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The birth of Shabby Chic UK… True Story: Designers Guild – Painted Country Tricia Guild origins

October 16, 2011

How shabby chic started – by accident and creative obsession

I had a meeting arranged at DG with inhouse interior designer Colin Bisset – c1988 and went in with a fairly subdued collection of classic English paint effects… I knew it was too week but felt the appointment was an opportunity to build rapport.  Something was twinkling so I went along with what I had.

The studios were at the top of the Kings Road stores and were more quaint than I had been expecting.

During the meeting Colin thumbed through my leather bound folder and finally sat back. with a sigh

”It’s very lovely BUT a little too refined for what we are looking for..”

”I know but I really want to do something…” came my reply as he pushed my weighty bound folio back across the table.

”Ooops so sorry!!” he exclaimed as several pieces fell out the back of the file spilling onto the gnarled pine Georgian floor.

”WHAT IS THAT!!” He shouted… I thought he’d seen a dead mouse.

A failed crackle sample had slipped from the back of my sample book and landed in front of him…

“I love this!”

“Really?!!” I replied.

“Yes!  I LOVE it!! What is it called?”

“Erm… Mexican driftwood!?” I had to think of something didn’t I?!

Colin darted out of the office in a flash to return with an original bright blue Santa Fe distressed kitchen chair in his hands.

“Can you do this?!”

”Oh yess! It’s amazing!! Love to”

It was the start of 9 years of fabulous paint finishing and styling together. And a friendship that continues today.

Contract:  Designers Guild UK – working in colour 1986- 1998

Above: Tricia Guild CEO of DG UK casting her eye over the selection of salads in the HO staff canteen.  My tables and benches were commissioned to add a sense of passion to the room and dull Wormood urban backdrop.

Designers Guild – 10 years of paradise Driftwood colours!

Contemporary feel with heavy rustic crazed finishes for Designers Guild book ‘In Town’.

I loved making this collection which ran for 9 years.




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 Nick Garrett contemporary painted furniture Designers Guild 


Cracking and distressing the paint became an obsession.  Yet the materials I discovered that worked best were traditional gum Arabic and plaster based paints.  These were strapped down with fine damar varnish

with a hint of colour to enhance the final bees waxed patina.  The result a powerful fore-runner

of shabby chic!


Swashes and swirls of my Santa Fe group.

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