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26 January 2010 11:04

Five minutes with … Lucinda Croft – Nonstopmama Feature Article

Recently, Nonstopmama persuaded Lucinda to share the secrets of her makeover magic. Some of the interview is shown below, head over and read the full interview over at Nonstopmama – dedicated to giving time-crunched mamas an instant, glossy mag-style lift, daily.

What, do you think, makes handpainted furniture so appealing, especially in children's rooms?

Our appeal is that the pieces are unique and last forever. We have clients who are passing their furniture on to their children (this is thirty years later) and, if needed, we can re-paint the pieces so they can fit in to a whole new nursery. It's the ultimate in recycling!

Your company remains very much a family business ...

My mother, Rosie Fisher, started Dragons originally to sell antiques. She put a few pieces in the window that were hand-painted, like our rush-seated chair, and they were so popular she kept adding to the range until the antiques were pushed to the back of the shop and the handpainted children's pieces were at the front! Meanwhile, I am one of four children and my mother had no luck in finding furniture for our rooms. She was a great believer in children's rooms being magical and memorable so began to create useful but beautiful furniture that she would design on the back of envelopes. The business has gone from strength to strength and we now work on whole houses as well as playrooms and nurseries. When my mother died three years ago, my father asked me to step in originally as Artistic Director and now as MD.

Do you have any tips on choosing a look for a nursery or child's bedroom?

My suggestion would be to start with a fabric as it immediately gives you the colour palette for the room. If you aren't doing curtains, then start with an accessory you like. This could be as random as a gingerbread man, which we did a whole nursery around as the client loved the gingerbread man story! With nurseries, you have a few months to plan ahead so don't leave decoration to the last minute. For a start you don't want to get it wrong, but you also want to make the most of the bonding experience with your partner - decorating a nursery together can be incredible fun. Remember that you can have as much character and colour as you want in the lampshades, rugs and pictures because you can remove them when the child suddenly grows out of Beatrix Potter or whatever it might be. Then you don't have to redecorate the whole room all over again.

What details make a difference?

Colour and a sense or order, so when you are in your baby's room you aren't looking round the room thinking of jobs to do but enjoying being in that space with your precious liitle one. Obviously it needs to be practical too - make sure the essentials are in easy reach and that there's plenty to keep the baby occupied while you're changing them.

What are your design inspirations?

My inspiration often comes from need! For example, I wanted a shelf that looked pretty but could be practical too. So we designed the Dolls' House Cupboard, where the shelves are adjustable (children's books are often large when they are little and get smaller as they grow up) and the doors can close to conceal any chaos! It's one of our bestsellers already.

Do you have any advice for handpainting furniture at home?

Transfer your design using a pencil, use health and safety standard water-based paints and then get your paint brushes out! It is worth having good brushes as it makes all the difference in the world. When you have finished painting, be sure to affix it with acrylic fixative which will allow you to clean the furniture when needed.

Do you mix your own paints or can you recommend a particular range?

We do mix our own paints so we can achieve that soft, soft, palette we are famous for. They are not off-the-shelf colours yet......in a dream world, we would have our own paint range!

Any tips for making DIY works of art as durable as possible?

We use approved water-based emulsion paints that we fix with acrylic varnish and we recommend using non-abrasive cleaning agents. Our furniture is enjoyed by generation after generation, with many becoming family heirlooms. Yet we want children to enjoy them first and foremost so they're pretty durable!

What have been among your most memorable projects?

Our Design Director, Adam Dale, is a true genius and he is always coming up with new looks and ideas. He is very innovative and fun to work with and our Blissful Blue range came from that. It has already been a huge success. We deal with a huge range of clients, from international royalty and Hollywood celebrities to customers who just want the best for their children, so each project is rewarding for a different reason. Our incredible artists have painted 20 ft high murals and we have designed nurseries for Jacobean manor houses and trendy penthouses. It is the most enjoyable job imaginable because each nursery or bedroom is unique to the individual.