I did a few decorating projects over lockdown, including my DIY painted kitchen splashback, a task that only took a few hours. The other main one was a living room makeover. Even though decorating it feels like a distant memory, I have only recently finished it off by adding some curtain pelmets and some cushions.
Our living room faces south so it’s a bright space. It measures about five metres by three, so it’s on the small side. The carpet and sofa are grey and I wanted a neutral, calm palette with a bit of pattern. I chose a metallic wallpaper for a feature wall and paint for the remaining three. The wallpaper designer describes the pattern as an abstract, but I’d rather describe it as zebra print. Either way, it’s just what I wanted.
How best to use tester pots
I sent for as many paint charts as I could and ordered tester pots of the colours I thought might match. To use tester pots I paint a sheet of white paper, note the name of the paint on the back and stick it on the wall with masking tape.
In this case, I painted two sheets with each colour and put them on opposite walls. The direction they face and the time of day makes a difference to how the colour appears, as does artificial light, so it’s important to leave them up for at least 24 hours. I tried paint swatches from Johnstone’s, Dulux and Farrow and Ball.
My final choice was “Skimming Stone” by Farrow and Ball, (the lower sample in the image below). I chose it because it was the best colour to go alongside the wallpaper, but I was interested to see how Farrow and Ball compares to a less expensive paint.
Is Farrow and Ball worth the money?
I could tell when I tried the tester pot of F&B paint that it was good quality. It became more apparent still when I applied it to the wall. The first coat went on evenly and although it was going on a plain white wall, it covered it. It was a warm day so by the time I had finished the three walls, it was dry enough for me to do a second coat.
I used their Estate Emulsion which is suitable for walls and ceilings. Skimming Stone is described by F&B as a modern neutral. It’s a warm grey with a lilac undertone. It’s difficult to see from the photo, but it’s a calming, easy-on-the-eye colour which is exactly what I wanted. I used Estate Eggshell in the same colour to paint the radiator. I made the mistake of not sanding it down, so the first coat was a bit streaky. The second coat evened it up nicely but I did a third coat for good measure.
Farrow and Ball recommend using one of their recommended primers/undercoats. I chose not to and in my humble opinion, I don’t think this was a detrimental decision. But, as I said, I was painting over white.
So is Farrow and Ball paint worth it?
Yes, I think so. The finish on both walls and radiator is excellent and I can honestly say it’s the best paint I’ve ever used. And (sadly), this isn’t a sponsored and nor was the paint gifted.
Do you need a specific shade of F&B white?
Farrow and Ball recommend a specific white to go with each of their paints. I didn’t buy into this initially, after all, white is white is it not? It turns out it isn’t. The existing brilliant white door frames and door looked too blue and stark; it cheapened the overall finish. I ended up ordering Strong White, the shade of white that F&B recommend to go with Skimming Stone and got a small tin in the Estate Eggshell finish.
This time I prepped properly and sanded and cleaned the door and trims. The Strong White looked really quite dark initially and it worried me. But when it was fully dry after two coats, it looked like it should have always been there. (The ceiling still has the original white and it looks fine. But, if I was starting again, I’d do the ceiling first in the Strong White).
So, to answer the question, “do you need a specific shade of Farrow and Ball white to match their paint?” I would say yes.
It’s difficult to see the colour of both walls and wood on the photos here because of the shadows in the room but I love the final result.
Radiator shelf hack
The radiator is the boring sort which adds nothing to the aesthetics of the room, although painting it the same colour as the walls helped make it less obvious. We have a large chair next to it which we call the throne. It’s a nice place to sit and read. I considered a standard lamp, but there really isn’t the room. Instead, I decided to get an over-radiator shelf on which to put a slim table lamp. I wanted oak to match some of the other furniture in the room.
I ended up getting an oak-effect picture ledge which was the right length to go over the radiator. I knew immediately it was the right shade to go with the paint and the throne. I hung it upside down to create a narrow shelf. It’s worked a treat. Not only does it provide a surface for a lamp, but it hides the vents on the top surface of the radiator.
Pelmets and Cushions
I decided not to have curtains in the sitting room. Instead I have got a decorative pelmet above each of the two windows. I re-covered them, (using my trusty Toolzilla staple gun), with some gorgeous fabric that I got from The Fent Shop here in Skipton. I had scoured the internet to find an animal print that has a hint of sheen and that would match the colours in the room, to no avail. I had a flash of inspiration and decided to go to the fent shop during my lunch hour and found not only this beautiful zebra print but some matching pompoms too. One of the pelmets is wider than the standard fabric width, so I used plain linen too and covered the join with the pompoms.
And my very clever mum made me some cushion covers with the spare materials.
I did a lot of online searches during lockdown and happened across Olivia’s, a gorgeous interiors website. It’s the sort of website where you can lose yourself for hours. It’s a one-stop interiors store (that also sells outdoor living accessories and furniture). I got a cushion by designer Andrew Martin. It’s called Kingdom, a beautifully detailed animal design which is handmade in the UK and filled with sustainably sourced duck feather and down. This is the Storm colour way which is a soft duck-egg blue. The matt fabric works with the matt walls and the animal theme ties in nicely with the zebra wallpaper. Olivia’s have kindly given me a discount code to share too. It’s LIZZYLOVES20 for 20% off all full-priced items. Here’s the link. Here’s the link. It’s a fab website and a great place to start your Christmas shopping. My hairdresser told me today that Christmas Day is only 12 weeks off!
More finishing touches
Other finishing touches include the glass pendant light, a corner shelf with reading lamp and a nickel toggle light switch.
I love the end result. I haven’t yet managed to find any artwork that I like, instead I prefer a collection of photographs on picture shelves. Every photograph comes with a happy memory though, so maybe it’s better to be surrounded by those than anything else.
Wallpaper: Harlequin Seduire in oyster and pearl.
Paint: Skimming Stone Estate Emulsion by Farrow and Ball (I did Clicked and Collected from B&Q).
Radiator paint: Skimming Stone Estate Eggshell by Farrow and Ball.
Door and Trim paint: Strong White Estate Eggshell by Farrow and Ball
Light: Grand Paris Pendant Light, Garden Trading
Sofa and chair: Gosford in dark mink antique velvet, Next
Cushion: Andrew Martin Kingdom in storm, Olivia’s (gift).
Zebra print fabric (pelmets): The Fent Shop, Skipton
Pompoms (pelmets), The Fent Shop, Skipton
Plain linen fabric (pelmets): Laura Ashley.
Oak effect corner shelf: B&M
Over-radiator shelf: Lokken oak finish photo shelf, B&M
Satin nickel toggle light switch: Socket Store
Ooh that’s clever with the paper Liz. So true about light, what a great way to test colours!
Makes me miss owning a wall to paint. I do love a good “paintover” it’s the easiest way to transform a space right?
You did such a beautiful job xx
Thank you MT. I love painting rooms. It’s so simple but so satisfying. I love the outcome xxx
Well done, looks lovely and very stylish Lizzy. Thanks so much for sharing. Jacqui xx
Thank you so much Jacqui. I’m so pleased with the finished result xxx
Thank you for sharing your newly decorated living room. I have been thinking of using skimming stone FB paint myself and your room has given me a good idea of the end result.
Ah that’s nice to hear. It’s so difficult isn’t trying to envisage the finished product. I’ve been really pleased with it all and think the paint is excellent xxx
Lizzy, what a great article! I’ve always wondered about the difference between paint brands and have stuck with Dulux and Johnstone in the past but will look at F&B now. The ceiling in our sun room extension is going to need repainting as the flat roof has a leak (today’s torrential rain has just proved that!) and I think the walls will need freshening up too. Thanks again for the inspiration and I love that you shine a light on brands like Toolzilla which is a new one on me.
Aww, thank you Carole. I’m glad it was useful. I had always wondered whether it was worth trying a more expensive paint brand. And I really hope your leak doesn’t get any worse. Toolzilla is fab for the little hand tools that make a job easier. Let me know what you choose for your sun room xxx
Johnson’s is better and half the price
Elizabeth – your room is stunning! Great Style 🙂 We love at good living room makeover at Inner Home
Thank you so much. That’s very kind of you to say so. I’m really pleased with the finished product!
Hi Lizzy, I’ve just come across your article as I was researching F and B paint. What a beautiful room! Absolutely stunning! You really have an eye for design. Thanks for a great article with loads of useful info. I wanted to ask you about your chest of drawers, which goes so beautifully in the room. Did you paint it yourself to match?
I’ve just moved to north of Burnley and have a whole house that needs decorating. I’m looking forward to the challenge but am feeling a little daunted! Choosing the colour scheme is the bit I find tricky. Do you have any tips on the best way to start and how to get inspiration? Many thanks,
Thank you so much for you kind words Anna. The chest of drawers was ready painted. If I remember correctly, the range is called Sienna.
I tend to look in magazines for inspiration but this room really evolved by itself. (I know a lot of people use Pinterest for inspo too). I had grey carpet and furniture, so chose the decor around that. A good tip is to think of the house as a whole, or at least, each floor as a whole. That way, you get cohesion when going from one room to another. In my case- and there are still a lot of plain white walls here- the commonality is animal print. he very best of luck and enjoy the process of making the new home your own xxx
Hi Lizzy, many thanks for your suggestions. They are much appreciated. Best wishes, Anna.