Annie Sloan's colourful Victorian house
Global artefacts and an inventive use of colour bring cosmopolitan richness to the home of artist and colour designer Annie Sloan. Photographs Jesse Wild
When Annie Sloan moved from a country village to east Oxford 20 years ago, she was ready to embrace city living, and yearned for somewhere that echoed her passion for cultural fusion. ‘It’s a funky, cosmopolitan part of town, with all sorts of interesting shops and every sort of restaurant. I love the buzz of lots of different cultures. But there are also lots of parks and common land for walks.’
As soon as she and her husband stepped inside the terraced mid Victorian house they felt at home, although work was needed to turn it into the comfortable space it is today. ‘We knocked through the two ground floor rooms to make one big sitting room, so you have a window to the back garden and the front. And we made the kitchen on the lower ground floor with a new breakfast room extending into the garden.’
The paintings and objects that now adorn walls, shelves and surfaces in every room reflect Annie’s multi-cultural heritage. ‘I feel I’m a creature of the world and I love things from everywhere. I was born in Australia, my mother came from Fiji, my father from Scotland. They were very well travelled and lived in Africa, too.’
Her fondness for cultural eclecticism also stems from her art school training. ‘When you study art, you see that it comes from all sorts of places, so Picasso was influenced by African art, and Cézanne was influenced by Japanese art. All these things enrich me and enrich my perception of what life is and what people are. So I love having a picture of an English landscape next to something which is completely other.’
Some of the furniture, pictures and works of art in the house are inherited, other pieces have been bought on travels, or discovered while scouring reclamation yards and junk shops. ‘I tend not to search for things, I just find them. I buy in brocante markets in France, or on trips to Africa when I go to see stockists and distributors. One of my sons lives in Brazil so I buy there. And when we do photoshoots, if we find something I like, I take it home with me.’
Rubbing shoulders with Annie’s globe-trotting style are her creative talents. Several of her drawings and paintings are on display and she has also created striking murals in the kitchen and bathroom. ‘I try to do at least one thing a week, or more if I can. You have to keep on going,’ she says. Her talent for painting furniture with her signature chalk paint is also inescapable. A side table painted in Aubusson Blue in the sitting room is one of her favourite pieces. ‘I created the patterned top by cutting a sponge in random squares and triangles, painted it, then used it as a template. I printed several layers using the different colours to build up the effect.’
When it came to selecting the wall colours, practicality as well as aesthetics came into play. ‘I chose neutral colours, because I was very busy and I know that if you make a neutral background you can add lots of colour.’ Natural light and how the room was to be used were also factored in.
‘My idea for the sitting room was that it shouldn’t be too full of colour, but there would be colour in it, because it’s where I sit to be calm. So I used French Linen. But then I wanted a backdrop for some of the pieces I’ve collected, so I took a group of my brightest colours, painted each shelf with a different one and added lighting.’ Within this vivid niche are displayed pieces from Brazil and Africa, modern pots, old pots, stones, skulls, fossils and much more. ‘All the colours are Annie Sloan paints. I’d be killed if I used anything else!’
Elsewhere, Annie succumbed more freely to the temptation of eye-catching shades. ‘The hallway is brighter. I painted the floor Antibes Green and the walls English Yellow, so when you come in the house feels inviting.’
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Bold hues also bring life to the dining room. ‘This room doesn’t get much light and the ceilings are low, so the walls are painted in Emperor’s Silk and have been waxed.’ To continue the colourful theme, the window blinds are made from a bright African fabric together with one of her linen fabrics. Different shades of the same linen are also used on each of the chairs. Still more colour came from painting the table top with an abstract design, and a once dark brown piano, now painted in Château Grey, Duck Egg Blue and Emperor’s Silk, makes a nod to the tones used elsewhere in the house.
Halfway between the basement level and the ground floor, the garden room is filled with Annie’s signature mix of finds from around the globe. Alongside textiles from Africa, India, Mexico and Peru, there’s a strange Congolese animal carved and encrusted with nails, a painting by Annie, and phials of pigment brought back by her son from Peru: ‘They are wonderful and all have great names,’ says Annie.
At the far end of the room, a classical figure made from resin impassively surveys the arrangement. ‘He’s a copy of an ancient Greek kouros. I was told he was a prop for the Antiques Roadshow. I’m not sure if it’s true, but my grandchildren find him immensely funny. Poor man, he doesn’t have a head – or much to show – still, I think it’s very good for them.’
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