#askapainter Can I just strip the top of the existing wallpaper and re-paper over it

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Before feature wall

After feature walls

In theory most older vinyl wall coverings were actually designed to be able to do this, dry strip of the surface paper, leaving a backing ‘lining’. Personally I was never a huge fan for several reasons.

Every time you removed the top of the wall covering it always manged to loosen a little of the ‘lining’ usually around the edges so you had remedial work to attend to right away.

I was never convinced once you started to the wet the lining again with the fresh paste of the new wall paper it wouldn’t be as solid hence blister up causing problems later.

Usually you start papering a room from the optimum place, working out lengths so you rarely get any silly little edges. Having to additionally work to stagger across the previous ‘lining’ joints just makes life harder than it actually needs to be.



Broken Colour effects

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Last few week’s projects were straight forward enough first one for a repeat customer, Prepare and apply Emulsion paint to their Staircase, office and Bedroom, little bit of Satin paint on some of the woodwork, door casings and skirting’s mainly as predominantly the rest of the house was natural wood befitting its barn conversion heritage.

The bedroom in question was for the customer’s daughter and they wanted a slightly different feature wall. We discussed just a plain contrasting colour which didn’t seem to appeal. Neither did the idea of wallpaper.

So I suggested we tried paint from Decorazione https://twitter.com/decorazione_uk . After showing sample boards and colour catalogues to the family they decided on a purple shade from the Metalux range.

All the other walls had been prepared and Emulsion applied using Dulux Trade Natural Hessian Vinyl Matt, the feature wall masked up using my favourite Tesa precision sensitive pink tape, and was then coated with two coats of the appropriate primer. Allowing the primer to fully dry over night I began the effect the next morning.

First of all I added additional silver flecks into the Metalux and then gradually applied it in sections to the feature wall using a fandom fan brush pattern.

Second one was for a family friend and new customer just setting up her new house and wanting something new and modern as a feature wall in the master bedroom.

Here after chatting with them we decided on Diadema Silver with additional silver flecks and applied in a straight dragged grained pattern.

Unusually I didn’t actually see the wall before beginning, I knew the house and its proportions I was aware it wasn’t needing much preparation so I just asked the customer to pop a post it note on the correct wall to ensure I did the right one as she was out when I arrived.

As you will see from my pictures I was amused by the marker used on this occasion.

Both customers were very pleased with the end results. For more details on the products please contact Decorazione, if anyone in Cumbria would like similar decorative effects I’m happy to discuss your requirements, having studied these techniques over 30 years and visited Scilly on two occasions to learn more about application I feel sure there would be something with our portfolio I could assist you with.





Progression of our Trade

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Doors completed on job

Doors completed on job

Another door glossed

Another door glossed

Being in my part of the Country can make you a little insular, I used to firmly see myself as a traditionalist, it’s how I learned my trade and for many years afterwards the way I continued working had not altered. Gradually as I became involved in more things I became better connected and seen there was a myriad of diversity available to us.

From that moment on I began to open my eyes, I would explore new decorating products and equipment. Not all where successful but at least I had the opportunity to make that judgement myself. Sometimes new things would be incorporated into the way we work, other times dismissed as a gimmick.

Around 2007 I heard the news about the upcoming changes due in paint formulations because of VOC changes http://www.duluxtradepaintexpert.co.uk/editorial/vocs-and-you  .Following this information I made a conscious decision to move my business more towards water based paints.

In those early days it was not easy, many customers still wanted a high gloss finish, which simply wasn’t available in any water based finishes at the time, so we continued using traditional undercoat and gloss where it was requested.

Even the Satin or Eggshell finishes of the day had serious issues; a major problem was getting them to adhere to a traditionally finished surface. No matter how well you abraded the substrate early water based finishes had problems “sticking” to a previously oil based painted area.

This often meant an additional coat of an adhesion promoting primer was required to bridge the gap. There were also several of those emerging in a big way so it was a matter of trial and error learning which one worked best in a particular situation. Zinsser http://www.zinsseruk.com had produced several primers that were ideal BIN acted as a stain block and adhesion primer on most surfaces. While 1-2-3 was ideal if you just wanted to go over old gloss and remain with water based finish.

Most manufacturers also came up with variations, as I mainly lean towards Dulux I found Super Grip or on some occasions Ultra Grip to be worthwhile products to keep in the van.

Once again don’t be tempted to cut corners using these primers, good as they are you still need a full system to go with them, they are not in lieu of an undercoat as the primer would be detrimental to the top coats finish. Also proper preparation is essential everything needs a good abrade down, degreased if required and dust kept at a minimum.

Before the 2010 dead line I was experimenting with more water based trim products, the Satin finishes were easier to convince as the look was similar, just not the touch. I could produce fair results using Dulux Ecosure Undercoat and Gloss on certain surfaces it worked great.

It was almost as good as oil on the compressed paneled doors that were popular and most skirting and architraves didn’t look bad in it.

What I discovered in those early days is the need to rethink how we do things, old oil paints needed a good bristle brush and you worked from the stock, laying of once your area was covered. As oil paints developed you could use longer brushes but still usually a natural bristle one was preferred.

Water based finished require a softer synthetic bristle and lighter touch; you mainly work using the points of the brush. Along with being methodical as overlaps are not very forgiving on water based finishes. I have made it no secret that Truestar MF and Master piece brushes are my preferred weapons in water-based systems.

Over the last few years I have tried to perfect the system we use. I personally have found I prefer quite a soft synthetic bristle, but again it’s down to personal preference and what you can make work. The best solution is to try various brushes until you find the ones you prefer.

Likewise with the products you choose, don’t expect you’ll achieve perfect results first time, or even every time, at first it takes trial and error to educate yourself. You learn some surfaces will need perhaps another quick undercoat or a second top coat. Although I encourage you to stick with a product for a little while, don’t dismiss it at its first outing then you have more chance of learning its characteristics, every manufacturer does things slightly differently.

Never stop learning and progressing, water based paints are improving all the time and we will get to the point when oil paints will just stop being viable or available


Knowing your history makes you stronger.

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rear of card GOSH card1

Despite the website being a painters and decorators one, we are not a faceless company, we still are a small family business, with that in mind, This blog isn’t necessarily decorating related, but it may give you a brief insight into who I am . When I was born, all those years ago I was signed out of the local hospital as an A1 baby. It was only once my mum got me home she began to notice that I had difficulty with some things.


Despite various discussions with health visitors and doctors they could not find anything obviously ailing me. It was only through my mum’s perseverance and a particular nurse who noticed a new mothers concern that I was eventually referred to see a paediatric specialist in the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle.

It was here I was looked at by a Dr Falmer and Dr Bonham-Carter where they discovered my complaint, those two doctors probably saved my life and I am very grateful to them, as it was their recommendation that I should be referred to Great Ormond Street Hospital for sick children in London.

Over the coming years I had many trips to GOSH in London for tests, checkups and operations. I suppose some things were not pleasant, I know I still have a phobia towards needles to this day. Although apparently I must have had some determination and stubbornness to fight through any adversity the world threw at me.

This must have been the beginning of building my character trait; rumour has it that I have patience and perseverance. Perhaps that helped me to learn my trade, as time progresses you can get stuck in a rut and do not want to move forward with improvement and new developments both your work and personal life

Hopefully in my future I will continue on my journey learning about new techniques, products and tools within my trade, as well as keeping some traditional skills alive, that I can share with my customers and the next generation of decorators. Our core values have always been quality over quantity.

From my fortunate beginnings I have always maintained reasonable health, naturally I suffer bugs and viruses like anyone will but have been lucky to able to carry out a job I enjoy which although being fairly physical, helps maintain my health without holding me back. I also try and maintain a positive attitude towards things in general.

Firstly I must apologise now that I choose not to work 365 days a year any more, as I also value the time spent with my family. I am always happy to advise and estimate new works at any time mutually convenient, with the understanding I will get to you, please remember once you’re in my book, I won’t forget you.

However I make no excuses for asking for your support if I am trying to raise funds to assist Great Ormond Street Hospital in their future as it’s truly a place close to my heart. 2016 marks 40 years since my final operation in this marvellous place, my parents have just returned from visiting the 140th anniversary of the hospital chapel St. Christopher’s

The final request in this blog is for anyone reading to look at the pictures, of a card I have had for 40 years, if you see your name or someone you know please feel free to share or comment.


#worktolive #enjoylife #gosh #paintinganddecorating



Use local or lose em!

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FB_IMG_1443551657800_resizedHaving recently seen this on social media I thought it was extremely appropriate, I am proud to say my father has been a local business for almost 50 years, he supported me through his work with our customers to allow me do my hobbies, then learn my trade and remain within the town I was born continuing the business, which in turn has given me the means to allow my children to do the things they enjoy.

We have generally always tried to purchase locally and certainly any businesses that have asked us to work for them, I endeavour to give them repeat trade.

What troubles me is the way my trade is going, in my father’s day an apprenticeship meant you were indentured to an employer to learn you trade for up to 7 years. You started at the very bottom and had to learn every aspect gradually building your skills.

Those principals were applied to my apprenticeship also, although at the time there was only three years at college available to gain your “craft and advance craft certificates” there was still plenty to be learned after that and Dad made sure I gained sufficient knowledge to begin with and for there on I have continued to learn as time has progressed.

Today’s apprenticeships are woefully underfunded and far too short, much of the course is based around health and safety, which is important naturally but I miss good old fashioned common sense. Practical skills are taught but usually in a disjointed fashion, where a small cubical is used and each week a little task is completed giving no sense of urgency or planning skills for real world timescales.

Many teaching practices are dated, apprentices not knowing how to hold a brush more than one way being a classic, or how to work methodically. Product knowledge is almost none existent. Focus is either more about pushing apprentices towards early self employment when they really aren’t ready. Or in many instances courses have been geared to suit the type of work a local major industry employer might do and not in the direction of domestic decorating.

This leads to the colleges and employers having a high turnaround of apprentices, many of which don’t end up with jobs at the end of this limited training. The danger is all too often some many drift through various casual jobs.


All too often are adverts displayed either on social media sites or supermarket notice boards about “cheep or cut price painting” figures of £30 per room are common place. This does make me concerned about the future of my trade, not actually competing against these unrealistic prices but the actual detrimental effect it has on us as a whole.

Let me try and explain, would any of us jump at the chance of bargain basement dentistry? How about letting anyone with a set of spanners service your new car or perhaps an unregistered handy man service your gas central heating.

Most trades are regulated by some professional body or other to raise standards and give the customer some piece of mind and protection. Sadly painting and decorating never has been, it’s always been the poor relation because everyone can do it…..right?

In theory yes everyone can wield a brush should they choose and many enjoy a little do it yourself, there’s nothing wrong with that either. Which returns me back to the £30 per room painter, honestly an average room would mean this person working for less than £2.50 per hour. Would you expect a professional tradesperson to work for that?

At these rates it’s probably someone supplementing their wage on days of or worse still their benefits. A Gas fitter wouldn’t even come to your house without a call out charge higher than that.

Bringing us back to how is a tradesperson supposed to support his family; firstly unrealistic pricing means there would be hardly any disposable income to spend locally, secondly many give up or decide to chase work in the cities which takes trade away from local rural areas again sadly.

Our efforts to support local trade extend to our youngest musical instrument obsession which at last count is five different instruments; we are on first name terms with the music shop owners.

Our oldest is away in a city university, apparently there are no butcher’s shops or supermarkets selling meat, they phone home, their mother goes to our local butchers and I’m expected to make a meat delivery every couple of months…


Adding skills to your portfolio

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Although many of us as painters and decorators have a wide skill set, few master everything, this blog looks at adding skills to your portfolio relatively easily. Usually during our apprenticeships we are focused on honing preparation technique and perfecting our ability to paint to a reasonable standard.

As we become more proficient with painting we may delve into faux or fashionable paint effects. Perhaps begin to experiment with wallpapers, although often apprentices aren’t trusted with that at first.

Then there is wide choice of diversity to explore if you have the inclination to look beyond what the perception of a “painter” by many. You could specialise in areas such as furnisher or kitchen painting which demands attention to detail.

There are various specially made wall coverings that require particular techniques to hang them.

Despite being less demand in rural areas there would generally always be work in larger towns and cities for those who went down the sign writing, gilding route providing they studied these arts correctly.

This is all very well and good I hear you say, many of these advanced techniques may take years to master to make them profitable, and “what can we do now to add additional value to our work.” and as the topic suggests add skills to our portfolios.

As a professional decorator we are supposed to have creative flair and sometimes customers need a little inspiration. Some of us will be happy to discuss the use of colour with confidence, perhaps many won’t.

So what enhancement would we suggest to a customer’s home?

Personally when introduced to a plain room one of the things I recommend is a standard 5” plaster coving. This is usually a good feature if the corners between the ceiling and walls have started to show signs of cracking or unevenness, a coving will enhance any room.

Predominately to install a plaster cove it’s all about working methodically. I prefer to mark a line around my walls to the depth of the cove, don’t worry too much about the ceiling edge at the minute. As the old phrase says “measure twice, cut once” if you’re not sure check your measurements.

I prefer Gyproc Coving and purchase longest lengths I can to avoid excessive joins. Have a good mitre box, mine is custom designed and made by a local joiner although generic ones can do a good enough job. Cut your first internal mitre, measure length of wall from mitred end, if your wall is longer than your length of cove I cut a mitre on both ends as a diagonal join works better than a straight one.

If you wish to check offer the cut length up to your wall, then support it at a comfortable level to apply adhesive. I generally use the correct Gyproc power adhesive, mixing only a portion at a time enough for each length of cove. You can use tile adhesive, plaster and several other power fillers if desired.

Adhesive is “buttered” onto the back edges of the cove, then its offered to it position, using your pre mark line as a guide, ensure its pushed on securely, I like to screw a couple of plaster board screws in as additional support. Scrape of excess adhesive that’s squeezed out as you fix the cove; use it to fill any gaps in the top and bottom edges. I have a small brush and water bucket handy to lightly clean and smooth the filled edges and remove residue from the coving face.

Repeat the process with each subsequent lengths, measure from the mitre of the fixed one until the corner.  Cut mitres to correspond if joining on a flat wall an internal and external mitre works best in my opinion. Internal corners usually butt together but minor gaps, can occur if walls throw coving off, can be filled as can any screw holes or joins.

External corners are best done in pairs with both parts been placed up together, bearing in mind the amount of cove that needs to protrude past the corner edge to allow for creation of an external mitre. Hence the need for accurate measuring as these look best if the mitres are precise, it’s better to have slight gap in the internal mitre side, which is easier to fill, if it ensures the external mitres look correct.

On the whole a standard room should take no more than a morning, with a little ingenuity one man can fix even long lengths of cove, but it’s often easier to have an extra pair of hands to support you getting them fitted to the wall.

If you’re lucky you may even have chance for a little cake as my customer kindly provide on my last coving job.


Easiest way into dust free,

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Those that know me will be aware I am a quite a traditionalist in many ways. I was taught about old fashioned techniques while serving my time. I remember it well “Roller…roller…never mind those new fangled things get that 6inch flogger brush in your hand and paint that room properly, make sure it’s laid of accurately to” Dad would say

So it’s the same story with preparation which after all is at the heart of our trade. After exploring the virtues of dust free sanding via mechanical means and trying to assess if it could be done on a budget I would like to take it a step further. Going back to my traditional roots let’s try sanding things by hand.

Okay now I have your full attention I wasn’t actually recommending going right back to the good old days of quiors of glass paper on cork blocks sanding until tips of your fingers bled and room was completely full of dust. There is actually a modern alternative which is extremely useful.

As mentioned in the previous blog Mirka has a good name in mechanical sanding. What decorators use now are basically derivatives of machines used within the car body repair industry. The abrasives that accompany them are Abranet and the first time I used them was on this hand sander, attached to my trusty Henry hoover via the hose supplied with the starter kit, or the Handy kit

You have the benefits of an almost dust free environment, the excellent abrasive properties of Abranet and using these also has the added advantage of manual input from the user. Think along the lines of the 80’s film Karate kid.

So if you would like to improve your working atmosphere I would definitely type these into your interweb search thingy and notice the difference.


Cost effective: Dust Free Sanders

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Decorators of my generation or older were probably  not as aware of some of the potential damage done to our bodies, what with the lead in paint or worse chemicals or solvents emitting toxic fumes. Then there were textured coatings and other substrates containing asbestos powder. All of which used to be abraded by hand atomizing a contaminated dust into the atmosphere we were working amongst. Dust free sanders can help combat these concerns.

Brief Description

I have mentioned before about me being a bit of a decorative dinosaur, in many aspects I still try to keep alive traditional skills where ever I can. This does not however mean I also do not embrace new techniques or ideas. For the last five years I have encouraged us to become totally water based on internal jobs and within the next couple of years I believe exterior jobs will evolve naturally along the same route.

Health and safety is an integral part of any business no matter how big or small we happen to be, of course it used to be called common sense which sadly met its demise. Modern decorative apprentices are taught varying amounts of health and safety depending on what college they attend. In my personal experiences most of it suits site work or industrial scenarios more than the domestic market I tend to focus 85% of my business on.

Yes it’s important to learn how to lift correctly, but funny how lifting a ladder isn’t taught, also it’s not often a fire extinguisher and warning signs are located in most domestic households. Obviously courses have to cover all aspects but I think there are some areas many colleges miss out on.

Personal health is very important in this day and age, anything that could make your job more productive, improve the finish or most importantly produce longer term health benefits is definitely worth looking at. Having employed various apprentices I have seen some of the course work they need to complete. Some of it is very dated when it speaks of manual sanding or scraping of old lead based paints and recommends the use of a paper dust mask I think times have moved on.

Due to a rise in respiratory system diseases we need to reduce the amount of dust and debris ingested into our lungs and bodies as we carry out our work, one of the best ways to achieve this is to remove as much of the contaminates as possible through a dust extraction system.

Over the last few years there has been a rapid rise in the availability of dust free sanders with some very good systems being introduced from names such as Festool & Mirka. Both these manufacturers have top of the range sanders and dust extraction systems, although with the exception of the Mirka handy, a manual sander and hose for any vacuum cleaner predominantly their systems are fairly expensive.

I therefore set about seeing if I could organize a backup system for my own Mirka for a fraction of the cost. Alright I cheated as I already owned the extractor I was going to use on my budget system, good old faithful Henry.

But contrary to popular belief as despite contributing to a review site where you might expect I’m given things for free to receive favorable reviews, I researched and purchased the items without anyone’s knowledge of my purpose.

It did take several nights of reading various retailers review threads to decide which was going to be a suitable test subject. After a bit of deliberation I choose not one but two sanders from Screwfix for just under £50 which I thought was very reasonable.



Having owned and used these sanders for almost six weeks now I am pleasantly surprised by what you get for your money. Admittedly you need to fabricate a bit of an adapter to make the extraction work but there is a little short pipe that Henry comes with that serves this purpose, even if you wrap a bit of insulating tape around for added tightness.

Both sanders seem fairly powerful, the orbital one has five speed setting which can be useful. They are both a little heavier and probably noisier than their more well know rivals, but for occasional use it’s not to laborious. I have tried using both for various tasks many decorators will encounter to gain a broad spectrum of their capabilities.

Having initially used the orbital to abrade coatings of two oak tables for restoration and subsequently the detailed sander on the more intricate areas, they performed well on the first outing. Since then I have done various walls and woodwork areas.

As they both have the hook and loop fastening system a variety of abrasive papers can be used from standard Flexovit in the usual grades right through to Mirka Abranet which can be cut into shape for the detailed sander and purchased in the correct 125mm size for the orbital.


Very cheap entry machines for almost dust free sanding

Ability to attach various abrasive papers

Quite powerful considering cost

Variable speed on Orbital


Bit heavier or noisier than established brands

No dedicated Hoover attachment as standard


For the sixth of the price or either a Mirka or Festool “head unit” I managed to purchase both these useful sanders, if you can overlook their short comings of being a bit heavier to hold and manoeuvre and the additional noise, which isn’t to obtrusive theses are certainly worth a look as a step towards healthier sanding . I will continue to use mine perhaps a couple of times a week and test the longevity of both sanders but if they are connected up to a half decent hoover such as a Henry they are certainly better than nothing. Fifty pounds investment to the future of your lungs can’t be bad thing really.

Since writing this article the little Titan detailed sander eventually gave up the ghost, at first it was under guarantee and replaced with no quibble from Screwfix, on the second occasion I upgraded to this Erbauer.


Certainly powerful enough for many jobs and as before can use a variety of abrasives. Only minus point is there is not facility to attached it to a hoover, which makes it rather obsolete in this test, although I actually use it for externals and occasionally fine sanding internally to perhaps key a surface, where there isn’t going to be as much dust, just a quick run over with a hoover afterwards.

There are now many ways to achieve a “dust free” sanding set up, even on a budget, I focused intentionally on machines under £40 to see what they are capable of. Having done so I would not disregard any of the machines I have tried as good entry level tools.


Wallpaper, Where do I paste?

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This week’s job was for a good regular customer. Straight forward enough, prepare a bedroom and ensuite. Emulsion ceiling and three walls. I used Dulux Quick Dry Eggshell for ensuite ceiling to offer added durability. Abraded the door casings, skirting and shutters applied Dulux Quick Dry Undercoat and Gloss as we are moving with the times.

Finally I was due to paper the feature wall. My customer had shown me the wallpaper she had bought. Even shown me the sample swatch she had initially been sent, which felt and looked a quality product, so I was anticipating having am enjoyable morning hanging it.

I set up my paste boards checked wallpaper labels, “as you do!”, then opened first roll and stretched it out across my paste board to get a proper look.

As usual I took a customary glance at the instructions on the rear of the label. More often than not these are all very similar.


  • Inspect rolls prior hanging – check
  • Mark a straight line on the wall – check
  • Use manufacturers recommend paste – check
  • Paste the wall and apply the paper – ch…….hang on a minute…..looked again at label…. so you’re telling me a wallpaper costing £80 a roll is a paste the wall one…I must admit it surprised me a little.


Don’t get me wrong I have nothing against paste the wall, wallpapers. I used quite a bit of Novamura in its day which was lightweight generally small patterned hence hung directly of the roll.


I also understand the reasoning behind them, especially with non woven papers pasting the wall reduces or even eliminates the chance of uneven stretching that sometimes occurs when you apply paste to it.
Noticed in last few years more manufacturers producing paste the wall versions.
This one was a respected name Cole & Son, the reason I was surprised was until I actually looked at the back of the label no mention of pasting the wall had cropped up.

I was however please with the end result as was my customer.



Extracurricular activities in decorating

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Recently I have been doing extracurricular activities from my day job and decorating at home. It’s surprising how these jobs help your home life run smoother.  During this project it made me think more about a potential customer’s process of actually employing a professional decorator.

This is naturally something I do consider but until now have never written about.  Obviously in most households I assume there will be a discussion between the partners involved about doing a bit of decorating.

I wonder at what point some people decide to involve a professional decorator.

Perhaps they value their free time and don’t want to spend it painting a chore many people dislike.

Or they simply do not feel confident to undertake the task at hand, knowing what tools and materials are required and how to carry out some jobs can be daunting if you have never needed to do it.

There is the occasional job a customer starts, but becomes overwhelmed by it and asks a decorator to step in and complete.

Of course there are those who would always know the value of employing a decorator for a culmination of the reasons above usually.

So once a potential customer has began the process of employing a professional decorator, the initial impression has been made when the prospective job was viewed to be estimated and the price has been accepted ….what happens next?

Some customers like a firm date to be arranged others are flexible, especially if it’s an exterior job as we can’t always guarantee the weather.

Usually on my jobs I have found predominately any exterior work is discussed with the husband or male partner of the house, while interiors are generally the lady. Naturally in both situations a good decorator should be able to recommend the best specification and be able to offer impartial advice towards colours and finishes.

This brings me back to my own little project, my wife is also involved within the home decor market for over twenty years she has designed and made curtains and soft furnishings for a local furnisher store. As she knows a thing or two about colour coordination it lead to some interesting discussions when she mentioned how she would like the rear hallway redecorated.

I was extremely sceptical at first towards her colour suggestions but once again I have to admit as I am sure in many cases “the wife is always right”.

Despite the rather bold accent colour she managed to break it up with the additional features of a black board and cork board, one wall painted white , even managed a Luxury textured painted panel with crystal sparkles  the inspirational quote was actually my input and idea but the curtain & blind where once again left to the wife to arrange


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