Saturday, 17 August 2013

Guest Blogger - Jo Lee of Swedish Interior Design

I am delighted to announce that we have a new series of guest writers who will appear on Carte Blanche's blog periodically.
Our first is Jo Lee of Swedish Interior Design. Jo and Madeleine have the largest, most beautiful and best range of Swedish furniture both original and recreated that I have ever come across and their technical knowledge and understanding of this field is outstanding.
In conversation Jo and I were discussing the quality and properties of modern paints. We also discussed the "Greenwash" regarding some of the Eco Paint claims today and if you decide to go Green (not literally of course) it can be hard to find your way to a paint with really good Eco-credentials. However when I asked Jo if he could perhaps give us some background the paints they used to showcase painted furniture so beautifully in their showroom home near Brighton, he was able to give us a great report on a range of  truly organic paints, the advantages of them and their application.

Swedish Interior Design – Going Organic


When planning a design project, one of the items you need to consider very carefully is the paint you are going to use.
The rise of “designer” paints over the last 10-15 years have given us access to an unprecedented array of colours and finishes so you can have pretty much whatever you want. But this has come (certainly to my mind) as a triumph of marketing often  at the expense of product quality and usability.
So you can have chalk paints, dead flat paints, milk paints, iridescent paints, super chalky paints, organic paints, emulsions, acrylics and much more. It’s great having such a choice but how easy is your chosen paint for you to apply?  How long will it last? Is it good for you?
When we restored our glorious 1886 apartment that became the Swedish Interior Design  showroom, we had to consider a number of questions in choosing our paints.
Firstly, the apartment was full of complex original wall and ceiling mouldings, elaborately hand carved door frames and architraves, double original sash windows and flamed oak parquet flooring.

Stunning sea view from those 13 ft windows casts great light into this delightful room

We wanted to restore this faded beauty to her former glory and be faithful to the original design but at the same time put our own stamp on it as our home. Our desire was to create a Swedish Gustavian look and feel using our antique Swedish furniture, Mora Clocks & bespoke Swedish furniture. It would be a sanctuary from the outside world and also showcase our design ethos and furniture. At the same time we also needed to highlight the craftsmanship and extraordinary level of original detail evident in the original interior.
Another consideration was that since we face onto the sea; we have the most marvellous light bouncing through the 13’ high sash windows and being ‘sea light’ it changes in intensity according to time of day, the season and the prevailing weather.
We always concentrate on best use of light in our design work and so we needed careful thought on using our paint choice as an ‘interactive’ medium rather than a flat surface.
Next we had to look at the health aspect – Madeleine Lee, our creative director, has ME/CFS and so is very susceptible to paint fumes. You would be amazed if you look into paint specifications in detail, just how many ‘nasties’ still reside in different paints even with the recent and ongoing changes in paint formulation due to environmental laws.
So many paints still ‘leech’ into the atmosphere for a significant period after painting and will therefore affect anyone who is in any way sensitive – This is a serious consideration when you think about bedrooms, children's rooms, spaces with poor ventilation. There’s already too much toxicity in the world outside our homes, in the air, the water supply and so on. Why add to it in your own home? Don’t believe the sales hype and I would urge you to investigate the health properties of your chosen paint before buying to make sure you make the right choice for you.
So what about the finish? It needed to be in keeping with the feel of the apartment and since we don’t have kids (or at least only Norwegian forest cat furry ones) it didn’t need to be particularly strong, washable or non marking. It was definitely more about texture for us than anything else.
Never forget the next point on the checklist as it will hit you directly in the pocket: application and coverage.
With all the changes in formulation due to environmental rules, some well known major brand name designer paints have become really difficult to use on a professional basis. The coverage is poor (and certainly not what they claim) and the end result can be really streaky and patchy which necessitates more coats than you should really need to provide the quality finish that you would want.
At least if you are doing it yourself, its only extra time spent and general frustration.
But where you are employing someone to decorate for you, the added time and extra product required to achieve a top level finish can take 2-3 times as long to do which means significantly more cost to you. We now refuse to use certain brands of paints for clients because of this.
Also be careful to choose the right paint for your woodwork – especially in the level of ‘sheen’. Gloss, satin, matt and dead flat all have their advantages and it depends on your interior and the look you want to create but making the wrong choice can kill a design and look really out of place. Do you want the woodwork to blend in and support the overall colour scheme or work as accenting?
For example in our bedroom and living room we kept the woodwork muted in a matt finish so it played second fiddle to the main wall colour and trompe l’oeil but we used a stronger custom colour on the dado rail and to pick out the wall mouldings to provide a visual accent.

So what did we choose?
For health reasons, it needed to be an organic non toxic paint so that narrowed the field immediately. We wanted a super chalky finish and one that would change color according to how the light hit it to make the most of being by the sea. It needed to be go on well and not clog up the delicate cornices and mouldings in the various rooms.
We chose a fantastic color called dawn mist from EcosOrganic Paints – it goes from off white through a touch of light blue to a violet according to the light and time of day so that come evening time you have a wonderful relaxing tone to the walls which earlier in the day had been more vibrant and full of light.
The super chalky texture (while not overly practical) looks amazing with lots of grain and a 3D quality to it and in use, while drying it smelled of oranges and had absolutely no side effects for Madeleine’s ME which was great.
It took a little longer to go on than standard ‘trade’ emulsions but we budgeted for that, so it wasn’t an issue. Most importantly  it was neither gloopy nor too watery so we could get exactly the right consistency to work with both wide wall expanses and detailed mouldings.

Jo Lee  is a director of Swedish Interior Design.
Swedish Interior Design has Europe’s largest selection of Swedish antiques, over 60 antique mora clocks and a beautiful range of bespoke furniture which can be viewed at or do follow the blog at    
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  1. Interesting post, I shall be sending for the Ecos Paint colour chart. They certainly have an impressive range of products.
    Your home is beyond beautiful. It must be so inspiring to live there!

    1. Likewise, Lesley, I am definitely going to call them and get their info. I had used Ecos years ago but I need to look again - we find there is far more interest in organic and natural products and the market place is really getting a lot more savvy about Eco credentials of products are.....understanding how the big companies can't really deliver like a small speialised company.
      I was delighted that Jo could write us a piece about a product that I really didn't know anything about...

  2. Thanx for the comment - i like working with ecos paints and they have quite a variety of finishes to choose from so you should be able to find what you need. You can always email us at if you have any questions about working with their paints.

  3. Loving your blog!!! New follower here, hoping you'll stop by my blog and say hello and follow back :)

  4. Couldn't find the MSDS or do you do that there? Whats in that paint.

    1. Here it is generally known as a COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health)sheet but MSDS yes is also applicable. The way that we do our MSDS sheets in EU is different from North the same way as Canada is different. I haven't seen links to COSHH.....and I agree it should be there. You are required by law to have the COSHH sheets available on demand and I sure they would send them out. has quite a lot of info.
      I will actually bring that up with them when I call for a brochure.... I know the guy that does their marketing quite well and will flag it up to him too

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  6. Both of you have done a great job. It looks royal and appealing. Your color choice has made inspired to follow the same.

  7. Hey, nice post…love the way you have presented the whole story…it’s
    always good to read and get to know quality stuff.

  8. That’s a very good list of things to consider when selecting the right paint. Very vital points, especially the health aspects. Thank you for the great insight. Keep up the good work.