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Annie Sloan on her home life & early influences

Amanda Cable

From House Beautiful UK

Decorative paint techniques expert Annie, 68, lives in a colour-filled home in Oxford with her husband, David, 69. They have three sons and two grandchildren.

WHERE I LIVE

Our family had a home in the countryside until our three sons hit their teens and we suddenly became their taxi service – that's when we decided to move into the city. I knew this four-storey, terraced house was right the moment I stepped inside.

The Victorian architecture is beautiful, with fantastic plasterwork and a view from the front right to the garden at the back. I love opening the front door and seeing the statue at the end of our back garden.

This house was redecorated in the 1980s but, when we moved in about 18 years ago, I didn't touch it immediately. I like to live in a house first and get to understand what it really needs, although we did knock two smaller reception rooms into one and added a long garden room at the back.

People often think hallways aren't special, but they set the tone for the whole house. I wanted people to step inside our home and feel happy so, when we did get round to decorating, I painted one wall in English Yellow, another in Old White and used bright Antibes Green for the hallway floorboards.

In the living room I went for a neutral French Linen, but painted the furniture. There's a Duck Egg Blue table, a Château Grey table and a table in Barcelona Orange. I've always painted things myself, though I've finally stopped doing my own walls, as they're so time consuming. I'm lucky that David just lets me paint whatever I want and never objects!

Our kitchen has rounded windows, lots of plants, Emperor's Silk walls and units in French Linen. The floors are limestone with underfloor heating, and a main feature is a large cupboard I made from an old pair of folding wooden doors.

Photo credit: zodebala / Getty

MY INSPIRATION

Colour was one of my earliest influences. I used to spend hours absorbed in the colours of my father's collection of Gauguin prints. Some he found in magazines and put in cheap frames, but I still have them on display in our sitting room.

My father, a journalist and farmer, also collected antiques. I've inherited his love of finding things in junk shops that are a bit weird but meant something to somebody once. I enjoy displaying them with other inherited pieces. My parents lived in Africa for a time and brought back a large, striking mask that now stands against an old French door. It's such an unconventional mix that it totally works.

My mother was part Cuban and part Fijian, and I have a beautiful photograph of her when she was younger. I keep her Fijian trinkets on display, as well as the patchwork cushions she made, as a reminder of her.

MY FAMILY LIFE

As the centre of activity the dining room has always been a really important part of our day-to-day living. Our old Victorian dining table is painted in a mixture of Emperor's Silk and Château Grey.

For years, our boys would pile around the dining table with their friends – I loved cooking for all of them and enjoying their lively chat. Now, I still set the table for family meals to include our two grandchildren – Willow, four, and eight-month-old Rudy – who live just around the corner. Their dad is my middle son, Felix, 34, who's our brand director. Our eldest son Henry, 36, teaches in Kazakhstan and Hugo, 31, is a musician and songwriter who's just moved to LA. I cooked a huge roast for all of us recently just before he left.

The dining room is beside the kitchen, where David and I eat at a smaller table when we're on our own. I used to entertain all the time, but now we're so busy and my appetite isn't huge, we'll often just get a takeaway.

A favourite pastime these days is spending time with my grandchildren, snuggled in front of the TV or painting with Willow. She already loves choosing and mixing colours. Some people are nervous of colour, but understanding the right mixes, where they sit and how to break up strong colours in your home by using white, can transform the way you live.

From: House Beautiful magazine. Subscribe here.

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