D-I-Why did I start another decorating challenge?

It’s been at least 6 months since I last picked up a paintbrush and a tin of emulsion, so the scars of the last home decorating project have healed and I’m now imagining that I’m some kind of Laurence Llewelyn Bowen (minus the ludicrous suits and goatee) again.



There comes a time, every year, when the OH and I have a conversation where we ruminate on how dull our weekends have become and how we need to find something exciting to fill them. Spending time relaxing, enjoying the finer things in life and recovering from an arduous week at work is apparently simply not enough for us. No, we need to feel as though we have accomplished something with our days of rest and our go-to activity for this self gratification is decorating.


And every time our decorating projects end with us saying that next time, we’ll get the professionals in…


I remember the first time I ever decorated my own place - it was a rented flat above a fossil shop (yep, a fossil shop) in Earls Court. The landlord agreed that we (my ex and I) could paint the rooms to cover up the hideous magnolia/smokers yellow that covered the walls of every single room in the tiny apartment. Excitedly we chose colours and thought through complimentary accessories - imagining that we were going to create something incredible together. Years of watching (and helping) my parents decorate primed me for this day. My ex on the other hand hadn’t decorated a single room in his life - but apparently was still the authority on the subject. Watching him paint over a wall that I had only just finished (as apparently I hadn’t pressed the paint on hard enough) made me realise that the decorating dream of creating our own cosy nook wasn’t as romantic as I thought it would be. The fact that he woke up the next day with a misshapen hand that we called “the claw” due to the amount of pressure he used to stick the paint to the wall to prove me wrong, did go some way to amuse me though.


And that’s how it’s been since (the highs and lows I mean - not “the claw”). We talk with enthusiasm about how glorious a room will look once we’ve completely gutted, remodelled, invested time and money and styled it, supported by high hopes that we will be able to follow that YouTube video on batten boarding and convincing ourselves that investing in higher quality paint brushes will make the whole experience less irksome. Hours will be spent trailing round DIY shops, debating the benefits of "Mineral Spring" over the slightly paler shade of "Botanical Extract", whilst loading our trolley with all manner of home improvement paraphernalia- which invariably we’ll have either bought too early, so it’ll sit gathering dust as we go through weeks of prep work - or it’ll be a duplicate of something we bought the last time, that has since been languishing in our garden shed (or the almighty pit of decorating despair as I think I’ll call it from now on).


And then, after weeks of prevarication, we’ll force ourselves into tackling the room by giving ourselves a ludicrous deadline. We’ll order some huge piece of furniture that we definitely don’t want to paint around - or we’ll realise that we have to use our weeks holiday otherwise we’ll be spending an eternity of weekends trying to finish the job.


Attacking the room with gusto, neatly ignoring the golden rules about priming and prepping anything, throwing paint splattered dust sheets across furniture with abandon, we’ll drag out a rickety set of step ladders and some paint trays that have every colour of the rainbow ingrained in them (go on, admit it, we all have some of those lurking in our decorating cupboard). I always prefer to start a paint job in a fresh set of clothes that will inevitably become my new “decorating clothes" - and that I’ll conveniently mislay during my 9 month painting hiatus - before dragging out some more “old” clothes that I don’t mind sacrificing to the gods of B&Q.


Listening to comedy podcasts, paint will get slapped on to walls - obviously after anything structural that I’ve let the OH attempt. I’ll have kept my beady eye on his efforts, not that I have any more idea than he does - though I will admit it always amazes me, the ease at which he’ll fix the electrics (he is an electrician after all - I think it’s the fact it took him 3 years to sort our kitchen lights that means I am amazed when I see his handiwork. Back then, I was actually starting to question whether he was a real electrician and if he wasn't, where on earth was he disappearing to everyday - as he never got round to fixing our problems - only other peoples).


Anyway, back to the painting….and by this stage (I mean the “one coat on the walls” stage), I’m getting bored. I can’t see the difference between the first and second coat, my glasses are speckled from the spray from the roller and no matter what type of brush or gadget I invest in, I can’t get a god damn straight line underneath the wonky coving. It’s at this point that I start to make comments about “professionals” and “wasting my time”. But I’m too deep into the process by now - and I couldn’t ask someone to come in and finish up my half arsed job. So I begrudging finish the second coat, keeping everything crossed that I won’t have to attempt a third - even though I’ve wildly over estimated the amount of paint I need and have started to contemplate selling my surplus to the guys who paint the Forth Bridge.


It’s usually right about now that I realise I still have all the sodding skirting boards and architrave to deal with and start to seriously contemplate moving house so I don’t have to finish the bastard room. But no, I plug away, dragging out the final paint jobs to the point that it’s been 18 months and there is STILL a skirting board in our living room that hasn’t been painted (it’s behind the sofa - NO ONE CARES).


By some kind of miracle the room gets finished and I then spend weeks choosing furniture and accessories (an activity I will have definitely started 6 months prior to painting - but I’m just so damn indecisive)… and even then I won’t have a completed room. The house is littered with DIY activities that are 95% done. Admittedly lots of the things still to be finished revolve around skirting boards (NO ONE’S AT THAT LEVEL - WHY DO WE CARE?) but we also have new radiators not quite fitted, empty picture frames on walls and kitchen worktops that need edging. For a completer-finisher at work, I really am appalling when it comes to home life.


And just like clockwork, we’re back to that phase of thinking we’ve got the skills to recreate the Sistine Chapel in our cosy St Albans nest and we’re going to invest all our time and money to create something wonderful, conveniently forgetting our last protracted efforts. I’ll continue to be inspired by my interior designer friend Amanda and her beautiful stylings and commitment to epic home renovations or Joao at Casa Botelho, whose sumptuous masculine glamour is just glorious. But I’ll keep on trying to do it myself, in the misguided belief that the more I do something, the better I’ll get at it - like some kind of painty self flagellation.


Having put this essay down for 5 minutes and taken another peek at the chaos that is every room in our house as we try to desperately get the bedroom painted and re floored before the new bed arrives, I think I’ll give it two more weeks before I’m reaching for the Rightmove listings…


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