Annie Sloan is the paint lady whom everyone is talking about. She has a home in England and a home in France and one foot firmly in both countries. She is the artist who went from making music to painting and then set about creating her unique signature Chalk Paint®. She’s also written several books including the best-selling “Creating the French Look” a masterclass on how to design a French styled room. Janine Marsh talks to Annie Sloan about life, music, art, France, shabby chic and paint…
Annie reveals that her first career was as a singer in an all-girl band called the Moodies, “ it seems like such a long time ago, 1973!” she says. “I was talking to someone in the band recently and it felt like it was someone else’s life. There was not so much to do, not like now, it’s so busy these days. It was great to dress up and wear lots of makeup, we were creative with clothes and had a great time. I used to love singing, I like performing, I’m an outgoing person…”
Annie tells me that they were “quite successful” which is somewhat of an understatement. The Moodies made the front page of the Sunday Times, they were asked to tour with Pink Floyd and Mick Jagger; David Bowie and Malcolm McClaren attended their gigs. I ask her what life was like and she says “We had a great time, we were more crazy than Bananarama! We were all from art schools, all creative and artistic but although we could be that in a band, it wasn’t what I really wanted to do. I loved it but I also like working on my own and I don’t like to toe the line which I would have had to do if we were to make it big in the music business and get signed to a record label…”
The restrictions of becoming a name in music led Annie to return to her art school roots and channel her artistic flair to painting which she loves and which led her to develop her now famous Chalk Paint®. She tells me that she wanted a paint which would have many uses. It had to act like lime wash, she wanted to use it to repaint furniture and give it an “aged look”. After searching everywhere, she just couldn’t find what she wanted and this inspired her to work with a developer to create her own paint in 1990.
Annie says her paint “is very easy to work with and allows people to be creative without getting involved with the technicalities of preparation allowing you to change your mind without hassle”. I tell Annie that one of my friends had asked if she felt that she was responsible for the hugely popular, pretty much world-wide fashion for shabby chic?
“I think I’ve have a lot of responsibility! I’ve been writing about it for a long time and paint helps you to do it. So yes I agree, I am, but I don’t want to be known only as the shabby chic queen! I also love modern… and mid-century modern which is a big look in France and takes me back to my fine arts background.
“I have a keen interest in abstract painting, I love texture, colour… My impetus is varied, I love old furniture but I also love modern furniture, boho chic, Swedish hand painted furniture, French painted furniture…”
Annie tells me that she has a house near Granville in Normandy, close to where French fashion designer Christian Dior spent his childhood and where his home is a museum today. “That area has been a huge influence on me. I don’t know what it is or why, perhaps it is the allure itself that holds me, but I never get bored with the shapes, colours and life of France, I absolutely love it there.
“I have an old farmhouse, not grand. We bought it 20 years ago for £15,000, it was what we could afford and we’ve stayed with it. We could buy bigger, better, grander, more architecturally interesting but we love it as it is. We have made few changes, we didn’t want to turn it into a posh residence, I love the simplicity, it isn’t grand, I don’t want that…”
Annie says that she takes trips to France whenever she can but her life is extraordinarily busy with trips and stockists conferences and launches. She spends much of her time travelling around the world meeting with store owners and teaching paint techniques at workshops and writing more books.
“We’ve been very lucky with our Annie Sloan paints. The recession which has been so bad across all classes has not been bad for us. Paint is a cheap way of improving and changing things without having to move or buy new things. If you can’t afford a new kitchen you can paint what you have. It is not only economically good but it’s great fun too and vintage has become fashionable. Recycling is not just for granny’s old cupboard any more, it’s all about recycling and having fun….
I tell Annie about a Facebook friend, Humble Swan Revival in the US, whose son-in-law painted a cupboard for his wife using Annie’s paints for the first time – it is an instant, treasured family heirloom. I tell her it seems that recycling this way, reinventing something seems to have a way of bringing people together. She agrees and says its a way of creating a common ground for people who want to be creative, to make something personal.
I ask her if she has a favourite colour “I get asked this a lot and I go through phases. My go-to colours are French Linen, Paris, Chateau and Country Grey, but I put a lot of colour with them so, I love French Linen but match it with Greek Blue, I love that combination. I adore Antibes with a dark wax and Aubusson”.
This leads me to wonder if Annie makes the fabulous names of the paints up herself? “Yes I do, all the names/colours have history, I’ve written books about pigments and paints, I know their history”.
“I made a paint to be flexible, a paint you can use in different ways, when I run a workshop with seven people, they will all produce seven different things using the same colour. The paint talks to you and allows you to speak your style… I think we all need creativity…”
And then she is off, to the next workshop…
We love this great video of Annie Sloane demonstrating quick and easy techniques for painting and distressing furniture using Chalk Paint® decorative paint by Annie Sloan on the Hallmark Channel.