John Coleman

Traditional & Modern Decorating

The Art of Painting & Decorating has rarely been written down but instead passed on from Painter to Apprentice as with many traditional trades throughout history .
The practical 'Hands On' nature of this manual work was mostly undervalued and seldom deemed worth recording as a historical detail. 
These skills are now however being recognised for their value and worth.
Decorating has advanced over time with changes in paint technology and equipment and the skill of a modern decorator is to take  the "Best of the Old and New" and make it work for themselves.

Right and below is a modern Paperhanging kit which uses a mixture of traditional and new tools.



Bob Coleman
John learnt his trade from his father Bob Coleman who started his own business in 1935 and had great success refurbishing bomb damaged housing for the local government during WW2.
Right  Bob Coleman

In the 1930's Lead paint was the usual paint for wood & metal work while Distemper was in common use for walls and ceilings and the choices of wallpapers was limited for the average household. However, by the end of the 1960s lead paint was replaced by oil based paint and distemper was replaced by emulsion for use on walls and ceilings. Rollers quickly became the preferred choice for applying emulsion paint to wall and ceilings.


John Coleman
Decorating like life itself is ever evolving and John's
success has been to take the traditional skills of a decorator and his embracing of new technologies available as they came forward over the years.

  ". . . give attention and focus to any subject and you will become a genius in that field"  A&H

The 1960s saw new fashions and cultural ideas: The Beatles, Rolling Stones and Carnaby Street all optimise the changing times. It is no wonder that from this time would come young people who embodied these new values. John having learnt his trade as a decorator as an apprentice was keen to make his mark and applied himself to decorating with the skill he had learnt as a young man and the enthusiasm and vigour which so embraced that time.
Right  John Coleman 1963


At that time most Pre-War housing echoed the tired Victorian buildings and new ideas in Updating these houses was emerging. The Fulham Road was a source of inspiration and the Light blue and Pink façades of Georgian buildings in Chelsea inspired John to completely revamp his newly acquired 1930's house into a modern bright contemporary home. This gave him the chance to  show his skills and creativity. He replaced the old windows with new Georgian Bow windows and added 'crown bullion' glass to compliment the design. The walls were painted entirely in a light grey blue reminiscent of Chelsea buildings. The interior gave lots of opportunity for new ideas, gone were the formal Font Sitting Room and back Dining room and a "Knocked through"  open plan design was created. John went on to add additional rooms but extending the building into the garden, he actually built most of the 'Extension' himself with help from library books on house construction.
Right is John's redesigned exterior from 1973

Over the years John has managed and worked on many projects that have brought life back to old dilapidated buildings.
His forward looking approach has remained throughout his decorating career and he has continually found ideas to improve productivity and efficiency without loosing any quality of workmanship.
In the 1980's
he created his own Wallpaper Edge Cutting Tool which is essential part of his paperhanging kit. He has developed his own Paperhanging Kit taking the 'Best of the Old and New' using wooden Seam Rollers which have been in use for over 100 years and modern high quality Japanese knife blades 6x sharper than cheaper alternatives.
Right some of John's current Paperhanging tools


Tools Of The Trade

Paint Brushes are the classic decorators 'Tool for the trade' and the variety of brushes have not change that much over the last 100 years. Below are details on different brushes and 'how and when' to use them.


Traditional Flat Brush
This is the common brush used for most woodwork, doors and architrave. The bristles are usually bevel edge cut to improve "Cutting in". The example right has a traditional 'Beaver Tail' shaped handle. Most brushes of this type have a Stainless-steel ferrule for longer life.

Cutting In' Brush
This is usually a 1" flat brush that has worn down to a finer curved point making it excellent for painting window glazing bars and other area that require precise painted lines. It normally takes a few months wear into shape. Traditional painters never use Masking tape on windows, using tape on glass is a practice which has evolved from the DIY market. The skill of a straight painted line was always seen as a mark of a good painter and on outside windows the paint should always touch the glass to create a seal from the weather, on inside work the paint should butt against the glass.

Modern Acrylic Brush
These modern brushes have been specially feathered on the tip to reduce brush lines from water based paints. The hairs are usually a polyester blend
. Good quality versions brushes have resin based stock to reduce hair loss and a stainless steel ferrule.



Varnish Brush
Although many people use flat oil brushes for varnish traditionally the varnish brush had a concave neck which improves application and spread when using curved wood like hand rails. They usually have thicker stock and a stronger ferrule.



Sash brush
This brush is not used much any more and has been replaced by the 1" cutting-in brush but it was originally created for use on sash windows. The bristles are shaped to make them ideal for painting window glazing bars.



Wall Brushes
These brushes were originally used for painting wall and ceiling with distemper or emulsion but since the advent of rollers they have become less popular. Their finish however is generally regarded as superior to a roller's stippled texture and are still used for painting walls when an a more traditional finish is required. The ferrule is usually made with cooper and the handle has a flat design.

Washing Down Brush
This brush was used for washing off old Distemper paint, but is more commonly used today to apply water to old wallpaper before scrapping the paper off. The design is called a two ring brush and would usually have cooper ferrules larger than the example shown. This brush is rarely seen or used today.



Dusting Brush
This bush is not used for painting but instead for removing dust and dirt from surfaces before painting. Good examples have 3 or 4 knots set in rings to improve strength.




 John Coleman Recommends for Paint brushes




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