The Accidental Prop Shop

The world’s smallest brocante – and nothing is for sale

All my current favourite rooms in the house seem to be the ones that had been in complete darkness for over forty years, with the shutters and doors firmly closed. Perhaps they scream the loudest and so they get the my attention?

This room is effectively just the end of a corridor next to the ‘Damask Room’ and had been used by the elderly lady as a cooking and laundry area until the mid-1970s. Note the clothes pegs and hangers – I’m not really a detective

Poshbird's prop shop
as we found it August 2015

I spent a day last week stripping this tiny room bare of paper. The Dissoucol worked a dream and I learned the (mercifully brief) wallpaper history of this space

Poshbird's prop shop

Under the very brown patterned wallpaper with the horribly mismatched border there was a cobalt blue and white lace-patterned paper which must have been very elegant in its day. This in turn had its own border, deep blue and graphite with silver grapes on it, though I only found small traces of this

Poshbird's prop shop

Poshbird's prop shop

The ceiling paper was extraordinary only in the fact that it would never have worked with either wallpaper. I was fascinated by how the pattern has chemically degraded

Removing the old coat rack (I have kept it for future use) revealed a patch where the colour had remained, showing an unexpected and much cheerier sky blue background

Poshbird's prop shop

I found various scribbles on receipts covering up to 1975 in the coke box. I gathered all the evidence – which will need a good iron – and stuck it into a vide grenier frame for safe-keeping

Poshbird's prop shop

Also in among the coke was a cannonball, about two and a half inches in diameter. No doubt at least one of these has hit the house during its history, judging by the cracks. This house just keeps giving

Poshbird's prop shop
in spring 2017 we ‘lost’ the cooker or whatever it was
Poshbird's prop shop
some epic gravity-defying cobwebs

The little room is earmarked for a loo and washbasin and we’ve had plumbing installed in readiness, but I was SO enjoying unpacking all sorts of smaller gems after two years in their wrappings that I decided to actually ‘put’ them somewhere to enjoy them. I’ve never had them in one place together before so it’s been hard to gauge scale etc. Plus, I wanted to check for breakages – so far, so good…

Poshbird's prop shop
Exterior doors (right one partially cleaned)

The original paintwork on the doors showed fabulous colours under the filth, so rather than remove the lead-based paint (and who knows what else is in it?) I will keep it. It rivals any posh paint colours of today and has a genuinely fabulous patina. I’m sure some people would squirm at the idea, but I don’t care. I can use wax to seal it

Poshbird's prop shop
Starting to unpack (interior door to hallway)

And so, here we have the world’s smallest brocante, the beginnings of my own personal prop shop from which I can pick and choose items. Don’t you just love it?

Poshbird's prop shop

The Big Debate – Porridge v Peelaway

Porridge – keep out of the reach of children

Following on from Porridgey Looks and Paint Removal

As I was paying for the cute (and kitsch) framed picture above, I noticed a dear little nicely foxed mirror that was filthy and absolutely lavished with paint – the ideal candidate for the porridge test? As it was too cheap to leave behind it seemed worth a punt (in the interests of science, of course)IMG_9125

It took me a while to spot the Quaker Oats packet in the supermarket. It was on the top shelf – for adults only, I guess. I didn’t have anything to mix it in, so I cut a San Pellegrino bottle in half, inadvertently creating the simple ‘coffee maker’ that I have failed to find in the shops so far. Handy, as going out for coffee breaks up the day and requires me to wear something much less indoors-y

Once it had reached the consistency I thought it should be, I applied it generously and covered it in cut up pieces of bin bag. This was lunchtime. It was only at six in the evening that I absent-mindedly noticed the part-can of Peelaway 7 in the hall, so I spread that on the rest of the frame and wondered why I hadn’t thought of it before. This made it feel like a properly scientific trial

No matter how much there is to do, it’s very hard to keep your hands off something when you have put paint stripper (or porridge) on it, so I had to try to keep busy. Even so, at ten o’clock that same evening I was peeling back the bin bags to see how both were performing and I couldn’t help picking away a bit on the Peelaway side with my available toolset, a plastic picnic knife. I was surprised to see how much paint had come off, but I realised that I had no neutraliser for it. Vinegar would work, but I didn’t have any and the shops were long-closed. I tried some brine from the olive jar, but (unsurprisingly) it didn’t work so I went scouting around, found some alcohol upstairs and poured some into a plastic cup (I know what you’re thinking but this wasn’t gin, it was proper murderous cleaning stuff that even I wouldn’t drink) and dipped the wire wool. It seemed to do the trick, and the paint came off quite cleanly, which was lucky as Baz’s toothbrush was the next implement I had in mind to use

When you start commandeering your husband’s current toothbrush for things like this it’s probably time for bed

I woke, well rested, at 6.50. Perhaps it was the fact that I now had coffee available, or perhaps I just couldn’t wait to get started, but I removed the rest of the Peelaway, which showed a vast improvement from the part I had messed with the night before. I still had no vinegar and even if the shops were open I was not prepared to go in search for it at that time of day, so I continued with the alcohol. It smells much nicer anyway and it evaporates really quickly. Then I removed part of the porridge as well, cleaning it afterwards with wet wire wool, then also with alcohol, for the sake of being equal. I have to say that the inner and most fiddly detailed edge came up just as well with porridge, but the bobbly beading was not really very good, as the porridge had been stopped in its tracks by a thick-ish layer of gloss paint, way too much to ask of the porridge mix. So, once I’d wiped down, I applied a small amount of Peelaway to just that area and covered it up again. Having plans for the day meant that the mirror would be safe from my meddling until the evening

The Verdict:

Porridge given enough time was very good at removing water-based paint. I would certainly do this again.  Plus, it’s easy to work with, environmentally friendly and cheap. It won’t damage anything and doesn’t need neutraliser

Peelaway 7 lifted all the paint, including the gloss, but don’t believe the videos of it coming off cleanly with all the paint securely attached. It is a very messy substance and not a joy to use at all. You absolutely have to neutralise it with something (they supply a bottle of the neutraliser, but never enough – it ran out ages ago) and there’s a lot of cleaning up to do afterwards

Just as a comparison I also tried the wire wool with alcohol on a separate patch, and it had little effect on the paint

So if the paint is water-based I would recommend the porridge method. It needs to be really gloopy and thick, but kept nice and wet for as long as possible to allow it to work

Thanks to Witch House for the tip. Ultimately I will be repainting the mirror frame, but I wanted to strip the details back first, instead of just disguising them even more