Decorating series – An introduction and laying down the law!


We will have lived in our current house for about 2 years in February, so thoughts have now come round to decorating. This was a new build when we moved in and so we had to wait a year before even considering popping some colour on the walls.

It occurred to MrC and myself that if we could apply some 1940’s logic to our food/ cooking/ eating habits… we could also apply that logic to our decorating. Surely it would be cheaper and far more unique. Oh I don’t mean decorate the house like it came out of the 1940’s JUST apply the logic they used… for example…

One of the joys of a large family is the collection of tools and decorating implements is collectively larger and more varied #CheekyButCunning

When the 1-year mark came around we thought we’d paint the lounge. It’s a gorgeous purple colour, which is what we wanted, BUT… the colour had to be tailor made. This meant a cost of £37.95 for one 5-litre tin. YIKES!

That’s an insane price but one you’ll pay if you don’t want to pick a colour from the shelf.

This was probably (no der) not the outlook we should have had when decorating… its expensive and quite honestly, the whopping great price tag did not make the room bigger or make us better people… why did we do it again? #IForget

The logic we should apply is one of UTILITY. What you NEED not just what you want, CREATIVITY and SECOND HAND, not boring, brand new and straight out the catalogue. Finally, there were restrictions in the UK during the war when it came to tarting up your walls.

Paint colours were limited. Its no co-incidence the favourite colour of the time seemed to be magnolia, poo brown and OMG green. They were part of the camouflage paint palette, which… is what paint factories were now being used for. If you couldn’t find it on the shelf, you didn’t buy it.

I suppose… if you apply that logic… you’re limited (today) by what you can get your hands on. In our case, what we can either buy off the shelf at Wilkinson’s or from one of the local hardware stores. Not very exciting but that’s where the 1940’s creativity comes in. Remember MAKE DO AND MEND! A happy home is not the result of its over priced content but the people, time, love and effort that go into it. Something to ponder on next time you reach out for the £30 roll of wallpaper you’ve convinced yourself you need.

The art Deco colour palette from the 1920's through to the early 1940's

The art Deco colour palette from the 1920’s through to the early 1940’s

Think wallpaper is a quick fix?

“…Much of the 1930’s popular muted autumnal colour range would be earth based pigments and therefore perhaps relatively cheaper pigments, these designs continued into the years of the WW2.”

“Most wallpapers, when they were available, would have been pretty drab.”

“Lees paper Staining Co, F W Howarth, Potter and Co, and Lightbrown Aspinall, amongst others no doubt, suspended normal production. Lightbrowns were involved in assembly of radar equipment, Potter and Co with war time engineering.”

“…Many 1930’s wallpapers were embossed and some would have been made to be painted in house paints.”

“A 1939 Stather wallpaper catalogue (using thin oil based colours), with an interesting sticker on the front cover dated May 1940… ‘Owing to continued advances in the cost of raw materials and of manufacture, the marked prices of all paper hangings in this book are increased by 50% and 5%’”

Yikes, so even what you could get could face a mark up of between 5% and 50%…. SHEESH! Pass the poo paint! Thanks to Kate from the National Trust for the information above.

What was popular (and I still remember it as a child in the 80’s and 90’s) was painting over wallpaper…anyone remember anaglypta. It came in a few varieties when I was a child… that horrible white-ish fake wood chip or woven basket effect were the ones I remember. It covered a multitude of sins. Today it’s still about in one form or another… and granted there are much newer and ‘more tasteful’ patterns (hahahaha no they’re still pretty yuck)… but I’m a long way from being a convert.

Okay now that your walls are covered.  What about furniture? WW2 had the infamous CC41 utility furniture. Some of it is actually beautiful and you have to pay an arm and a leg for it today.

When we moved into our currant house we had no furniture. Everything we’d had before had been 3rd, 4th and 8th hand when we were given it and it had all gradually given up and collapsed. Our clothing was either in plastic boxes or on a rail on wheels. When we moved we had to buy everything… and I mean EVERYTHING. We quite literally had our clothing, some old bedding and the kid’s toys/ books… and a TV… and our trusty red sofa.

The ‘utility furniture’ in our case was mostly from IKEA (bless them), and we wouldn’t have managed to pretty much completely deck out the house with out them.

BJURSTA Extendable table IKEA Dining table with 2 pull-out leaves seats 4; makes it possible to adjust the table size according to need.

This table has 2 hidden leaves and is great for eveing meals and parties… PLUS… It wouldn’t take much to update this in a few years with some bright paint or even just a nice collection of handy table clothes! #WatchingTheCharityShops

My favourite peace of furniture from there is still our dining table. It looks small and neat by day but has 2 leaves that slide out effortlessly. So you can fit 4 people or 6 people or, as we’ve done before, open it out as a buffet table/ table of 8+. (Miss K’s pirate party in 2011)

That’s not the best example of an average household buying only what they need… we needed everything! Not just a few bits and bobs or one piece. Now, however, that we have what we need… we’d like to make the house into a home by adding some nice touches… which brings us to décor… and of course wall covering again. EEK!

During the Second World War wood and metals were at a premium… as were other resources such as the factories that processed and produced them. Timber was another import and area in which we were not self-reliant. A shortage was noticed after the bombings and when new households were established (marriages.).

KAUSTBY Chair IKEA Solid pine; a natural material that ages beautifully.

We bought 6 of these to go with the table… nice, simple and easy to include in any scheme… plus they can be updated with a home made seat cushion or a lick of paint when we get bored with black

The Committee produced a number of approved designs, published in the Utility Furniture Catalogue of 1943.

The aim was to ensure the production of strong well-designed furniture making the most efficient use of the scarce timber. The designs were largely in the tradition of the Arts and Crafts movement, and were severe in their simplicity and lack of ornamentation, entirely contrary to popular taste of the immediate pre-war period.

Furniture based on these designs was constructed by about 700 firms around the country. Given the huge number of individual manufacturers involved, it is perhaps not surprising that quality varied enormously.” Thanks wiki.

Dictionary definition: u·til·i·ty (y -t l -t ). n. pl. u·til·i·ties. 1. The quality or condition of being useful

Makes me wonder if we could have resurrected the old stuff instead of buying new.

The reason for all the above waffle is that we plan to decorate our home…trumpets…but using the MAKE DO AND MEND/ UTILITY ideas of the 1940’s combined with some good old 2012 creativity. So heres the law we’re laying down for ourselves!!!

  1. We DON’T want a house that looks like it fell out of a 1940’s documentary… but we do want a nicely… and frugally… decorated home. REMEMBER!! YOU CAN BUY A HOME YOU MAKE A HOME

    Wishing right now that’s what I was sweeping up… sadly it isn’t #Sobs

  2. We NEED a fixed idea of exactly what we want or rather need each room to do before we decide what furniture/ decorations to add. E.G. our living room is also our dining room, entertaining room, as well as a place for the kids to play and do homework.
  3. We NEED to be realistic… Not everything we think we want will be available but some of the things are achievable with some thought and prep. #LiveWithinYourMeans
  4. We NEED to work to a budget for each room. Willy nilly buying will mean wasted money and stuff we don’t need… it can also mean a room full of tat (junk)
  5. We NEED to be price conscious. Some things are worth buying first hand and paying full price for… others are not… Do your research! Not every second hand purchase is a hidden gem. Sometimes it takes more time and money to restore a treasure than just buying new… weigh up if it’s worth it. Time + Money + Effort
  6. Buy what you NEED first and if there’s budget left then buy want you would LIKE. Those little extras are nice but they can cost… gte them last.
  7. REMEMBER availability…My much loved Navy paint (that i would soooo love to have) is not going to be found on any store shelf in town… maybe its time I grow up and become a little more LOCAL friendly… it will inject much needed money into local shops as well as being lighter on my pocket. There are plenty of colours on the shelves… ones that will not scare my wallet and that will look great with the stuff I already own. #KeepItLocal #RealityChequeBounceMuch
  8. We MUST do an inventory of what we already have… inspiration may come from items we already own…. Cushions that look outdated in the lounge may be great as is or recycled for the girl’s room etc… There may also be fabric/ old sheets etc that can be given a new lease of life as cushions or curtains… you name it.
  9. We MUST put effort into it… why buy cushions etc or even pillowcases when I have fabric and 2 perfectly good sewing machines. If you can make it … why buy it? If you can up cycle something to fit the bill… even better. Despite what you may think… things like cushions/ curtains and the odd throw are not difficult to make, they just take time and effort…. but they are totally do-able!!!
  10. SIMPLICITY does it. We don’t want to look like a junk shop. Don’t be tempted to buy stuff you don’t need. After you have what you need you can spend days/weeks/months/years adding bits and pieces to bring character and personality to your home… no hurry. BUT don’t be tempted to overload your surfaces…. Develop a one in one out policy… it will keep your home clutter free. This saves money and you’re more likely to keep your home and surfaces clean if you don’t have and 500 strong collection of ceramic do dats on every windowsill and table top.

Righty ho those are the rules… now just to stick to them.

First off we’re tackling the Master Bedroom. Not the most important room in the house but one that has sadly been neglected over the last few years… wish me luck 😉

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