Tag Archives: DIY

Upcycling: how not to do it

Of all the recent interiors trends, one in particular stands out as seeming a total wheeze: upcycling. This is where you take a knackered piece of furniture, cover it in paint/a jaunty fabric and either a) sell it on at vast profit, or b) keep it and smugly tell anyone who’ll listen how little it cost.

Naturally I thought I’d give this a go myself. So I found a bunch of old café chairs in need of TLC, bought some overpriced paint in a fashionable shade of grey and set about transforming them.

It wasn’t long before I was thinking, I could make this a business. I could get a market stall and sell pieces I’ve picked up for a song at far-flung auction houses and charity shops. I’d be giving new life to old junk. It’s sustainable, productive, creative, potentially lucrative: who could ask for more from their work?

Misha pissed on my parade by asking where exactly I was planning to store all this stuff, and pointing out that getting up at 4.30am in January to flog furniture might not be something I’m cut out for.

In any case, painting them took FUCKING AGES. I mean, like, weeks, because first you have to wait for the weather to be nice enough to leave them outside. Then there’s the whole tedious undercoat process. When finally you’ve finished one, you have to muster the enthusiasm to paint another, and another, until if you see another fucking half-painted chair you think you’ll scream with the sheer, aching repetitiveness of it all.

Problem two: they look crap. Rubbish. Like a classic botched DIY job. You need to be a more skilled painter than me to avoid drips, patchiness and just plain forgetting to do bits. Problem three: it turns out that paint is a terrible surface for dining chairs. Food is a bitch to get off them, which is a problem if you’ve a toddler, as your chairs end up with an extra coat of congealed porridge. Later it turns out that the café chairs you bought were so useless, they start falling apart. The final insult comes when the bastard paint you spent forever applying, flakes off.

Six months on, I need new dining chairs. This time I may be going to Ikea.

In this photo it looks (almost) OK. Trust me, in real life it’s much, much worse.


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Pubs for parents

Easter weekend was mostly spent in pub beer gardens, which was a treat, and painting chairs, which wasn’t. On Saturday we went to the Florence in Herne Hill, a fairly unremarkable pub except for the genius addition of a dedicated kids’ playroom, which allows parents to eat, drink and chat, while keeping an eye on their shouty offspring through the glass wall that separates playroom and pub garden. It’s brilliant, and I wish more pubs would adopt the idea, because Herne Hill is frankly a shag to get to.

The three pubs we went to – the others being the Stag in Hampstead and the Albion in Islington – all had one thing in common: shit food. When did pubs revert to serving deep-fried brie and overcooked roasts? I thought we’d gone beyond that one. I blame the annoying trend for British nostalgia food, but that’s another story. Anyway, we spent a lot of time eating food we could have made better ourselves, which is always a pisser when they’re charging £15-plus a main. The worst was the Albion, not just for the food, but for the service, which was downright poisonous. Never before have I seen I barman respond, “I don’t care” when a customer (rightfully) complains that he’s been waiting 15 minutes to be served. The waitress made us start a tab and, when my friend was overcharged to the tune of £25 on hers, stropped as if she was asking for the refund purely to inconvenience her. It was beyond cheeky, and not the first time I’ve had a bad experience there. It’s so annoying when pubs think that a nice garden and splash of Farrow and Ball gives them the right to behave like total arseholes. Grrr.

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