26 January 2014

Happy Birthday Virginia Woolf

25th January marked the 132nd anniversary of Virginia Woolf’s birth, which made me think of Charleston House in East Sussex – that bohemian bolt hole that has been such a big inspiration for me.

It was Woolf (ensconced in Monk's House four miles away) who recommended Charleston to her painter sister Vanessa Bell and her painter husband Duncan Grant: “The house wants doing up – the wallpapers are awful. . .” Virginia wrote, and Vanessa and Duncan certainly set to task on the interior painting and stenciling as well as decorating the furniture they found in junk shops. So you might say that without Woolf (who became a frequent visitor) the Bloomsbury decorative style would never have graced Charleston!

A Room of One’s Own

On a more personal note, as an art school student I read and loved Woolf’s essay A Room of One’s Own. It resonated with me during that time of women’s lib in the late ‘60s early ‘70s. It was a tremendously potent feminist text – how necessary it is for women to have their own room, their own space, just as men had their office or study. This was especially the case in the 1920s and '30s when such a space was virtually non-existent for women artists. In 1929 Woolf self-published the essay with her husband Leonard, as The Hogarth Press. (Right is the cover for the essay, designed by Bloomsbury artist Vanessa Bell.)

Woolf was writing about creativity for women AND men. Her book “Orlando” – with its blurring of gender or saying that gender doesn’t ultimately matter – had a big impact on me too (there’s also a film version with the gorgeous, androgynous Tilda Swinton). I feel Woolf’s saying it’s important for all artists – male or female – to be able to do their own thing.

The image below is a glimpse in to my room of my own – my studio in Oxford, which I also call 'the Potting Shed'.

The Colour Green

I hadn’t realised that Woolf tried to capture the sensation of colour through her writing and express herself much like her sister did as a painter – that is in a boho style, freeing up the brush strokes and being a bit wild.

Woolf also liked to decorate to help her relax from the rigours of writing and was especially fond of a light green which is evident in many parts of her home.

As a secondary colour, green covers probably the largest range of any colour and I particularly love green on old furniture. As for walls, well Woolf's choice may not be that far off a touch of Antibes with Old White from the Chalk Paint® range. You could also add a little English Yellow to create a lime green.

In my studio in Oxford, although I haven't painted the walls green, you'll find I've actually painted the rafters in Chalk Paint®, using a Woolfish mix of Antibes and Old White. This quiet space that I call my own gives me the freedom to think and do and create, just as Woolf believed everyone should be able to.

Yours, Annie


  1. I loved both your words and your photos. I recently read the article that was in Stampington's "Where Women Create". It was great. I'm very blessed to have Country Roads here in southern CA where Debbie Cooper sells your Chalk Paint. I wish I could share with you the excitement that all of my customers, over all of these years, have shared with me about your amazing Chalk Paint!
    Take care,

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  2. I've put "A Room of One's Own" on my "to read" list! I've always fought for a spot of my own in our different homes over the years - it's sooo neccessary! Thank you for the great post! Now tell me, does your Potting Shed look as clean and organized right now as it did when you took that photo!?

  3. Annie...the day my husband set me up in 'a room of my own' in an unused bedroom...was a joyous day! I would spent every day in there..painting, sewing and creating...I loved it! No more working at the kitchen table only to have to put everything away before dinner. That can really stifle one's creative flow for sure. Now I have a great studio space at the shop and it is my favorite place to be.

    Thanks for this post...I guess some things never change...we still need our 'space' !

    See you in NOLA...Janet xox
    The Empty Nest

  4. What a fabulous post Annie!
    And I want a " potting shed " like yours - where I can collect doors and things lol
    Much love,

  5. Dearest Annie,
    I have been using your paint for various pieces lovely places around my home. I love all colors in the taupe with flavors of green....or maybe essence is the better word.
    I bought a new house with 80's wood cabinets and have begun their transformation....Using Versailles. Which is the least painted color of yours if you run an internet search.
    I am stuck though, it's a little on the green side so I am deliberating between adding some graphite to deepen it or to switch it out for Olive with a 4 or five part Old White Mix.
    Any ideas?

    So spent over two hours with Cindy Rowley in Ca and switching around

  6. There was a article in a magazine i was reading about Quentin Bells daughter Cressida Bell Grandaughter of Vanessa Bell and they had beautiful pics of Charleston House, Cressida is an artist and designer specializing fabric designer among other things and you should see her cakes they are a work of art ! Now where is that damn magazine you made me want to look at it again now !!!!! Thanks Annie !

  7. p.s some lovely images of Cressidas workshop in Hakney on agentofstyle.com xxx

  8. I really enjoyed reading this post about Virginia Woolf's birthday! It's amazing to learn about the inspiration behind her writing and how her personal experience has influenced her work. As for me, I am always inspired by reading about successful women in literature. By the way, if you are looking for a new career path, have you considered attending these beauty courses? They offer a range of beauty and aesthetics courses that can be perfect for those looking to start a new chapter in their lives.