Annie Sloan has become synonymous with paint. Her Chalk Paint range, used to transform tired-looking furniture, is sold in 55 countries. She has written 26 books on paint effects, wood finishes, gilding and decor, and runs a shop in Oxford, southern England.
What got you into the paint business?
I trained as a fine artist in the 1970s and began painting murals in houses as commissions. I became interested in the history of paint and wrote my first book, The Complete Book of Decorative Paint Techniques. Around the same time, I was teaching workshops, and it was after one in the Netherlands that I was introduced to a Belgian paint-maker. I’d done years of research on different paints and what they could do, and really wished there was a [decorative] paint that could do all the things I wanted. The answer was to develop Chalk Paint in 1990.
Why chalk paint?
I wanted my paint to be quick and easy to use. I had three young children, all under the age of five, so I needed to be able to start and finish a project the same day. I also love the quality of old furniture and wanted to be able to change the way it looked, to fit with other things that were going on in a room. The paint really took off in the [late] 2000s, around the time of the financial crisis. The recession made people a little more careful when it came to spending. My paint tapped into the “make do and mend” mentality.
What interests you most about decorating?
Decorating is all about colour and understanding why colours do or don’t work together. It’s a nice experience when you put things together and it looks OK, but by adding one more item you make it sing and look beautiful. I love it.
How would you characterise your style?
I draw on a lot of different styles. I always think of it in terms of the way I dress. I’d never buy all my clothing from one shop or brand. I need variety. I love colours, antiques, flea-market finds and modern pieces. My style is always colourful and always a fusion.
Name your top three influences
My father Charles Sloan — he was very interested in colour and we talked a lot about it. We had a lot of colourful art by Paul Gauguin around my home when I was growing up and I was very inspired by that. And I also find vernacular painting fascinating. I love seeing the work of untrained artists.
Which is your favourite colour?
This is almost an impossible question for me to answer. I go through phases with colour but I do tend to get drawn to a colour I call Antibes Green. I like colours that are deemed difficult to use. So, bright greens and bright reds!
If you weren’t allowed, who would design your home for you?
I think John Stefanidis is a wonderful interior designer. I love his use of vibrant colour and eclectic aesthetic.
Is there anyone in your field that you particularly admire?
I like Abigail Ahern’s ideas for interior design. I always see her photography pop up in different places and I really like what she does. I feel that we have similar ideas and taste.
How would you describe your home?
My home is a 19th-century townhouse in Oxford. It has beautiful architecture and detailing. We mostly live on the ground floor, which is very traditional, and in the basement, which is modern and has a low ceiling. I like to combine the old with the new.
What is the one object you would never allow in your home?
I don’t have any strict rules about what I would or wouldn’t have in my home, but one thing I’ve never had is plastic flowers. You can’t beat the real thing.
Someone once asked me to paint their skateboard. That was odd.
What is the most challenging aspect of choosing a colour for a piece of furniture?
The most difficult question, which I am often asked, is “what colour should I paint a piece of furniture?”. It depends on your own style and the other colours in the room. The simplest advice I can give is to add a bright colour to a room if it’s full of neutral shades, or vice versa: add a neutral shade to a room full of colour. You also need to bear in mind how the room is lit.
What is the biggest no-no?
There’s no big no-no, but I would say: consider culture. For example, if you have a Chinese-style piece of furniture, remember that when choosing a colour. Similarly, think of the era of a piece. That will help you determine which colours will and won’t work so well.
Is there a space you feel most inspired by?
I always love going to [former Bloomsbury Set retreat] Charleston Farmhouse in Sussex. It’s so inspiring. Nearly everything in the house is painted.
What is your first port of call for ideas?
The World of Interiors magazine is packed with ideas. I have subscribed for as long as I can remember. I’ll be flicking through an issue and will turn straight to my sketch pad to start drawing. Ideas always flow naturally when I start to sketch them out.
What do you think is the best way to give a room a quick refresh?
Paint! Paint is the quickest and easiest way to change something that you own.
What do you see as the overriding trend in your field at the moment — even if you don’t subscribe to it?
People are painting furniture in really interesting ways at the moment. Painting using blocks of colour and leaving some parts of a piece unpainted is a great trend. It always amazes me to see how differently everyone works.
Photographs: Toronto Star via Getty Images; Christopher Drake; Getty Images/VisitBritain