My year in review – 2020. The year the world came to a stop!

There’s certainly not a lot of good that can be said about 2020! The year none of us saw coming and one that all of us are wishing not to repeat. (Although, at this moment in time, from where I’m sitting 2021 is still looking very ‘2020’)

I’m aware I managed to go yet another year between blogs and I honestly don’t know how that happens every year, but in my defence I was amazingly and incredibly busy during 2020.

Obvious restrictions, fears, angers, sorrows and frustrations aside, 2020 did give us heros, community spirit, time for reflection and, it would appear, people’s desire to spruce up their homes. As soon as the initial tightest restrictions were lifted DIY and gardening stores were packed with people purchasing paints, varnishes, wallpapers, soil, plants and every conceivable tool with which to help them in their DIY endeavours. Equally with economic and employment uncertainty at present people are relinquishing themselves from the ‘use it and bin it’ consumerism ethos of the past few decades.

The Painted Shack was inundated with furniture renovation enquiries and I’ve had some very interesting commissions and projects, whilst meeting (all appropriately socially distanced, of course!) some wonderful people.

After a much needed long overdue and, as it turned out fortuitous, Winter break in Portugal back in February last year I returned to the UK with the looming news of some virus making its way out of China – I also returned with a hacking cough, which was received with quizzical looks of worry and ‘Could it be Covid?’ ‘Of course it’s bloody not!’ was my response. I doubt it was – I definitely don’t know of anyone I came into contact with getting ill, but who knows? From how things have gone, it could have been…I don’t know, I hope not.

Distant rumblings of lockdowns around Europe began but life continued. I was working on-site for a lovely lady, who was expecting their first child. A wardrobe and chest of drawers, which were being refreshed for their new arrival – how exciting! The sun shone through huge windows while I painted – Spring was on its way and life felt sweet.

News of more, and more severe, lockdowns, frightening numbers and horrifying news stories continued… I painted a mirror for a lady and delivered it back to her at the door, thinking ‘This is probably going to be my last commissions piece for a while’, as daily briefings were prepping us for our own imminent lockdown.

But, on brighter news, Spring had sprung and the sun shone, in my mind/recollection, every single day! I dug out the sun-loungers and accepted that life was stopping for a while – I put myself on ‘holiday’!

It didn’t quite work out like that! I’d started work on a table, an existing item of stock, for a friend’s daughter. She wanted it black, a dramatic choice but one that worked so well in her kitchen/dinner. At that point lockdown was very real and very severe, even obtaining the required paint was a mission. Thank goodness for the Internet!

I had some long distance enquiries, one of which a recommendation from one of my very first clients, the other from a lady I haven’t, to this day, ever met but I had such warm, funny and friendly chats with her on the phone. I rang her one day and she was sipping champagne in the sunshine, wearing a hat – it was her Birthday! Her item was dropped off at The Painted Shack then, once I’d painted it, wrapped it for safe redelivery and it was back in its home, we chatted again, she was so excited about her ‘new’ piece, which was actually for her daughter and son-in-law, then we said goodbye. I always feel like my clients become friends, so leaving that momentary connection is always a little sad for me.

Meanwhile the Summer had blasted in! It was genuinely and non-Britishly HOT HOT HOT! Restrained to our homes and gardens everyone set about making pretty, from their walls to their gardens. My partner and I were no exception and the garden became our sanctuary – our restaurant, nightclub, bar and cinema. We were confined to our home but not to four walls. The garden and wonderful British Summer became our festival! We cooked, ate, drank, danced, and slept surrounded by the fruits of our laboured gardening!

Enquiries as we came out of lockdown were going crazy and, with the help of my fantastically patient partner who was willing and able to put his hand to anything to help out, I had a steady stream of varied, wonderful and interesting commissions, whilst still taking in lots of new stock items.

My clients were, as I’ve always found, beautiful people, who simply didn’t want to be throwing out perfectly good quality items of furniture simply to replace it with new pieces, which can be an expensive hobby. So many of the pieces had family histories attached, which I always love hearing about. I’ve had so many kind clients who have taken the the time to send me photos of their newly renovated pieces, in situ, looking beautiful in their homes. And I’ve heard the stories about their homes, their lives and their pieces of furniture.

One remarkable lady stood out the second I spoke with her on the phone. She had some 1970’s furniture, a table & chairs and a sideboard drinks cabinet. She wanted them painted black, against all her friend’s opinions. But, and I know she won’t mind me mentioning this, she told me ‘I’m in my 70’s, so if I want black furniture that’s what I’m going to have!’ I went to meet her and to see the items in question. We clicked straight away, she was down-to-earth, funny and engaging – and with the attitude of a lady in her 30s! Feisty and funny, with a glint in her eye! We managed to see the funny side of things when part of the commission – the table – wouldn’t fit through her doors, despite them having been taken into her home at some point. It was decided that I would paint the sideboard in my workshop and the table in-situ, rather than dismantling the table. The freshly painted furniture in black looked stunning, they looked like completely new pieces and even received the seal of approval from my client’s previously sceptical friends.

I probably painted several miles worth of various shades of grey throughout 2020 – this is still the neutral base hue of preference for many and seeing my client’s homes and painted items in greys and silvers it’s obvious why. Grey is a deceptively intriguing colour. There are so many – as the saying goes – shades of grey, ranging from warm and creamy to cool and crisp. You can add almost any colour scheme to a plain grey backdrop, it can look sophisticated and elegant or fun and funky. One of the most popular shades for 2020 was a subtle light grey, which showed up a slight blue tinge in certain light. It’s a stunning colour and pairs perfectly with a darker grey, various shades of blues or pinks, whites or black.

One very special ‘client’ kept me very busy and kept me painting a whole lot of grey, in two shades on all her living room and dining room furniture. I have quoted ‘client’ in that way because the lady in question is actually a friend and doing the work for her was so very lovely, for a variety of reasons. It meant that, wherever possible, I was able to drive over to see her throughout the various stages of lockdowns, shielding, self-isolating and social distancing rules, as I collected and redelivered her pieces in stages. Her furniture was of great quality and had clearly been well looked after, which always makes the job easier, and the finished items looked simply beautiful in her freshly decorated lounge and dining area. I wouldn’t normally take furniture in stages, as I did on this occasion, but it worked so very well for us.

It wasn’t, however, all about the grey. One of my favourite commissions during 2020 was for one simple shelving unit. My client was originally thinking along the grey route but had a sudden change of heart and opted for a vivid and bright gorgeous pink. I do love painting in bright and cheery colours, so this piece was a pure joy to paint. It looked stunning in my client’s new and modern home. And it brought a smile to my face while I painted…

I was busy and juggling a heavy workload with the continual uncertainty, doom and gloom. There can barely be anyone who hasn’t felt, at some point, overwhelmed at the situation we find ourselves in. I painted some of the most unusual, interesting and beautiful items during 2020 and that kept me happy and, quite honestly, sane!

A piece of furniture which was being passed through the family – a new look in refreshing white and it was ready for Christmas!

Even heading up to Christmas, generally a quiet time for me, I found myself painting two separate commissions, both as Christmas presents and both wonderful items.

Another Christmas present – and another beautiful item in pink!

Feeling burnt out and fed up with 2020 I welcomed the Christmas break, putting my brushes into soak at the earliest chance I could.

I haven’t blogged since before the whole unfortunate Covid shenanigans and this time last year feels like a million years ago – another lifetime – but I am hoping to get my writing head on and get more blogs out on a more regular basis and also keeping up with the painting, whilst we all wait out this sorry pandemic situation.

Stay safe and stay positive, we’ll see some light very soon 🙏

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