

A Little Spot of Painting: Bedside Cabinet

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This furniture painting project has been lurking in the wings for a long while. The paintwork on the chest was faded and coffee stained (I will confess that as the chest lives on my side of the bed, any beverage staining is entirely my fault) and in need of a pick me up. An earlier paint job done by He Who Put The Shelves Up had been in different colours due to using up paint oddments. It therefore seemed to me to be a good idea to continue the multi colour theme and the broad colour and tonal range. I forgot to take a ‘before’ picture, but if I say that the piece had been painted in pastel shades of green and blue (vinyl silk I think) you will have an idea of the appearance. I can’t remember exactly where we bought the  cabinet from originally, but it was a second-hand piece that just needed smartening up a bit.

Painted Bedside Cabinet

Three Colour Harmony

I chose to use match pots of paint for this project, and having a rather economical view I bought from the Homebase range of colours. After much deliberation, my final choice was mat emulsion in Amethyst, Pale Green and Cobalt. After cleaning and sanding down the chest, I painted one coat of white matt that I happened to have in. I don’t know that it was really necessary to do so but it seemed a good idea to start with a clean slate, so to speak. Then I painted the back in green, the sides in blue and the top and front framework in the Amethyst.

As you can see from the photographs, I became a bit carried away with the drawer fronts and used all three colours. In the end, I gave all the sections three coats of paint because the wood seemed to drink up the paint. I know that the choice of paint probably should have been a gloss or satin but I wanted a matt finish so I experimented with trying this paint on the wood. I think it worked well, and with a reasonable cost of three small pots of paint it resulted in a bright, fresh piece of furniture.

Drawer Handles

Drawer Detail

My guilty secret (but not for much longer) is that I didn’t paint inside any further than I needed to for appearances sake. I did all of the edges and the drawer runners but stopped short of painting inside the drawers and main framework. One issue that I didn’t sufficiently take into account was that the finish needed to be coffee stain proof, so the nice matt finish had to be given a light seal with clear varnish. Again I used a Homebase product, choosing the quick drying clear varnish with a satin finish. The protected surface was much more practical from the bedside cuppa point of view, two coats being applied overall.

Cabinet Side View

I like the fashion for the chalk finish paints, but at about £5 for a match pot, the paint I used made for a cheaper version and there’s no reason to suppose that it won’t last well (or at least until I fancy a change of colour scheme). We’ve got in mind to paint some kitchen shelves next, so that will be the follow-up project to this one and we have even already agreed on the colours so keep an eye out for further painting blog posts. I might even experiment with the chalk paints at some point. I am intrigued by the claims that they cover any surface with no sanding required at all. It almost sounds too good to be true.

PS I have indeed managed to dribble coffee on the newly painted surface, much to my dismay. The cheering news is that it wiped off easily thanks to the varnished finish. I must however attempt to be more careful in future after going to all of the effort to jazz up the cupboard in the first place. Please note that these snaps were taken while the surfaces were still pristine!

If you have got any paint projects on at the moment or any useful hints and tips, then please let us know…

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