painted bathtub

For months I’ve been casting sideways looks at the roll-top painted bathtub in the four-hundred-year-old cottage. The colour! That particular shade is dramatic on the inside of the craft cupboard, but I was searching for something else for the tub.

bathtub before © elisa rathje 2012

My wonderful, perceptive friend Heather visited us, and being a brilliant colour consultant and interior designer, she solved the problem immediately. The greys of the galvanised bucket. Oh yes!

bathtub after © elisa rathje 2012

Now, paint has a life of its own, and the same french linen chalk paint that I used on the daybed and the bellows turned rather a warmer dusty cocoa shade on the tub. I’m quite surprised by the hue. What do you think?

painted cupboard

There’s a cupboard in the cottage bathroom that has been bothering me for a long time. In theory I really like cupboards with some colour inside. While I have a beloved red lamp and many red linens in the kitchen, I found this particular shade quite shocking each time I opened the cupboard. It seemed there wasn’t much point putting things away in an organised manner, since it still looked dreadful to me because of the colour.

I can’t even show you, it is so glaring. You can picture it, yes?

I prefer pale, desaturated shades in the house for the most part. I do love the colourful cupboard that we keep our art materials in, and I love using bright patterns in the bunting and quilting for the children’s room. My stash of fabric and yarn bring a lot of colour into my studio. But this dark red had to go.

cupboard © elisa rathje 2011

Several coats of white later, I feel much better. Such a relief.

cupboard © elisa rathje 2011

Now it’s a pleasure to put things away, and I edited our things while I was at it, so there’s really not very much to organise. I can see what’s there and it all has a home. Much brighter. It’s a pleasure to open that painted cupboard now.

hand painted bed

After a long search, we found an antique French bed for the old country cottage.


The frame is a couple of hundred years old. It had some surface damage but we didn’t mind as we planned to paint it.


I used chalk paint, which is essential to replicate the long tradition of European hand painted furniture, and can be thickened to impasto, thinned to a wash, distressed and waxed to produce a beautiful surface. Unlike the chairs and other refinishing projects, it took an amazing amount of work to get this bed finished. There were some trouble spots that I fixed with some knotting, and by using some of the “old white” chalk paint mixed into the beeswax finish. The process of painting and distressing was like making a textured painting. Such a pleasure. At the end, the beeswax buffs to a gentle gleam.

bed & bag © elisa rathje 2011

I’m so pleased with the way the antique white has a serenity that overcomes the austerity of the original wood. Somehow it manages to combine ornament with minimalism in a way that fits so well in the old cottage.

© elisa rathje 2011

We’re very much in love with it. It’s been years since we’ve had a bed with a proper headboard, I adore it for sitting in bed and reading, writing, having a morning cup of tea. This furniture was built with tremendous strength and elegance years ago and it’s wonderful to have a piece with a long history. Now I’d like to sew some bedlinens for it, a whole cloth quilt perhaps, and knit us a throw.

© elisa rathje 2011

I was so lucky to receive a pot cupboard as a gift from my sweetheart. I may never get out of bed again.

© elisa rathje 2011

little round table

Although I was looking for furniture at the antiques fair, just one little piece came home with me. It’s a small, round Edwardian table, similar to the demi-lune yet less ornate, the sort of thing that could function well in a lot of different places. Unlike the massive project of painting our dining table, chairs, and our bed, the little table took an afternoon to rework.


The little table was suffering a little from a loose piece on one leg, and some stains on the surface, but it sanded down well and took the chalk paint easily.


I like to use a couple of coats of country grey on pieces that need to draw back a little, remain subdued, and when it is sanded back just so, there are some wonderful textures that come up. I love how painting the furniture draws attention to the shapes; this one has just enough of the ornate to carry the eye around, but not so much to be busy.


For now the little round table is just right in the corner of our living room. Of course it is putting the
beside it to shame, but one thing at a time! I need to study some
before I tend to that one.

I received our custom mattress today, for the long awaited antique bed. Hurrah! I cannot wait to see it all put together.

dining chairs

An antique table and half a dozen chairs have been taking every spare moment I can find.


We’d seen some old European painted ones we loved but decided to do the work of refinishing these ourselves instead of paying the shop to take care of it. Much more fun. It was a pleasure to work with such beautiful pieces, with their ornaments and elegant curves. Amazingly we were able to find antiques that didn’t cost more than new, good quality wood furniture. I love their age and history, and I love to mix these very old pieces with modern ones.


This kind of distressed painting, using layers of chalk paint, reminds me of painting on wood or canvas, or working with textures in sculpture and lithography. I’d like to experiment with this in ceramics. I love the colours that come up as the layers are sanded through. I’ve sanded them very smoothly; the wax went on easily and I buffed the finish to a gentle gleam. Now the wood feels quite wonderful.


(This image is optically misbehaving for me like the ornate ceilings I photographed in Paris. The darker shades should come forward.)

Delightful! To sit round a table (a gorgeous little round one that we just received for the living room) and share a meal that my sweetheart made for us. It’s a relief to have it in place after three months without, with the chalk painted dining chairs around it. I don’t think a house is quite a home for me without a table and chairs, the center of our family life, and we’re so happy with these. The table I’m painting? I’ll show it very soon, when our dining room is no longer a dusty workshop.