Get crafty thanks to Annie Sloan’s collaboration with Charleston Farmhouse, home of the Bloomsbury Set.

‘I love the idea of people making things and drawing things,’ says Annie Sloan, the woman behind the eponymous brand which was built on the novice-proof Chalk Paint she invented after leaving art school. ‘They get so much joy from painting.’ We are long-time and huge fans of Annie Sloan’s work and, during lockdown, it has never felt more relevant. Who hasn’t, while languishing inside, felt the urge to start renovating and upcycling the furniture we already have in our houses? For that is the genius of Annie Sloan: her Chalk Paint is inexplicably easy to use, even for painting neophytes or those who haven’t wielded a brush since their Art GCSEs. And yet, as she says, painting and creating in any form brings joy. Never have we needed it more.

The pleasure of making and painting was one well-known and long espoused by the Bloomsbury Group. And now Annie has pooled her decorative expertise with those of her long-time inspiration: Charleston Farmhouse, their seventeenth-century former East Sussex outpost. We love this video, in which she sets out her love for that extraordinary house, from the astonishing use of colour to the captivating spontaneity of what its incumbents Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant and co once created. Set out side by side, it is clear to see how far the house and its bohemian residents have echoed down the past century to inform everything Annie does.

At present, Charleston, like all other museums, is of course closed. And neither can we travel. Yet, thanks to Annie Sloan’s new Charleston collection, those who feel inclined to embark upon some at-home craft projects can bring something of its spirit to the home. Whether you decide to daub your fireplace with Bloomsbury-esque patterns or upcycle a chair or table, or even make decorative prints to hang, her new kits are a wonderful starting point. (For inspiration, do check out the Charleston-inspired sitting room that Annie created using her Chalk Paints.)

How? In the first instance, you can buy all three of the new colours that Annie has created, all inspired by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant’s home, which come as a set. Firle, a lively green, is named after the village in which Charleston Farmhouse is situated; Rodmell, a gorgeously muted purple/mauve is so-called after the nearby village in which Vanessa Bell’s sister, Virginia Woolf, lived; and finally Tilton, the most heavenly soft yellow, is named after major Bloomsbury figure John Maynard-Keynes’ house. If you are confident, order the paints and freestyle. If less so, Annie has a selection of stencil kits that are rather lovely or, indeed, a series of online tutorials.

Therapeutic, perfect for inexpensive upcycling and utterly absorbing: is this the perfect lockdown activity?

Love Charleston Style? Check Out Our Top Three Bloomsbury-Style Artists and Designers

Lottie Cole

We love artist Lottie Cole’s work, which riffs on the loose painterly style associated with Bell and Grant. Charleston pops up as a subject again and again.

Maude Made

Maude Smith is a self-described ‘sketcher, painter, maker, embroiderer, illustrator, aesthete. Seller of printed dresses, painted furniture, tiles and murals.’ We love all of her myriad work, but especially her painted fireplace commissions, which nod appreciatively to Charleston style.

Vanessa Bell

If you like your designers with Charleston pedigree, they don’t come much better than Cressida Bell, granddaughter of Vanessa. We will never tire of singing the praises of her hand-painted lampshades which are gloriously colourful, completely joyful and wonderful for creating cosy nooks at home. The apple did not fall far from the tree in the Bell clan.

January 2021

Instagram Hero Of The Week: Charleston Trust
Annie Sloan
Cressida Bell, Textile Designer, Cake Decorator, Illustrator

Nancy Alsop


Nancy is a magpie for the best in design and culture.