The last room to be fixed up is nearing completion! It has been a long time coming but I am in no hurry. There seems to be a fashion to put plywood on walls at the moment. Bare and raw, that is. Though I have no intention of having raw ply anywhere I find it a useful material. These walls are ply top to bottom. I added 90mm pine framework with carefully cut quad as a trim on the bottom half of the walls, and glued hessian to the top part. Is it a good idea to glue hessian on your walls? Definitely. Is it hard? Absolutely. I used plenty of Aquadhere to make it stick, but still it bubbled and wrinkled. If it looks good when you do it but return the next day to find bubbles aplenty, just briskly brush on water and more glue and it will flatten out. Because of how heavy it is you will need to tack it at the edges to stop it from falling down until it dries. Some persistent bubbles I tacked flat also to keep them down.
The hessian will give a nice texture. I wanted to paint mine like wallpaper so I had to give it three liberal coats of paint first. I can assure you that hessian is a thirsty beast to paint, so I went to the recycling station and picked up several free leftover paint tins to completely seal the hessian before I painted the base coat I wanted for colour.
I used acrylic paints for everything but the white flowers, house paint was fine for them. Basically you could do whatever you wanted, stripes was an idea I had at first before I realised how hard it was to glue the hessian totally straight. With the weave being so coarse it would be very visible if my stripes went over the lines. Hence organic lines and shapes. Nobody will notice a crooked line if everything is crooked already. It takes quite some time to do all the flowers and leaves so I work on all the walls at the same time, adding a little all over. This way, as your style changes subtly over the course of the work it will change evenly. The plywood at the bottom half of the walls is getting a woodgrain effect. This has to be the easiest and quickest effect I know. One undercoat to seal the ply, lightly sanded, one coat colour (I used Raw Umber) and one coat of Walnut stain and varnish in one. There are more complicated and more convincing ways to do it but I am pretty happy with this rapid way for large scale covering. Brush on the coloured varnish with a bad streaky brush, comb it with a graining comb, brush again to soften, distress it a bit, soften again, move on. You have to work very quickly if you use a waterbased varnish, a few minutes and it is starting to set. If you can paint badly, you can woodgrain. It is all about being uneven!
Some more flowers added and more woodgrain. There is a secret door in this room. If you move the first of the standing books the door will open. That standing book is a gift, given to me by past guests. Thank you very much. I really appreciated your kind contribution and I hope you see this blog entry! The book is actually a vintage metal book safe. Any book can of course be used but I felt this was a sturdy and attractive option.
The door is an ordinary flat hollow-core door, like this:
Add bits of wood like this. You can’t buy a ready fireplace unfortunately because they will never be that narrow. Unless your door is enormous, of course. Having a good saw is essential for presicion cutting.
Add paint. I undercoated the fire part with gesso, and painted the bricks and shadow with oilpaint. This is a fun idea I used once before, I loved it so much I just needed to do it again. There is something about hidden doors which appeals to many people. Bookshelves, woodpanelling, fireplaces. Anything.
A thing to think about is not to paint flames if you want it to look more realistic. Not because you cannot paint flames, but because the eye needs the flames to move. Bricks or tiles are easy because we expect nothing further from them than to be simply what they are. But flames, we need them to crackle, move, smell. So we are not deceived.
Incidentally, did you know plywood was patented in 1797 by a British naval engineer called Samuel Bentham? Fifty years later the father of Alfred Nobel made it better and stronger and more easy to make by using a rotary lathe to peel the wood in the thin skins needed and laminating them in threes. By 1865 plywood reached America and industrial production began. I used to think of it as a modern material, but it isn’t really.