If you’ve ever stared at a wall of paint swatches you’ll know what we’re talking about when you grind to a sudden halt, it becomes totally impossible to make anything close to a decision and you end up reverting to a classic “Off White” and calling it a day (not that we’re not partial to an “Off White” by the way) We urge you to keep reading, take notes and you’ll never have to repaint again!
Founded in 1990, mother of three, Annie Sloan, invented Chalk Paint™ as a response to the lack of quick drying, non-toxic, ready-to-go paint (we’re talking no messing around with priming or sanding) and is still going strong nearly three decades later.
We catch up with Annie, herself, to discuss favourite colours, invaluable painting tips and running a successful business.
TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR FAMILY…
I get to work every day with my husband David. We have a very different approach to life, work and love and our opposite styles complement each other perfectly. I couldn’t dream of a better partner. Felix, my middle son, pops in fairly often as he’s very involved with the branding side of the business, with his Graphic Design background, and is also a very talented painter. My youngest son Hugo is a musician (like I once was, back in my punk cabaret days with the Moodies!), but has worked at the company in a variety of roles – from manning my first every shop to mixing paint in the factory to helping with the accounts – so I get to see a lot of him too (though perhaps not as much as I would like). My eldest, Henry, is in Brazil – so we all went there for Christmas. He’s a photographer and teacher and he’s contributed some bloody brilliant street style shots to my latest Bookazine. So we do all get on very well and have a lot of shared interests in the arts. I love having three children; there’s enough of us that when we’re all together it feels like a bit of a party! Especially when the grandchildren are around, too.
HOW DID YOU JUGGLE MOTHERHOOD WITH BUSINESS?
I mean, I basically invented Chalk Paint™ because otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to carry on working. None of the paints I were using dried quickly enough or did the effects I needed so quickly, and I was wasting hours sanding and preparing surfaces. Chalk Paint™ was the answer to my problem of needing to paint a couple of pieces in the morning, leave them to dry and then finish them off in the afternoon before I had to go and pick the boys up. They were older when things started to take off and were all able to help with building the company together. Though it’s my name on the tins, Annie Sloan is very much a family business.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR PASTEL CHALK PAINT™ – THE SVENSKA BLUE AND CHICAGO GREY (TWO OF OUR FAVES)…
Svenska Blue and Chicago Grey are just such beautiful clean, crisp neutrals that it seemed a madness not to introduce them to the palette. I’m a sucker for a bright colour – and my collaborations with Oxfam and Charleston Farmhouse both called for statement shades. The start of the New Year felt like the right time to introduce some gorgeous, hardworking new neutrals.
Svenska Blue is inspired by the traditional greyed-blue that dominated in Swedish homes because it captured and reflected precious light in homes that spent much of the winter months in darkness. I love the elegance and lightness that it has to it. Chicago is inspired by that very modern mid-toned mauve-grey of new concrete. Possibly the most neutral type of neutral you can get – and therefore a brilliant starting point for any colour scheme!
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?
I’m lucky enough that there isn’t really any such thing. I travel so much for work; training my global network of Stockists, seeking new inspiration for Chalk Paint™ colours from around the world, or having business meetings in new territories all keeps me very busy. That said, I begin almost every day with some squats or a run! I like to wake up properly and get my artistic juices pumping (and I find moving my body really helps with that). If I’m in Oxford, I’ll head to Annie Sloan HQ for 9ish. That’s where all the Chalk Paint™ is made for the entire world, and where the Annie Sloan offices are. My day there can involve anything from painting in my studio to developing new products to chairing board meetings. I love that I have a job where I get to use the left and right side of my brain. At lunchtime we ALWAYS do The Guardian Crossword. Everybody at the company gets a copy and we can be quite competitive about who finishes first.
In the afternoon I might do an interview (like this one!), speak at a Stockist workshop, or film one of my Facebook Lives. I often go out to eat for dinner somewhere along the multicultural hub that is Oxford’s Cowley Road, with my husband David – we like Lebanese or Japanese food in the evenings. Once I’m home I spend much of my time in conversation with my Stockists in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US – or hunting for new furniture painting talent. I’m very bad for never putting my iPad away and switching off!
HOW DO YOU TAKE YOUR COFFEE?
Single macchiato usually – if I go for a double you know I really mean business.
YOUR FLAIR FOR COLOURS IS CONTAGIOUS AND MAKING US DESPERATELY WANT TO UPDATE EVERY CUPBOARD IN THE HOUSE! WHAT ARE YOUR TOP TIPS FOR PAINTING FURNITURE?
My top tip is: don’t overthink it! Just get a tin of Chalk Paint™ and get stuck in. You really can’t go wrong and you’ll have the most enormous sense of satisfaction when you’ve finished. Chalk Paint™ is as easy as whacking on your chosen colour, leaving to dry, then applying Clear Chalk Paint™ Wax to finish and protect for years to come. Start with something small – maybe a damaged piece of furniture you would otherwise chuck out, then move up to bigger projects like kitchen cabinets or floors. Don’t overlook the garden, either. Chalk Paint™ works brilliantly on outdoor surfaces like brick or stone – and painting in the sunshine with the radio on is one of life’s great joys. Just remember to skip the Wax when using outdoors.
TELL US ABOUT LEM LEM AND WORKING WITH OXFAM…
Working with Oxfam was a dream come true. Lem Lem as a colour was a huge surprise; I was expecting to return from Ethiopia with a very bright colour like you see in their flag or in their textiles. But what stuck out most, from the moment I saw it, the whole way home on the plane, all the way back to my laboratory here in Oxford, were the expanses of fresh pastel green which were fields of alliums. These fields were grown and tended by women farmers who were learning to support themselves and their families. Something which was previously unheard of. It was hugely relatable to me, the idea of working to ensure a better life for your children, and that soft green of fresh sprouts represented the hope and positivity of the entire project. Lem Lem will always have a special place in my heart.
WHAT ARE YOUR MAIN SOURCES OF INSPIRATION?
Art museums are a big one for me. I love merging Fine Art and the domestic arts together. History, as well, can be surprisingly rich and it’s illuminating to sit down with a book on the discovery of pigments and find that a colour such as my luminously bright English Yellow was a popular Regency shade. But the muse can strike at any time, and more often than not it’s completely unexpected!
Ha! I can’t answer that! I can tell you that right now I’m obsessed with Antibes Green – but give me five minutes and it’ll be Greek Blue or Scandinavian Pink. I am more drawn to the bold and bright colours as I feel as though these bring me great joy – but without neutrals you can’t have brights. So it’s very hard to pick!
AND FAVOURITE PROJECT?
My favourite project is my house in Normandy! Is it cheating to say that? Because it’s loads of different projects and it’s constantly evolving and I feel completely liberated there to try things out and I have constant access to furniture because of all those fantastic French flea markets. I also loved the Napoleonic Blue kitchen I painted a few years ago because it turned out exactly as I’d pictured in my mind’s eye (which doesn’t happen often!)
WHAT’S NEXT FOR ANNIE SLOAN?
The most important thing to me is that the company continues to champion small independent business. My business model revolves around supporting shop owners and their families. I refuse to let the big DIY warehouses stock Chalk Paint™ – because I remember what it was like trying to survive on the Great British High Street. Running a small shop is not an easy thing to do. I am doing my bit to ensure the High Street retains character and supports local economies and communities in a way that sales through big businesses just don’t. It’s a constant process of adaptation and development. I want to keep sending customers to Stockist shops for Chalk Paint™ and workshops and expert technical advice and I just have to keep thinking of new ways to do that!
GO TO: anniesloan.com
DISCLAIMER: We endeavour to always credit the correct original source of every image we use. If you think a credit may be incorrect, please contact us at [email protected]
Inspiration/Image Credits: Annie Sloan Colour Recipe’s for Painted Furniture and More, CICO Books, photography by Christopher Drake, anniesloan.com