Annie Sloane: tips for quick refurbishing and mid-century modern decor

We meet up with Annie Sloane to talk trends, 'great' colours and her expert tips for decorative painting

Annie Sloane mixing red and white chalk paint

Annie Sloan is widely considered one of the world’s leading experts in decorative painting.

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Originally a fine artist, she founded w – her range of specially-made decorative paints – in 1990 and has since launched a fabric collection and a fragrance range. She runs workshops in painting techniques and refurbishing furniture and has written more than 25 books on decorating.

Lee Broom profile shot amongst lighting designs
Annie Sloan coloured chalk paints and swatches

Why do you think so many people want to refurbish old pieces of furniture?

Painting a piece of furniture really gives you a feeling of achievement and is such an easy way to revamp your home. New furniture often breaks and is bad quality yet expensive furniture isn’t always within everyone’s budget range, but a lot of us inherit old pieces that are just looking a bit outdated because of the colour. You can give a piece a makeover by painting it.

Where do you start?

Don’t think about it too much, just get on with it! I would recommend beginning with something big, not small – but not too big either – like a coffee table or some drawers.

Annie Sloan refurbished shabby green chest of drawers

What do you think is the best design ‘quick fix’?

Paint your walls – it creates the most impact and changes everything. You can then go onto furniture. I find that one thing always leads to another!

Do you have any furniture that has special significance for you?

There was a table that I painted a long time ago, it had unique duck-like feet that you had to secure to the floor. I think it was a workbench at some point! I painted that but sold it on – now I wish I had kept it.

Annie Sloan refurbished rustic blue dresser

Who inspired your love of decorative arts?

My love for colour started very young as we had lots of prints in my childhood home. I can always remember my father talking a lot about colour and why he loved it. He had a very big influence on me. I went to university in the early 1970s and also loved studying the work of colour field painters.

What are your favourite current decor trends?

I see a lot of mid-century modern coming through. There’s also a bit of rustic and warehouse alongside a clean, white look. White is back as a trend but not in a shabby way, and I like it.

Annie Sloan up-cycled drawers as plant pot

Do you collect anything?

I love jugs as they can be used in so many ways and always look different. I also love plants, and I have a collection of ferns. I get to travel a lot with what I do and always buy ceramics and pieces from local artisans.

What inspires you most?

I find a lot of my inspiration in fine art, travel and the world around me, but at the moment I’m excited by new colour mixes. Finding a new combination that works is very exciting and it can lead to so many things.

Annie Sloan study yellow feature wall

Tell us about your new soft green colour that you created to raise funds to combat global poverty.

It’s a great colour for a great reason. It’s called ‘Lem Lem’ and it was inspired by a recent trip to Ethiopia with Oxfam. I visited one of their projects that supports women farmers, and was overwhelmed by the fields of alliums that the women had grown. It’s a colour that’s full of optimism and hope, which is what the women in Ethiopia need now.

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Annie Sloan accent cobalt colour kitchen wall

Can you describe your own home?

We live in Oxford in a 19th-century townhouse, just around the corner from my shop on the Cowley Road. The house is very traditional upstairs with amazing architecture and moulded ceilings. We also have a rustic farmhouse in Normandy. It’s very old with mud walls, ancient wooden beams and a beautiful old fireplace.